When I was a kid, often on the weekends we had two choices:
- Do the weeding
- Accompany mum to a nursery to check out plants
I didn’t know that mum was a “mad gardener” at the time, but on reflection – I think she was/is. She did have a little vase on her kitchen window sill with picked flowers from the garden regularly. And although I didn’t know it consciously, the influence of her love of flora rubbed off on me, profoundly.
As a kid growing up, I suddenly came to realise that I could spot a geranium from a begonia from a camelia from an agapanthus (they hide lots of snails) from a hydrangea, and so on. I didn’t quite talk about my x-ray vision then. I stuck to playing sports, watching all the wrong movies, Nintendo and anything else that earnt me real street cred.
But as I walked down the streets of East Bentleigh and I could name many if not most plants, I always felt strangely surrounded by friends, and it was very comforting and mustered a degree of curiosity.
It was Aristotle who developed the first classification of animals and marveled at the joy of being able to do so. And indeed, Prince Charles is famous for talking to his plants. There is something in all of that, which strikes a chord in me. (Don’t you dare leave now!)
To this day, some of my greatest achievements I hold to be the trees I’ve planted. Whenever I get a chance, I drive past an old house, to see the little sapling (the memory of which often remains vivid) now as a great tree and I get a certain rush every time.
We talk about being grateful sometimes, as if it were a chore, a bitter pill. A wishful and covert credit in the “me” account, quite in contradiction to the whole point. And in our suffering at various moments of our life, someone “well meaning” but all the same accidentally condescending, will offer the clichéd advice of “count your blessings”, “there are other’s worse off than you”. I do it myself with my kids when I sense they’re dwelling on first world problems. And sometimes it works.
However, when I walk down a street, and my eyes immediately turn to each plant, many of which I can and care to still name, I notice their changing form – sometimes healthy, sometimes sick. I feel something. And in spring, when I see plants bloom, there is no longer a division between subject and object. I am present and in awe of their ethereal display. I am so grateful and it brings me sheer joy – all, at once.
With no real effort on my part, an appreciation of nature, I can confirm, has made an absolutely positive contribution to my state of mind, at every step.
Whatever your age, I hope you too can connect with the natural world. And if you’re a parent, consider instilling in your kids such a thing, because you may just endow them with a most precious (and perhaps secret) gift for life.
I wish you all the very best this spring!
Photo: Atticus Jindivick with Bryan Goodwin our neighbour at the Jindi Caf and passionate gardener at the property!