Open your eyes

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After the usual hectic scramble for fresh produce last Friday at the WI Country Market,
I was sitting over a coffee and talking to a friend. She is an artist who gives painting classes and she was telling me how she encourages her pupils to really look and use their eyes.

This reminded me of a morning in flaming June when my wife, who is also an artist though in a different medium, called me into the garden. “Open your eyes!” she said, and it was true. Till then I hadn’t taken in the full scope and form of the plants and their colours: morning glories, sweet peas climbing the wall, sweet williams and clematis, lemon balm all in profusion; amazing in detail that I had only observed as a collage en masse. The care lavished on each plant is wonderful to contemplate, even extending to where it had come from – each one a personal friend.

I realised at once my failings, my inadequacy in this domain. I could only see that the grass needed cutting or that the weeds were growing in the brick path. The hand of nature was so riotously bountiful, that only a firm hand and attitude of mind would keep it in check. In short, my approach was more akin to waging war than growing peace, more a battle than a nurturing. Even a half-way house like dead-heading the roses I approach with a grim determination that is quite at odds with the gentle loving spirit of the true gardener.

So here I am, run back indoors to my words and my metaphorical inkpot where I feel expansive and secure; nothing to threaten or earn reproach, “nothing but well and fair” as John Milton phrased it.

Yet, there is a lesson to be learnt as my painter friend knows well. It is all very well to embrace thoughts of oneness with nature as we are more and more hearing from environmentalists and the eco-warriors, not to mention the friends of of Gaia and the disciples of inter-being; but there is nothing like opening one’s eyes to become responsive and aware of the natural world, and that takes practice.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .

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