Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Gardens of the Imagination

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
Isaac Newton

Grown-ups enjoy childish displays of imagination all the more because as adults, we often sacrifice our own imagination in exchange for what we hoped was wisdom: only to realize not all sad experience increases wisdom. In fact, some of life’s lessons seem to be directed at the slow realization that we aren’t as smart as we once thought we were. Nobody knows this better than the gardener, who has tried, and failed as often as she has succeeded.

Sometimes, childish flights of imagination may enable one to visit fantasy gardens – imaginary places. As adults we often imagine that we have too many real places to go, real people to see, real things to do – for such flights of fancy. So imagination withers like a bush struggling beyond the reach of the Rainbird, while our gardens of the real flourish, and then perish around us unseen.

To have an original thought, to think a new thing into reality, is not as easy as it seems. Sometimes it seems like everything’s been said and done, certainly everything worthwhile, true, meaningful. When I was growing up in suburban Washington DC, we would often go downtown this time of year when the cherry blossoms began to bloom around the reflecting pool. We’d see tourists, carefully framing the lovely white Jefferson Memorial and it’s reflection in the background, beneath sprays of cherry blossoms. We’d smugly walk past and mutter “Been done”. Even if you’ve never been there to see it, you know exactly what I’m talking about: the cherry blossoms against the round white marble edifice and it’s reflection. Lovely perhaps, but a cliché.

But, just as not every tune has already been hummed, not every dream garden has been planted. There is an infinite store of unused melody, unspoken thought, and wisdom. And there are unimagined gardens to dream and plant into reality. Perhaps original thoughts, like classic garden designs, are not lying around waiting for gardeners to trip over them, like when Le Notre designed the gardens at Versailles.

Green leaves on a red stem, or red maples surrounding the top of the stone lantern and casting it into shadow. So much the better that Versailles has "been done". I simply don’t have as much room as Versailles to realize my dream garden. Surely, somebody else has seen delicate maple leaves briefly ignited by a golden sunset.

But my pleasure is not reduced when I imagine things others may have seen – they’re fresh and new to me. Nor is my imagination discouraged by stumbling into giants who have thought my thoughts before. So, I’ll climb up on those giant shoulders and look around some more, letting my imagination take me where nobody has been before. I’ve enjoyed the backlit maple leaves in seasons past, but I still enjoy seeing them anew each Spring.

1 comment:

Lin said...

"But my pleasure is not reduced when I imagine things others may have seen..."

Sometimes it would even be increased or enhanced...wouldn't that be called 'sharing'?

Hurray for Spring!