Through a Garden Prism

Ancestral treasures -Nana's clam shell

Ancestral treasures -Nana’s clam shell

Symbolism is under-rated don’t you think? It underpins much of what we value in our lives and yet often we neglect to really appreciate what it offers – I know I do.

Take my garden as an example. In my more reflective moments, I look around and see beyond the pleasant arrangement of plant and objects. I see my family, my friends, places I’ve been, things accomplished, challenges met. Things imbued with memory, with character, serenity, sadness and love. Things to which I attribute certain qualities reminding me of  those to whom they once belonged.

I remember especially my nana’s giant clam shell from my distant childhood. It was one of a pair in her garden – goodness only knows how she acquired it or what happened to its mate. Now it graces my tiny garden reminding me of those wonderful times past and how blessed I was to have known her, to have her sap running through my veins.

Her grandfather came to Australia as a merchant from China during the 1800s.  When he was killed and his body taken back to China by his brothers, her mother and grandmother worked in the tailoring trade to survive; or so the story goes. In the early 1920s my nana raised two daughters on her own in the days when little help, beyond family, was available.

When I look at that shell I am reminded of her strength and endurance; in fact, of all the women in my family, both fore and aft. Her youngest daughter was a war bride. She married an American airman and went to the USA to live; so brave for a girl barely twenty. Her oldest daughter, my mother, also a strong woman, counted gardening among her many talents. Her garden nourished not just her family, but also her soul. I still have plants that originated from cuttings of cuttings from her garden. When I look at those plants, and appreciate how they survived so many incarnations, I think of our family generations, how we have endured and even thrived through all kinds of familial weather. The lesson I take from this is, how important it is to nurture the stories along with the plants. Mine truly is a memory garden.

Ancient artefacts - the watering can

Ancient artefacts – the watering can

 For in the dew of little things

The heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Kahlil Gibran 1956

If you have special garden memories I would love to have you share them.

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15 responses to “Through a Garden Prism

  1. A lovely post! A prism of many layers.

    A memory?

    There is an orchid, a bush orchid, that lives in a crumbling terracotta pot. Each year it flowers pink, just like the dresses she used to wear and the hankies she used to hold.

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  2. Thank you for sharing that memory Gail. I suspect its the very same orchid whose flower child I have in my garden, gifted to me by a special friend. I will always think of her as ‘pink dresses and hankie’ now.

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  3. Robyn, I love this strong women have always been the backbones of families. How wonderful that you have your grandmother’s clam shell!
    My special garden memory is my Granny growing lavender roses. I think they were called Angel Face. They smelled like the sweetest thing on earth! Whenever I see one now, I always think of her.

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  4. Robyn, reading your post this morning was a wonderful start to my day. Your nana’s clam shell is amazing, brought back from some exotic location no doubt. My mother had two clam shells that she brought back from the Solomon Islands as a five year old. They fitted in your hands and were sometimes used as ashtrays.
    Where would we be without our memories.

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    • Indeed Gina. Memories like these help us construct who we are. Hearing about your shells being used as ashtrays reminded me of an era past when smoking was ubiquitous and we barely gave it a second thought. I wonder why your mother was in the Solomon’s all those years ago?

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  5. She was on a holiday with her parents. 1929. I remember a photo of my mother and grandparents on a boat that looked like the ‘African Queen.’ They were dressed in white, white hats etc. Why the Solomon Islands?
    Haven’t got the foggiest but it sounds very exotic don’t you think?
    My parents never smoked by the way. The ashtrays were for guests.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My Gosh! What a great story. It does sound exotic. I love your description of them on the ‘African Queen’ all in whites.
      You were fortunate to be brought up in a smoke free environment. Both my parents smoked and as a consequence I was never tempted.

      My mother was quite avant garde and used to wear trousers and smoke with a cigarette holder.

      I have vivid memories of her being dressed in a cloud of black tulle and silver fox, smelling divine as she leaned over me to say goodnight. So glamorous. Always off to some party it seemed.

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