Garden vigilance

Garden vigilance

Overnight the garden changes, my formal oriental garden is invaded, and black bamboo shoots two new stems thicker and taller than before its move from Marrickville (three and a half years ago), and fungi and invaded the barkchips.

one day pumpkin
a day’s invasion

A garden performs/offers many different functions/values/pleasure one being attention, A gardener is attentive as good and bad things happen daily. Gardens are usually more dynamic environments than the bush because they are artificial, they usually have plant that are not native or not naturalised – more can go wrong more quickly, and because of the variety most gardeners favour, more is happening. And because a garden is owned, usually that means that any activity by local fauna, even in natural (never touched) parts of the garden attracts interest.

So gardens offer a vibrant and magnified view of the world useful for learning and pleasure. Such attention is tender and not the type capitalism requires from disciplined workers for efficient production, where laziness and inattention are condemned as morally weak. (See Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of perception, 1999).

Attention is the first step to appreciating, even if not understanding, the environment. Wonder is next. Such attention as this ropes in awareness: “Awareness means the consciousness which is not linked to language (the machine for thinking), but to Presence.” Jerzy Grotowski.

one day fungi
overnight fungi

A garden is ephemeral but not in the sense  that modernity exhibits and demands as Baudelaire realised writing in 1863: “By ‘modernity’ I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.”[i]

Fifty years later early cinema in France captured the contingent cycles of people and events as a paradox of temporal and eternal beauty.[ii] While in Italy aggressive young men proclaimed a new movement ‘Futurism’, and declared in their Manifesto new ideals of beauty as speed and energy:

  • We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene . . .
  • We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind . . . .  [iii]
    And no doubt gardens could be piled up among the books and furniture of past cultures they wished to burn, in a Red Guard frenzy of revolutionary zeal.

Gardens do zeal and they can be revolutionary but destruction is nearly always outweighed by production.


[i] Baudelaire, Charles (1863) ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, transl. and ed. Jonathan Mayne, London: Phaidon, 1964, p13.

[ii] See for example, Louis Delluc, “Beauty in the Cinema” (1917), in Abel, Richard (1988), French Film Theory and Criticism, Vol. 1, 1907–1929 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p137.

[iii] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, (1909) ‘The Futurist Manifesto’, Le Figaro, 20 February.

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