Autumn yielded to summer once more today. As we walked in the famous Kirstenboch National Botanical Gardens we could feel the sun and the humidity taking a toll, despite the floppy hats purchased from the garden bookstore.
So we sat under a tree in the shade to cool off. And as I looked up at the black underside of the fan of branches framed by delicate green needles, filtering light through a light breeze, I realized that this simple view was perhaps the most beautiful thing I’d seen all day.
It’s always the simple things that help you really see.
Visiting these gardens was the top priority for my Mom, a master gardner, Birmingham Botanical Garden volunteer, saver of countless dying plants in my Seattle home and the go-to decorator for events among her circle of friends.
And the garden didn’t disappoint. It was colorful and fragrant and educational and an important ecological conservatory in an environment that threatens many of the native species. This garden is truly masterfully designed and cultivated.
It didn’t take long to realize that the garden was designed complement the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain that framed the sky behind. The rise and fall of the trees and plantings seemed to follow and complement the mountain ridge.
And the black stone sculptures of African women and men not only became part of the garden. They were surrounded by the plants and textures and colors that successfully made the garden part of the sculpture.
Best was the noise. This place is joyful … full of the laughter of families with kids climbing the perfect climbing tree or toddling after the waddling guinea hens or having a picnic. And full of the sounds of the birds swooping on the bright blooms and flitting through the trees – making the garden not just beautiful but very alive.
All of these features were duly noted and discussed before the quiet respite on a bench under the shade tree. In the same way you would admire a noted art exhibit as you step through the slow start-and-stop advance down the corridors reading the descriptions of each piece. It leaves you informed. But a bit empty.
Noticing the simple beauty of the underside of a shade tree turned a lovely walk through a beautiful garden into a much more personal experience. It flipped the elusive switch that all travelers seek … that moment when you leave the daily work and schedules and obligations behind and actually let a new environment open your eyes again to the simple things that suddenly look new.