For many years I had a garden filled with a variety of flowers in our yard in Massachusetts. After we moved to Florida, I created a smaller “garden” of potted flowers on our lanai. Now, back home in the Boston area, the backyard we share with our downstairs neighbors really has no room for a garden like my previous one. Instead, I have begun taking long walks through the neighborhoods of our town to delight in other people’s gardens. I have found this to be an unexpected gift of my return to New England. I loved having my own garden, but now I am enjoying the entire town’s gardens, as well as those at nearby Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Suddenly, the whole world has become a garden—or I am realizing it always was.
What a beautiful truth that is. The Earth that is our home is a Garden of Eden available to all, if we could remember to see it that way. Mother Nature has no borders or boundaries, no “mine” and “yours.” Humans build fences, claim ownership, but trees, plants, and flowers have unlimited connections beneath the fenced land which we can’t even see. The strength of their living energy has a power beyond wire fences and concrete walls. Vines can topple fences, and trees can break through sidewalks. Ultimately, life cannot be contained; it flowers everywhere.
In the 1960s we called this “flower power,” and it defined a generation’s consciousness and vision of the future. But you don’t have to call yourself a flower child to see the unity of life displayed in the gardens of the world (as well as the wilderness). Humans often think they are separate from Nature; yet all it takes is a shift in awareness to see the oneness from which we have all emerged and that links us together. And this is exactly what I experienced as I walked daily from winter to spring to summer to autumn. Every day was a blessing and a revelation. Each neighbor’s unique garden with its seasonal changes was a cause for celebration.
Beginning in March and April, I watched flower bulbs push up through the frozen ground and trees begin to bud. Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths. Redbud, crabapple, dogwood. Forsythia and lilac bushes. What glorious colors everywhere! New growth each day. The tiny yellow-green leaves of the maple and oak trees silhouetted against the clear-blue spring sky took my breath away. In May, June, and July, the colors grew even more vivid. Rainbow reds and purples and yellows. Magentas and pinks. Azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea, rose of Sharon, columbine. Every yard I passed seemed to have different variations. I have never seen so many kinds and colors of irises and lilies as I have this past year on my walks through town.
I didn’t have to “own” these flowers to love them or to appreciate my neighbors’ creativity and imagination in the plantings. It was like looking at living versions of Monet’s paintings of the gardens at Giverny. The colors and life flowed together from yard to yard. Everything seemed to breathe and grow as one. And as I passed by, I too was a part of that living painting that Nature imagines into being each year when the seasons change. In September, the colors were still vibrant in the zinnias, black-eyed susans, marigolds, ageratum, and asters. The tree leaves turned in October to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and soon the bare branches were once again silhouetted against the sky. As winter arrives with its white snows, red holly berries, and deep green pine trees, the seasonal cycles continue.
This is what I discovered in not having my own backyard garden: Everywhere I looked was Nature’s beauty, none of it “mine” but all of it a shared blessing. I was at times moved to tears by the simplest, most delicate flower or the splendor of a tree covered with blossoms, radiant in the sun. The Earth gives us these gifts every day. Open your heart and receive them. Even that small flower blooming in a crack in the sidewalk on a city street is a miraculous part of a greater whole that includes you and me.