Sacred spaces

Part of the pleasure of walking in a garden is visiting favorite spaces and discovering new ones. When I walk around a familiar garden, I do so with the intention of visiting a spot I’ve grown fond of. There I can note the seasonal changes or evolution of the space and enjoy what remains constant and familiar to me, while being amazed at what is new and different. I like to fall in love with a garden while noting the plants, flowers (if any), rock formations, or features that endeared the place to my heart.

When walking around the Morikami garden paths, I make it a point to stop and sit in the Early Rock garden to meditate and take in the magical energy that inhabits the place. There’s something about this oft neglected corner that feels sacred to me. Unlike the more popular and formal rock gardens, this space reminds me of something preternatural in my nature. The rock formations, plants, gravel, tree shade, and subtle changes in the quality of the light turn me introspective and reflective.

This is where I pause to sit on a wooden bench, and when so moved, say a silent prayer. The coolness of the space, the quiet and serenity seep down into my soul, and when it’s time to walk away I feel refreshed and new. Such is the power and spirit of a garden—it restores us and nurtures our soul. A well laid garden connects us back to nature and reminds us that we’re as much a part of its earth, plants, and spirit as we are to the planet.

I’m never surprised, however, when a new corner or space I may have walked by in the past calls my attention because of a flower, tree, or feature that boasts its revelation to me. This is another of a garden’s charm. Good gardens, like a person, have the capacity to surprise us when at their peak or bloom, they reveal something we may have missed at an earlier time.

Sacred Pond

Sacred Pond. Morikami Gardens, Delray Beach, Florida

Such was my surprise when I walked into a quiet nook in the Modern Romantic Garden with a pond and flowing stream. I don’t remember ever walking around this space before. Perhaps I took a path in a previous visit that diverted me from this spot, or maybe I didn’t pay enough attention when I walked by the pond before. This time, however, as I crossed a wooden bridge, I found myself looking and peering into the water, catching my reflection on the surface, and following the stream into the deeper part of the pond where fish and leaves gathered on the surface toying with the reflecting sunlight.

There, under a tree, I fell in-love with the gardens again. The sound of the water splashing through the rocks reminded me of other gardens and times I felt restored and calm while communing with nature. As a gentle breeze dispersed the afternoon heat and humidity, the bamboo trees swayed and rattled their hollow wooden music. Here, there was magic again—the kind of magic the ancients invoke and write about when they talk about Qi and natural energy. Here is where all five Chinese elements come together and manifest the eternal dance of Yin and Yang. In this one space balance was achieved, if only temporarily, since Yang disruption is eventually inevitable. The gardener, much like an acupuncturist, must temper the elements and energy to keep and restore balance.

Once the stroll was complete, I was reminded why this particular garden is so beloved to me. In them not only do I see how the wisdom and articulation of ancient practices and knowledge manifest in nature, but I can see those same mysteries revealed in my body and my self.

The Practice of Contemplative Photography.