Bzzzz February 9th, 2008

I recall a conversation from years ago with my dear friend Claudia. She has just moved into a charming little cottage in the old Ortega section of Jacksonville, Florida. The house was surrounded by old trees and magnificent, mature flowering shrubs. I was completely taken with the place. I commented to Claudia that I would garden constantly if I lived there. Her response?

“Oh, I love the idea of gardening. But I just don’t want to be outside there all by myself. It would be so lonely!”

Sunflowers at Chicago Botanic Garden

Although this conversation took place, oh, nearly 10 years ago, it has stuck with me, and occasionally crossed my mind, because the feeling that Claudia expressed is so foreign to my own needs and desires for being with nature.

See, while Claudia yearned for company to enjoy nature, I am more like the legendary Hollywood star.

“I want to be alone.”

When I am indoors, I continually bounce from one activity to the next, multi-tasking between home and office and getting distracted with one thing or another. My mind leaps from one idea to another…

“Need to clean the frig…haven’t heard from that client yet…what am I going to do about that programming issue…should I go to the spinning class tomorrow…oops, need to finish that project schedule…can I deliver that report early…”

The internal chatter is a lightening speed, incessant drone.

When I am working in the garden, that chatter gradually subsides. I become lost in the activity. Minutes at a time go by without my having a single thought other than about what I’m doing with my hands.

And although there is no shortage of work for which I could use an extra pair (or more) of hands, I don’t nag my husband or son to join me in the garden because I just want the company of the wind and the birds. (And little dogs, of course.) When they do join me, we usually work at a distance, all of us lost in our own internal worlds. Happily, they share my desire for quiet time.

So you see, perhaps, why I wasn’t entirely sad to be alone in my visits to some of the country’s most spectacular public gardens this past year—the Phoenix Botanical Garden, the Chicago Botanical Garden, the Denver Botanic Garden and the Dixon House and Gardens, among others. Although part of me would loved to share the experience with my husband or another friend, the selfish part of me was happy to have the gardens to myself.

As I wandered through, I could go at my very own pace, lingering over an unusual combination of primroses and cabbages, admiring the coy in the Japanese garden, sitting under the shade of a well-placed trellis.

I observed many groups of families dutifully trudging along after the more enthusiastic members of their parties. Not all the groups looked entirely happy, I must say. Most of the kids looked bored to tears. Not a few were arguing.

So I was glad not to feel I was holding someone back—or dragging them along on my personal nature adventure. There are certainly times when I enjoy the company. But those visits have a different purpose altogether, and it’s not mostly about nature.

And you? Is nature something you prefer to share?

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Bzzzz August 10th, 2007

Globe trotter that I am, I am writing from Colorado where I happened upon this amazing cloud forest tree at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

It’s not a real tree, but is actually a steel and foam construction. But it is absolutely smothered in epiphytes–orchids and other plants that grow on trees for support, not nutrients.

cloud tree.jpg

Cloud Forest Tree, Denver Botanic Gardens

The cloud forest tree is named for the trees that grow high in the mountains of Asia, Africa, Central and South America where the mountain mists and clouds descend and touch the tops of the tangles of forest.

I was taking refuge in the greenhouse from the crushing heat and had just reached the end of the main part of the structure when I walked into a separate enclosure. It was so surprising–and stunning–that I let out a little yelp, making the other tree-gawkers jump!

The gardens here in Denver were so beautiful and inviting, I was stunned that the cab drivers didn’t know where it was and that the people I spoke with at the hotel hadn’t visited. It makes me wonder how many people haven’t visited the gardens in their own cities.

Have you visited your own local botanical gardens? What do you find most extraordinary there? And will you share the URL if you can find it, please!

Your globe trotting correspondent,

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