Beyond the Garden Wall

Brookgreen Gardens
Photo by Erik Dunham

Recently Erik and I visited his parents at the beach in South Carolina.  They took us to this great and magical place called Brookgreen Gardens.  You buy a ticket and it is good for seven days, so we went back two more times after that, and each time we saw something new.

On the third day, we ventured further than before, “beyond the garden wall.”  This was beyond Oak Allee, all the manicured ponds, and the statuary in order to be close to the river.  There was a labyrinth that we walked, 1/4 mile total distance within the labyrinth, and once I got to the center, it definitely felt like time and space had shifted a little.  I had to stand in the center for a while to just feel it, and I could not break the line of the path to get back out either.  I had to take the long way home.

Photo by Kelly Fisher

Just beyond the labyrinth were some wild rice fields.  The path led across an earthen dam between the river and the fields that let the water pass because of a trunk system.  The water inside the trunk made two little whirlpools on either side where the current was moving through, and on the fields side there were three rice stalks, twigs perhaps, of different length caught in one of the whirlpools.  They circled round and around without stopping, making continuous shapes and breaking those shapes, and it occurred to me, this is life.

They were three forces playing with each other and against each other — like the forces of nature, rajas, tamas, and sattva.  Rajas is the active, energetic force that pushes us to move and do; tamas, the slow force that can be both lethargic and nurturing; and sattva, the force of balance, holding a delicate and precarious stability that is always fleeting.  I was kind of high from the labyrinth and kind of sad at the recent loss of one of my cats, and felt like I wanted to get lost in that elemental whirlpool for a long long time.  Isn’t it just like life that sometimes we have all kinds of energy and feel like we can change the world and sometimes all we want to do is crawl back in bed and sleep?  Sometimes too, there is a sense that everything is just right and that every move that we make is simultaneously made with us by some greater awareness at once raw and pure and intrinsic to us.  I watched the twigs make arrows and isoceles triangles and other broken lines, and every once in a while, a perfect equilateral triangle would show up and a thunder cloud would clap.

Okay, maybe there wasn’t any thunder.  Maybe it was just a beautiful blue sky day in the south among the spanish moss and wild rice.  And maybe the emptiness of loss and the fullness of love mixed just so to make me want to kiss the air and spread my arms wide enough to hug the whole earth.


Next: Rudderless

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