Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Around the world in 80 gardens

I have found myself regularly sitting down on Tuesday night to watch a man called Monty Don travelling around the world to look at gardens (ABC1 Tues. 8:30pm). It sounds relatively low key, but it is a visual feast and really interesting commentary about the gardens and their links to historical, cultural and spiritual aspects of the societies which formed them.

The TV critic from the London Times hammered Monty last year (when the show was on BBC) for being populist, boring and lacking a script. He obviously has groups of die-hard fans and staunch detractors in the UK as a regular garden show presenter. I have no experience and talent in landscape design and only a skerrick more in gardening. So, I have learnt heaps from Monty's comments about each garden, it's style and construction. I'm looking forward to the last 4 episodes over the next few weeks.

Reflecting about the Tao and Zen concepts which have influenced the gardens of China and Japan, has made me think about my own spirituality and how it might be reflected in my relationship with nature and the garden. I can see how the beauty of our natural surroundings can lead us to worship - either the nature or its creator. It is natural that we would be in awe of both. Nature can be so beautiful, so powerful, even so destructive. Consequently, though, anyone who could make the world we live in, and make it from nothing, must be beyond our imaginings in power.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. 
So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.  And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 3:10-23)

Perhaps gardens are one of our attempts to subvert and control nature. Then again they may be part of our expression of love for the world which God made for us to tend, and know and enjoy. For me, gardens, especially beautiful, peaceful ones, allow me to calm my mind and be ready to praise and thank God for his love and goodness. They create space to stop and listen for the touch of divine beauty, to enjoy time with the people I love.

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