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Leaving Leu ....but surely it´s just "au revoir"

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Monday 13 September 2010

Leaving Leu ....but surely it´s just "au revoir"

I went down to the Gardens to say goodbye. Goodbye to my best friends, the leafy, the creeping, the upright, the flowering, the dormant, the majestic and the minuscule, all the plants and animals who have been my steadfast companions in these last few years. They have been my joy, my solace, my confidantes and my mentors. Their wonderful stories have taught me so much, about history, extraordinary exploration, ingenious natural design, medicine, myth and magic, and sheer dogged survival.

I walked the paths I have walked so many times. I know every inch of this place. I have recorded some 400 of its inhabitants, but many more have slipped me by. Some are no longer there, my darling Lipstick Tree, my favourite woody podded Silky Hakea, the pretty Pima Cotton.. all victims of the severe frost. But the twisted branches of the huge oaks still criss cross the paths, providing squirrel highways and welcome shade. Some humans have gone too, retired or moved away. I will never forget Joel who tended the butterfly garden and its inhabitants and taught me the wonders of metamorphosis, who put a newly hatched butterfly on my hand where it stretched its beautiful wings then took its first flight.

I went to say "hi "to the Tea bush, the very first plant that, on discovering I was English, Pedro introduced me to. I hugged my little Soapberry Tree, checked that the Midnight Horror Tree was doing Ok. Smiled at the Sausage Tree and knocked on the Bull’s Horn Acacia thorns to see if dear “Ant” or his relations were home. I lingered by my favourite, ancient, Cycads wondering at their history and idled along the avenue of majestic Camphors. I buried my nose in a heady scented flower of the White Champaca, I ran my fingers over velvety leaves, rough bark and needle tipped thorns and listened to the crickets, the cicadas, the birds and the wind sighing in the bamboo. I chewed a leaf of Yaupon Holly for a caffeine hit and crushed Sweet Basil between my fingers. There is everything to please the senses here. I am finding it hard to leave.

But to the plants and the trees I am nothing, just a transitory little speck of a human thing, just another collection of cells and molecules, passing through. I paused for a while on the benches dedicated to dear departed ones, Garden ghosts and I contemplating the scene together, their quiet company just right for this occasion. I shared some time with Ben, Dora, Chad, and Jeannie, with Mildred, John and Dr Shao. The dedications are varied, fond, funny and sentimental by turn. But here is Myra´s bench. Myra who were you? You and I would have got along well. We share a particular view of life. Myra who “lived for the journey” and who “believed the true joy of life is the trip” .. right on the button Myra!

With a lump in my throat I had to say goodbye to Pedro my dearest friend, my garden mentor. He said look for the leaves that flutter in the wind .. they are waving to you, waving goodbye.. but also hello! .. that’s Filipino wisdom for you.

Meanwhile “the trip” continues, we are leaving Orlando, but, Pedro, I will be looking for those fluttering leaves wherever I go…and I will be back soon.



Blogger Ellen Rathbone said...

It brought tears to my eyes, too, just reading this. I have similar goodbyes in my future, too - should a new job turn up for me. It's hard to leave friends.

14 September 2010 at 16:12  
Blogger Dan said...

Oh my goodness Val, what a wonderful post! Left a lump in my throat too, and I haven't even been there.
Just wonderful that you have had so many beautiful experiences, and that you have drawn so many of your favourite things, so you'll always have a memory of them!
Pedro and Joel sound like amazing people!
Best wishes for the journey!

14 September 2010 at 18:16  
Blogger Carol said...

Dear P&L,
This is so beautifully written it has grabbed my heart. I gasp at the life of your garden and your having to leave it. How you know and love it. Your words are touching and truly gifted. The image of you standing holding out your hand while your friend places a butterfly in it... and then the leaves that flutter... You are not only a gifted artist but equal in your writing craft. I wish you a good journey! I will have to go back to your earlier posts to understand why you are leaving such a garden. Your descriptions remind me of myself, though I could never express my thoughts and connection to my land and garden so exquisitely. I so enjoyed reading this post. Safe travels. ;>)

15 September 2010 at 00:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So beautifully said, poetry, I wish I knew the garden. I am so glad that you share your thoughts.

15 September 2010 at 02:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said... heart is sighing. Thank you for writing, drawing and seeing through your heart!

15 September 2010 at 05:38  
Anonymous Richard Downes said...

As always, your writing is beautiful. It makes me think that there can be no great beauty without some sadness; the shading that makes the drawing or the painting come alive.
Stay well; keep posting; you have fans and friends everywhere.

Richard in New South Wales, Australia.

15 September 2010 at 11:56  
Blogger Shady Gardener said...

Best wishes... and keep us "posted!" :-)

17 September 2010 at 03:23  
Anonymous Kate said...

It is so bittersweet!

And I think I must go to Leu Gardens immediately! To think of all these things you hold so dear, and yet I have not been to Leu Gardens in over 10 years, despite living nearby in Oviedo!

17 September 2010 at 04:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that you are just on another adventure Val. Where ever you choose to pause will be a place of discovery for someone with your inquisitive mind. I'm looking forward to maybe meeting up in the UK and joining you on some of your new adventures! Jane

19 September 2010 at 09:41  
Blogger greenman said...

Everytime you say goodbye... you die a little.
Marvellous post!

20 September 2010 at 21:44  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Dear all: Thank you so much: I am writing a collective reply but appreciate each and every one of your comments. It was a hard post to write and if I have managed to communicate a little of how I felt about this garden then I am glad. It's now 2 weeks after leaving and I am still so sad. I can't quite believe I have left and wake up sometimes expecting a blissful day at Leu with my leafy friends.. then I hear the seagulls and know I am in the UK by the sea.
I have had some of the happiest days of my life there.. what more can you ask of a place?

29 September 2010 at 07:56  

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