There are some experiences in life which are so connected to a specific time and place that they stay alive forever. One such experience for me was gardening. I was never much of a gardener in my younger days, nor do I do a great deal of gardening today. These days I am more of a ‘plant and let it be’ than a ‘plant and nurture’ type of gardener, but there is one garden that is and will always be embedded in my heart.
For most of my married life I’ve lived on acres ~ lots of trees, paddocks, and animals. And that has suited me just fine. There is nothing I like better than being surrounded by tall leafy trees and grassy hills. So apart from indoor pot plants, I never had the desire to plant a thing. That is, until we bought a rugged 30 acre hillside nestled on the western edge of the Blue Mountains.
It was a magnificent spot ~ the highest point in a vast valley, reported to be the second largest sunken valley in the world. With escarpment views, a hillside of majestic pines, and a resident mob of kangaroos, it was high, rocky, wild and windy, and stunningly beautiful.
After, the house was built and the outbuildings were finished, it was time to tackle our sloping gravelly hillside… and our valley had just the man to do it! He was a feisty little Irishman, and a very talented landscaper. He walked around the house, up and down the slopes, and without any discussion said, “Leave it to me”. And so I did. A thousand, yes a thousand, railway sleepers later we had a 50 metre retaining wall with a 3 tiered garden and steps up through the centre, plus ten other retained garden areas, and walkways. It was fantastic!
When it was all finally finished and filled with lovely rich soil, it was my turn, and for the first time in my life, I had a garden. It was definitely my time, and for the next ten years I planted, tended and nurtured every plant as if it were an extension of me. I fell in love with it. On summer evenings, my favourite thing to do was water the garden late at night to the chorus of cicadas. And in the mornings, I walked the pathways with my cup of tea, pulled a few weeds, looked at the amazing view, and with immense gratitude, felt one with the Universe. It was a wonderful garden ~ an absolute paradise.
Hubby and I both really loved it, and it was in fact what kept us sane. At the time we had a busy real estate office ~ the only one in the valley, and it was hectic. But when we got home and locked that gate behind us, we were free! We had our animals at our feet, the kangaroos grazing in our front paddock, the rabbits hopping about, the mountain birds visiting our birdfeeders, the wedge-tailed eagles soaring through the sky, and of course, the garden and the view. When we sat on our front verandah with a glass of red soaking up the magic, all was right with the world. I can still see it and feel it. We were so high up, we felt like we owned the valley. It was wonderful.
But the day came when we decided to move on. We had sold our real estate office to a lovely local couple, and built two luxury accommodation cabins on the property. While that was a great business decision, what we really wanted was to downsize. I was more than happy to hand over a fully furnished house and two cabins. As it was a walk in-walk out sale we left everything, including our beds, but the garden was another matter. It held my heart.
The day we moved I was left on my own waiting for a truck to arrive, and that’s when I said goodbye to my garden. It was a heartrending moment ~ really difficult, until suddenly I knew what to do. I would leave my garden with some words of love. I found the perfect piece of wood in the shed, and with a marking pen, on its smooth surface I wrote the following:
‘Inara’s Garden 1993 ~ 2004 With Love’
I knew it wouldn’t last beyond a month or so in the weather, but as I placed it amongst the diosmas, I felt it was exactly the right thing to do. It was a symbolic gesture that embodied everything I felt about a garden which had brought me so much pleasure. I have visited since, and while the hundreds of trees we planted now majestically reach for the sky, the garden is not what it was. But it doesn’t matter, because in my heart, it will always be as beautiful as I left it, and that will always be mine.
Inara Hawley © 2014