How Does Your Garden Grow?

“In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold.” – The Hidden Words

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We lived in an old, dusty and crumbling villa in Wazir Akbar Khan in Kabul, Afghanistan several years ago. Enclosed behind four walls with a rusty barbed wire snaking tiredly above, our home looked bland and modest from the outside.

But hidden away from the rest of the world, veiled from prying eyes, there lay a treasure ensconced within those four white-washed walls.

Especially resplendent in May, crossing the threshold of those walls and entering into the inner sanctuary of our home, was to step into a world filled with perfumed roses. Colours so dazzling as to almost make the garden sparkle under the Afghan sun.

It was our very own secret garden.

It was our little patch of paradise in Kabul where brown and grey dust covered the entire landscape. It was our calm solace from the scorching heat and clamour of the city. It was where birds came to sing. Where white and yellow butterflies came to flutter.

I spent much time learning about the importance of pruning the thirty rose bushes we had in our garden. I found out the best season to start cutting back the grape vines. I was fiercely protective of our new seedlings and watched them with vigilance. Together with our gardener Shapoor, we planted clusters of sunflowers, corn, mint, coriander and spinach. It was a new found joy to simply watch life grow.

What I learnt most about gardening was that to have a beautiful garden takes work. A daily and dutiful commitment. The garden is only as graceful as the hands that tend to it. The harvest only as bountiful as the preparation put in long before the first shoot appears.

In fact, I discovered that most of the hard work of gardening seems to take place while the ground was still barren.

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Since moving back to Finland, I have sorely missed having a garden. Contrary to popular belief and largely due to the photos I post on the blog, I do not live on a farm or in a rustic country home here in Helsinki.

(But, oh my, to have a patch of land to call my own…To be able to potter about endlessly and squish my toes in dirt! That would be a dream come true!)

In actual fact, I live in a rather modernistic brick and glass apartment out in the suburbs. And the only gardening I do these days is to tend to the little pots of herbs on my kitchen counter that come right off the shelves from the supermarket.

But, there is a secret garden that I go to often.

The hidden garden of the heart.

The hidden life that is in each of us. That secret place that beckons us during our quietest moments. That sacred place which is so easy to ignore and neglect simply because we so often only pay attention to the obvious, and the external, and that which is easy to understand. Because we are so often and so easily taken up by appearances.

Because sometimes cultivating an image just seems easier than cultivating a heart.

So, when I am battered by thoughts of war or overwhelmed by a barrage of bitterness, I go back to the quote from the Hidden Words above. I go back to the garden of my heart to take a peek at what sort of seeds I have been planting there the whole time.

And I realise with fresh clarity each time, that everything that is not of love has no valid place to grow in my heart.

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And so that’s where I begin. Right at the heart of it. That’s where the life and times of each of us begin. Long before the buds appear. Way before the birds and the butterflies come to visit. While the land yet looks barren.

One little patch of dirt at a time.

One true word at a time.

One right thought.

One single truth.

One seed at a time.

Making sure to protect that little seedling from choking weeds, callous marauders and destructive pestilence. Making sure that I make time to pay attention and be vigilant.

And so, I may not have that huge, rambling garden to potter about (yet!) or squish my toes in some good ol’ bit of dirt, but I sure do have a garden within me that always needs some good ol’ tending to.

To secret gardens. To beautiful hearts.

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