If I have learnt anything it is this: nothing remains the same.
My garden is changing its face all the time. Plants grow and encroach on their neighbours, while others begin by thriving only to fail and die. Burgeoning growth changes micro climates, in turn changing aspects and conditions for plants. It’s a constantly shifting plantscape.
During a big pruning session this week, I discovered my New South Wales Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), had become a dead twig. I was disappointed. I planted it to honour a long-standing, Christmas tradition. Each year, my friend’s Christmas bush would be a vision in red, bending at the stems under the weight of blossoms. Actually it’s the calyxes or cup-shaped sepals of this gorgeous plant that give it the red flush, beginning as pale cream buds to eventually turn shades of white, pink or red – the latter being my favourite for Christmas time. The flowers tucked within are almost inconsequential, being tiny and of a pale yellow colour. My friend generously shared bunches of this festive bush with me every year to decorate the house for Christmas.
The years moved on and so did we, each changing our place of residence. Hoping to return her favour of many years, I planted a Christmas Bush in my new garden. I envisioned handing over big bunches of gorgeous red Christmas cheer to fill all available jugs and vases, as she had for me. The aspect for planting in my courtyard was ideal – plenty of sun – and I was determined to give it every opportunity to thrive, which it did … for a time.
As my garden grew, the Christmas Bush became overshadowed by other sun-hungry plants and subsequently became hidden from my view. Sadly, I discovered too late, that its needs were not being met.I felt sad for the loss of a plant but more for the loss of an idea, a tradition which had meant so much. It represented an ideal for me, one of sharing one’s bounty in the ‘giving’ season, of a common appreciation of gardening, and of our friendship.
And then I thought about the nature of change. Was I trying to re-capture something that had had its time? Our circumstances had changed. Those lives and those gardens were no longer ours. That particular tradition was lost- it had become a dead twig, a fond but distant memory, having also run its course. We are still dear friends but different people now.
I realised something I’ve always known: railing against change is as quixotic as jousting with windmills, as futile as trying to hold back the tide.Wishing for the past has no hope of restoring it. I know the past I imagine is not real, it probably did not happen quite the way I choose to remember it. That’s the imperfect nature of humans and selective memory.
Change is healthy as well as inevitable; as essential in my outer landscape as my inner one.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”