It’s the evening of our second day of the residency program, and already there are three group projects, our blog, and a lot of reading to get through. When we finished class at 4pm today, I knew I had to meet with a group, but could not remember which one, or what we were supposed to be doing once we met. My head was spinning with information and overload. Thankfully, some of the members of my “critical applique” group called me over, and I was able to make some decent contributions to our discussion, which was basically a review of Lisa’s information from yesterday, clarification of the requirements, and taking a first look at the article.
We left the classroom a half-hour later and I hustled down to the Gift Shop to buy a binder, some looseleaf paper, and dividers before the shop closed. The gift shop is adjacent to the Hatley Gardens, and thank goodness it is, because greenery behind the gate called out to me.
Beyond the gate is a series of gardens, laid out almost like rooms in a house, where you can’t see the whole thing, but have to move to take in this bit, then that bit, then the next bit. I started up in the very architectural Italian Garden, where the symmetry helped to restore some order to my frayed synapses. Italianate statues stood in each corner, and at the centre a small obelisk paid tribute to the various evolutions of the military college, and to its war dead. Large baskets of petunias hung in the shade of the petunias, and over the low wall, I could see a broad, level swath of grass, where the Dunsmuirs used to play croquet. My pace started to slow down, imagining the wealth and leisure of the family that lived here a century ago.
From there, I walked down through the fernery, the woodland garden, and the bog garden, which was completely still, apart from the burble of the old fish ladder. Then I went up the slope again, past the Japanese garden, where the massive old trees now dwarf the statuary, and the rose garden, just past its peak. I hunted out the fragrant varieties, and buried my nose in their blooms.
Beyond the rose garden was the walled garden, and this was actually my favourite part. Here, simple “domestic” flowers mixed with herbs, vines and espaliered fruit trees. I was on familiar ground. The names my mother has taught me over the years surfaced in my now-meditative state, and I was surprised at how many plants I could identify. Lavender, hyssop, sage, grape arbor, pear, apple, day lily, euphorbia, rosemary, chive. Their colours, shapes, textures and fragrances are intertwined with their names. I never took lessons to learn them – they have just been imparted to me over the years. The more I can describe them, the easier it is to recall their name. They all fill me with a sense of peace.
Getting back to the purpose of this post, which is to reflect on my experience of learning, I feel much more prepared now to sit down and parse out the academic lessons of the past two days now that I have taken some time to literally stop and smell the roses. Walking, engaging the senses, connecting with emotionally fulfilling memories from my childhood, and allowing my mind to reorder itself while out in nature and fresh air has all been restorative. Now I have the right frame of mind to tackle the requirements of the article critique.