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Garden Design

Spontaneous moments

Steven Wells

Steven Wells

March 20, 2015

The other day I found myself amidst a wonderful spontaneous moment, a moment that reminded me of the importance of stopping to embrace life’s experiences in the midst of busy times.

I was working on a garden design for the rehabilitation centre and I had taken the opportunity to get out of the office and sit in the ward’s dining room in front of the windows that looked out onto the garden area I was working on.

I positioned myself to foster the creativity and planning required. I was by myself in a quiet spot and I was in the zone! Laid out in front of me were the garden plans, my pencil and eraser, and the pieces of paper with various ideas of plants and artistic elements, sketches and concepts from previous times of creative bursts. You know those times, the ones when you’re trying to go to sleep and out of nowhere a great idea bursts and you just have to grab the closest piece of paper to write it down on.

Spontaneous momentsHere I was in my zone and I had just starting sketching and then that spontaneous moment happened.

Out of nowhere appeared an older gentleman sitting in his wheelchair, who was probably in his 70s, and he thought he would just drop by to see what I was doing. Well, what transpired over the next hour or so was a wonderful conversation filled with stories of his health and family, current politics, and his story of gardening. He was a gentle soul who had experienced many ups and downs in life. He had been a patient at this rehabilitation facility 40 years ago. At that time he saw one of the nurses and said “I’m going to marry her”, which he did and they had three children. Twenty years ago he was here again when he had to learn to walk again after having paralysis following surgery. There were other life experiences he shared and as a much younger person his positive perspective of life encouraged me. I felt that he was resolved in his knowledge of what was worth worrying about and what wasn’t.

Of the various stories he shared, naturally for me it was those of his gardening that I was drawn into. Within the first five minutes of our conversation I had goose bumps. I truly felt like I was with a kindred spirit. Well actually, to be honest I almost felt as if I was sitting with me in 30 years time, apart from the fact that he still had his hair.

I learnt that he had worked as a gardener for 27 years at a mental healthcare facility. He shared that at times the patients would come outside to help weed the gardens. In a calm and quiet voice he said,

“gardens … it matters, it really does”

I could sense that within those wise words were years of observations and experiences that he could have talked about for hours, yet only needed to be said in these few poignant words.

I loved when he shared the story of a time thirty years ago when he helped to plant 6000 trees over 6 months along one of Melbourne’s creeks. His face came alive and his eyes lit up with pride as he shared that this has now grown into a forest. What a wonderful tangible legacy to create. What an inspiration. As I sat there I wondered if my gardening efforts might leave such a legacy.

With a calm and purposeful disposition he shared simply and eloquently his philosophy of gardens,

“If all my gardening efforts resulted in one person benefitting from it, it was all worth it”.

He literally said word for word what my own philosophy and approach to gardening is about and at that point another flash-forward moment occurred for me and I thought,

“wow, could I be this gentleman be in 30 years time”

I wondered if I will be like him and find myself in a hospital wheeling myself up beside a young man who is staring thoughtfully out into the gardens with garden plans and scraps of paper laying in front of him, and with my own garden story to tell.

This impromptu conversation reminded of the importance of embracing spontaneous moments. Because in these moments gardening stories are shared and valuable opportunities of learning are experienced. They are glimpses into the past. They are valuable memories that can connect us in our gardening journeys and as this gentleman said in a quiet reflective voice,

“memories are wonderful things….”

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9 years ago

Like you, Steven, I have always been very inspired by the wisdom of older people. Time is the most powerful educational tool of all.
Memories are wonderful things, more valuable than any object, and whilst I do hope you don’t need the aid of a wheelchair in your 70s, I am quite certain your garden stories will have huge impact on others, as they already do, today.

9 years ago
Reply to  jannaschreier

Very true Janna, all too often the true value of time is lost in our haste to do our tasks and other ‘things’! Taking time to listen, observe and learn can be so fruitful.

Anne Vale
9 years ago

How inspiring Steven. Despite all my horticultural education some of the my most valuable lessons and inspiration have come from a dear friend who is celebrating her 94th birthday this week. She once planted 10 trees in a tiny space and refused to take advice from all around that it was too many, she now has an amazing little grove of trees and they sorted themselves out eventually.

9 years ago
Reply to  Anne Vale

Thanks Anne. That is fantastic to hear. What a special thing you have with your friendship and all those trees sound great. I bet its a lovely little ‘forest’ for her to enjoy and also share with friends like yourself. I hope she has a wonderful birthday.