Walking through the winding paths of the Asian garden on a warm morning in May, I can see sunlight illuminating the flowers and leaves overhead and I smell the sweet scent of sun-warmed cedar trees. There are thousands of textures, patterns, and forms to explore—a lifetime of tiny happenings to notice.
It is quiet here, with birds and insects moving through the air around me—their sounds blend together to form a soundscape only known to this place at this moment. Walking among the Rhododendrons and Peonies I am struck by their magnificence—such opulence humbly tucked away in quiet corners of the garden. It seems that this place is such that one may never see each and every small wonder.
I am reminded that the discipline of seeing is one of many senses. How we move through our time in this garden—what we notice and what is unnoticed—is all experienced through attentiveness to our surroundings. In her book Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard tells the story of a young girl with blindness who experiences sight for the first time. She writes that the girl came into a garden, and “[she] who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it,” describing the way in which the sun danced over the leaves. Dillard observes that the girl has seen past the idea of what a tree looks like to truly see light, shadow, and form as it really appears.
Dillard searches for this way of seeing—one with openness and newness enmeshed within it. As she walks along Tinker Creek, Dillard learns this way of seeing that notices light, texture,
colour, and form in this new and attentive way. She writes that “it was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.”
Dillard illuminates what many struggle to experience—the practice not of looking, but of seeing, and there is space in the garden to experience seeing in the broadest sense. As I walk through the garden, each time I follow the winding paths there is newness to be seen. The sounds, smells, and light gather here, and I choose to practice the discipline of seeing.
Annie Dillard’s book Pilgrim At Tinker Creek is linked here.
Submitted by Janae Gartly (she/her) B.A. (Hons), B.Ed. (In-Progress)