The Healing Gift of Silence
Silence slows you down
I make a pot of mint tea, put on clumpy shoes and thick gloves, and go outside to do a spot of gardening.
I’m a slow gardener.
If you saw me, you might wonder if I’m a statue as I stand still among the towering cosmos and hollyhocks, secateurs in one hand, rake in the other, just staring at the path, the raised beds, the pond, or the sky.
I’m slow because I’m never sure what to do.
Should I pull up the white alyssum that is spilling onto the path?
Is the pumpkin vine trailing through the garden bed and threatening to smother the banana palm going to produce pumpkins or is it too late in the season?
Shall I dead-head the roses or wait until the bees have gone to bed?
Why are the spinach leaves turning brown? Are they diseased? Should they be removed and burned?
Parsley is crowding out the spring onions, but if I pull out the parsley will that disturb the onion roots?
Do I want nasturtiums climbing through the fence?
I’m slow because there are so many things to see.
A large wasp with orange legs, wings, and antenna, dragging the inert body of a fat-bodied spider down three steps and under a bush.
A water rat scurrying across the path.
Tomato bushes dripping with fruit.
Eggplant and capsicum buds.
Fantails flitting through the elderberry tree.
The frangipani finally flowering.
Sunlight filtering through deep pink hollyhocks.
I’m slow because I like to sip mint tea at regular intervals.
And I’m slow because of the silence of plants.
It’s the silence that slows me down the most.
If I could hear flowers talking, seeds whispering, bushes gossiping, or trees disagreeing (which I don’t think they do!), the pleasure of being in the garden would be greatly diminished. I’d quickly finish tasks and hurry away.
Fortunately, because of the limited range of human hearing, the green things in my garden are silent.
So, I linger, learning to be silent too.
I recall a quip by the British horticulturist and TV presenter, Monty Don, during a TV series on famous gardens around the world. While strolling through an Italian garden, he said, with a finger to his lips:
Don’t speak too loudly – so you don’t disturb your own sensitivity.
When I’m in the garden, I appreciate and emulate the silence of the botanical side of life.
I work quietly and let go of thoughts awhile, so all my senses – my sensitivities – can enjoy the benefits of being outside: seeing lettuce unfurl; smelling petunias; tasting tomatoes; touching fennel; hearing wind teasing leaves.
And when I leave the garden, I find that the silence follows me out the gate and into the house. It envelops me like a soft cloud of sunshine for the next couple of hours, spilling into everyday tasks, and enriching every breath I take.
When life seems hectic, pointless, frustrating, or confusing, spend healing time in a garden or under a tree.
Experience the botanic gift of silence.
With love, Marlane