Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
The famous nursery rhyme is my favorite. This 18th Century rhyme, unassuming and innocent looking at surface, speaks of Queen Mary, of Scotland, and her rise to power in English court against Queen Elizabeth. She rose in power by gathering favours in the gentry of English court though expensive gifts, exquisite delicacies and sex with 'pretty maids'. Her understanding of how to silently tend to and grow her garden of power against the Virgin (or, Bastard) Queen is what one sees in her response in the rhyme.
My grandmother called me the "first bud" of her garden because I am first of her grand children. I never looked at the analogy of a garden so seriously, or so personally. Rather, it is only now that I am starting to take the analogy personally, that I am also taking it seriously.
The analogy is a simple and empowering one. Each one of us own a patch of garden in this vast forest of the world. Our own private haven in the randomness and madness that surrounds us. In this metaphorical garden that each one of us own, we have some measure of control - some measure of decision making. We get a certain terrain to begin with, a certain soil quality, a certain permanence of weather - some measure of predictability that makes each of us feel that there is a grander design of things.
Some plants take root much before we realize the stretch of one's own garden. Some parts of the landform, or contours - even through we might dearly wish to change, is ours to call by birth. Rest assured. We each have a unique garden to call our own.
In this garden, we tend to relationships - deciding what nourishment to provide, which 'plants' to water. We decide which plants take root and become trees, how much shade or sun should we let in, how much should be grassed patches or pavements - and what should be weeded out.
Untended gardens are very much like a miniature version of a forest. It goes to disarray, and though such gardens are a plenty around us - the best way to make the world beautiful is to tend to your own garden the best you can.
How does my garden grow?
My garden is akin to a forest, not because I have ignored my duties to take care of it, but because I have consciously chosen to keep it that way. There are openings to other gardens, and most of these openings are not gated. And while I am ideologically against the notion of a forest within fenced boundaries - my garden is a forest fenced. Perhaps that is the only control I keep, the only certainly I allow myself to still have. It is also surprising to see the variety of flora and fauna you will find in my garden. I am a bit particular about who could come in, and who stays out.
It is a bit easy to for me to get lost in my forested garden. And I intend to keep it that way. My garden is an ever growing one, both in density and in size. So there is more to explore even for me every time I take a stroll in the deeper recesses of my garden. There is a world within this garden that is a representation of the forest without. My garden is my teacher. And I grow seeing the garden grow. Most people take the role of being a gardener to be that of being in-charge of keeping it beautiful, or well tended. "Subjective truths", as Devdutt would call it.
I, instead, like the role of tending to the garden as a witness. And simply allowing the garden to grow on its own. It enriches the soil that is me while also growing in the process. In a way, my garden feeds me and takes care of me more than the other way around. And I am grateful for my garden for being my saviour.
Devdutt Pattanaik very aptly shares the difference between a well tended garden and a forest in his famous INK talk.