Communing with nature

by Heather

Japanese garden

I’m writing from the Japanese Garden today, and I’ve just seen the smallest possum ever, apart from rescued babies. Since it’s shortly after 4 pm and possums are nocturnal, I guess I’ve just seen the Benjamin Franklin of the possum kingdom.

Multicolored koi swim gently beneath the platform where I’m sitting on a bench.

For years a possum family lived in one of my pecan trees, but you couldn’t have proved it by me–I never saw them once. I only received reports from my next-door neighbors, who smoked outside, giving them opportunity to observe all the nocturnal wildlife.

A mosquito just bit me–clearly there’s plenty of food here for the possum family. I’ve been told that each can eat up to 10,000 insects a day, so they’re highly beneficial. I thought about wearing mosquito repellent today, but didn’t. The scent is repellent even to me!

As is usually the case, I suppose, the people are making far more noise than the animals, though birds call, squirrels scamper, koi tussle over fish food, and ducks bathe noisily. Only the humans hoot and holler; only the human babies wail. Many, but not all, are the quiet types you’d expect to see in a Japanese garden. Most look as though they’d just as soon not see any other people.

More ducks swim by, almost silently, leaving chevron-patterned ripples in their wake.

My brochure says this garden was once a gravel pit–an immense improvement, no doubt. This is not wild–in fact, it’s less wild and more groomed than my own backyard, the dogs’ domain–but it’s nature, and I’m grateful to be here. I’d love to be somewhere truly wild, but I’d have to go much further than 5 minutes from home to get there. I’m lucky to have such beautiful gardens so close to home.

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Following my visit to the garden, I felt a tremendous sense of peace and groundedness, making me think that I need to make it a priority to spend time here more often. Several times since I starting writing this, I’ve come across the term “communing with nature” or “communion with nature” in various contexts. How interesting that the term we naturally reach for when speaking of nature references a sacrament. We were made to be in nature, not in fluorescent-lit, indoor-outdoor carpeted cubicles, and really not in houses either. We’re meant to see the sun and sky, trees and rain, leaves and flowers, other creatures … not just occasionally, but every day.

My experience of peace and groundedness after visiting the garden also made me want to create a garden of my own. I have flower beds and potted plants, I grow herbs to cook with, I’ve had trees and shrubs planted (I don’t have the muscle or fortitude to dig into solid clay sufficiently deep to plant something large), but I haven’t done anything that’s fundamentally changed the nature of my urban lot. I understand now why my aunt restocked her koi pond over and over, despite repeated incursions by local raccoons with a taste for expensive seafood. (I don’t understand, though, why it wasn’t possible to devise some sort of pond cage that would have defeated the raccoons!) I’m thinking now about how I might be able to create a secret garden, a place that would be an escape, a place where I could commune with nature. It would be a challenge, but I’m sure it’s possible …

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