“Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are” – Gretel Ehrlich
When I sit in the garden and prepare to draw a flower, I study it for a long while first. I notice the graceful turn of a petal, the interesting configuration of its reproductive parts and its beauty moves me to a place of great awe and wonderment. The flower begins to speak to me.
You must be able to sit for long periods of time very still and focused to paint with watercolors in the garden. It is not my nature to sit still naturally and yet I know how valuable it is for my spirit and my body to rest. A garden is an invitation to be still. But once engaged in the art of botanical drawing, it becomes easy to want to stay in the moment and not leave the garden.
Once you have entered into a conversation with a flower, a shift happens, opening you up to receive the wisdom each has to share with you. Suddenly you become aware of nature at its best, and sometimes it is brutal. You might happen upon the final throes of a battle between insects where one succumbs to the other. Listen long enough and you can hear the unfurling of a petal, or the lengthening of a stem. When you spend enough time in the garden, restoration and transformation are not only possible, but likely.
I believe Lewis Carroll, author of the children’s classic Alice in Wonderland, knew this secret well. The dialogue between several garden inhabitants and Alice would indicate that he had experienced the garden intimately:
“Daisy: What kind of garden do you come from?
Alice: Oh, I don’t come from any garden.
Daisy: Do you suppose she’s a wildflower?
The Rose: Just what species or, shall we say, genus are you, my dear?
Alice: Well, I guess you would call me… genus, humanus… Alice.
Daisy: Ever see an alice with a blossom like that?
Orchid: Come to think of it, did you ever see an alice?
Daisy: Yes, and did you notice her petals? What a peculiar color.
Orchid: [sniffing Alice’s hair] And no fragrance.
Daisy: [chuckling, as she lifts up one side of Alice’s dress] And just look at those stems.
The Rose: [as Alice slaps the Daisy’s leaves away] Rather scrawny, I’d say.
Bud: I think she’s pretty.
The Rose: Quiet, bud.”
If it is not possible for you to go to an actual garden for restoration and transformation, than perhaps a local park, or even your own home or office where you can sit quietly and observe nature through your window. Elisabeth Tova Bailey, author of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, a lovely book about keeping company with a snail she discovered in the midst of a place of incredible darkness during a life threatening illness is an example of what one can learn even at the edge of a potted plant.
I have prepared a video for you to get a taste of what it is like to spend time in your inner garden, tending what needs nurturing and becoming still enough to really hear – maybe even the sound of a snail chewing. So grab a cup of tea, find a comfortable chair, sit quietly, breathe deeply and spend the next 12 minutes viewing the garden of a contemplative. I pray that it will bring you peace.