Leo Tolstoy said: “All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
I sat looking at the first garden I have ever owned and his words played around in my head. There was so much light and colour but these were emphasised by the rich dark shadows. Most people would laugh at my garden’s size. It is about ten steps long by three steps wide. Yet the pride and enjoyment I get from those ten by three steps is extraordinary! But like a lot of beautiful things in life, the beauty had to be worked for and earned.
I moved into Malbar Square, a attractive complex of flats where no pets were allowed. Except for Perdita, my wire-haired dachshund. She is allowed because I am deaf and what a great little guard dog she has turned out to be. I have a small wooden fence placed around my flat so that Perdita doesn’t go merrily sauntering around Malbar Square. Within that fence I have space for my own private garden.
When I was an actor, the stage was my stamping ground. Now my garden is my stage. And it is there that this new director experiments and tries out her new approaches and techniques.
Dad, Mums and a friend, Jean, came around to my flat with shovels, clumps of Mondo Grass, Hydrangeas and Arum Lilies. Outside my door in Durban, I had two trees that sat in pots. When I moved to George the trees accompanied me. Dad dug deep holes and they were introduced to their new home. They must have cheered at getting their roots into the rich George earth, underneath a beautiful sun and sky adorned with mountains. On the pavement, overlooking my apartment was an enormous tree. It overshadowed the whole garden so my plants had to be cast accordingly. The production they were in was one of a greenish tinge. Arum Lilies starred, growing beautifully in their shady environment. It was in December that my Hydrangeas, grabbed what little sun there was, and smiled out at the world.
“The shadow is the greatest teacher for how to come to the light,” Ron Dass remarked.
A good friend of mine, Jans, helped my garden throw off unnecessary shade and ‘lighten up’.
She studied my garden and said to me: “You don’t show much interest in your garden. I think it’s because you can’t get at it.”
She was right. The Arum Lilies and Hydrangeas grew next to the fence which made them easy to water and pick. The rest of the garden just grew without my having much say in the matter. Jans is doer and thrives on manual labour. The next day, she arrived armed with a wheelbarrow, rake, spade and plenty of black bags.
“What are bin liners for?” I inquired.
“You’ll see,” Jans replied already setting at my garden with a rake. She cut back, re-planted and I discovered that my garden had a mass of unwanted growth which I helped pack into the bags. I certainly found out what they were for. We went off to a nursery where I picked out tiles which Jans embedded into my soil making a definite path through my garden. We stood looking at the finished product. The whole garden seemed to breathe more easily. I could now stroll through it, watering jug in hand, admiring and adjusting on my way.
There was a commotion outside and Perdita was barking madly.
They were chopping down the big old tree that overshadowed my garden. It came away in bits that were black inside. I love trees but the fact that this was rotten somehow made it easier to see it go. And with the tree gone, my stage changed! I could now put on productions that were light hearted in colour. The radiance spilled into my garden displaying places that had never known the taste of sun. It positively seemed to be gleaming in the newly discovered rays. With the light, colour entered my garden with force.
I could now have plants that loved the sun! I could put on productions that instantly put a smile in your heart. I wanted a yellow daisy bush. My friends didn’t share my love of yellow daisy bushes but I was desperate for one. I bought it home from the nursery and ENTER GEORGE and ESAU!!! Together in my complex, they garden, fix what needs fixing, remonstrate with me for going out on a cold day without a jersey, and are just wonderful, giving individuals. George saw me with a shovel in my hand and instantly berated me in Afrikaans.
“No, no, Gaynor, you don’t do that well. I will do it.” He planted my daisy bush while I made us both a cup of coffee. My yellow daisy bush got bigger as the months moved on but the daisies didn’t seem as prolific as I’d seen on other daisy bushes.
‘This needs thinking about,’ I mused.
I discovered the joy of Gazanias. How I love their bright purple, orange and gold faces sparkling back at the sun! I planted blue and pink daisy bushes and my Arum Lilies simply took off, sprouting like mad all over the garden.
Before I left for England this June, George and Esau approached me.
“Your garden is looking a mess,” George informed me. He certainly didn’t mince his words!
“While you’re away, we will get your garden looking like a woman with a new hat!” said Esau. “She will look truly beautiful!”
“Okay,” I laughed, “go for it!”
“If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not in the light.” – Lady Gaga
I returned in July to a garden that was different and beautiful in so many ways. The Mondo Grass which had taken over my whole garden was now a thing of the past. My yellow daisy bush which had grown to epic proportions with very few daisies had been cut in half and was now blooming incredibly. The garden’s beautiful new hat sent shimmers of joy rippling throughout!
Recently, Jans and I went off to the nursery to get my birthday present. Jans was buying me a rose. I had my heart set on a yellow one but Jans showed me a variety she liked. I can best describe it as antique plum in colour. I fell in love and splashed out on a beautiful container for it. I was told that I had to soak it in water for the first week. Religiously I would feed Perdita in the mornings and then the watering of my rose would begin. It was not a case of simply emptying a jug of water over my rose. Oh no, watering your rose is far more complex. You pour water into the pot and then have to wait while the rose slurps it up. Then you pour more, wait and more. That first week ‘Rose’ drank and drank and positively seemed to flourish. A couple of days ago, I noticed that Rose is pregnant. She has four buds, each encased in their own small, tightly furled cocoon. I get such immense pleasure coming out to greet Rose and inspect her brood each morning.
Why does this garden of mine now give me so much pleasure? My walking is not all that steady along the little paved path Jans has planted. The fault obviously being mine not the little paving stones beckoning me forward. Every time I look at my garden, I glory in the vibrant colours literally calling out to me: “Hey there, Gaynor, isn’t this sun great?” or “Gaynor, I haven’t got time to chat. This rain is totally delicious!”
I always speak in a soft tone when I speak to Rose. After all she has four babies on their way!
I look at my garden and I glory in the production it is staging. It is not perfect and that is what I love about it. It is like us humans. It has beautiful places and spots that you can work on endlessly. There are places of light and shadow.
That is how it’s meant to be.
“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfections.” – C.S. Jung