The Buzz

Try Looking from a Different Point of View

When I tell people I meet socially that I work at the Memphis Botanic Garden, the most common response is, “Oh my, that place is just gorgeous!! Y’all do such a good job there.” I am of course always thankful for their complements and visitation, but in my day-to-day drudgery, there is seldom time for me to actually stop and appreciate the garden for what it is; a beautiful respite, filled with unique plants and environments, built to stir one’s emotions and thoughts. I just see work - lots, and lots, and lots of work. There is the daily work ensuring quality presentation to our guest. There is the long term work of growing plants from seed and caring for them in our nurseries. There is the fund raising work to ensure projects are paid for. TV and radio spots, presentations to the public, fishing sunglasses out of the pond, writing this Vine Line, work, work, work, work.  How will it ever all get done? I ask myself this question almost daily and answer it with another; how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time of course.      

On a daily basis, my gratitude for the Garden is blinded by the realization of the amount of work that needs to be completed. (By the way, it’s infinite, so I really shouldn’t worry about it anyway.) But this is really the wrong way to be working in such a wonderful space. At times, which, it seems, are few and far between, I will lift my head from my shovel to take a small break. Wiping my brow, I gaze at the newly born blooms of Camellia sasanqua “Rose of Autumn." With a backdrop of emerald foliage, their iridescent rose blooms beg for my attention, to which I helplessly surrender. Perched in the Redbuds and Ash overhead, I hear a robin, whistling in the low autumn sun. The trees are cloaked with the season’s seeds, ready to take flight with a passing wind.  

The combination of new and old led me down a rabbit hole of thoughts. Looking at the Camellia, it’s interesting to me that such a small tree could put out so many relatively large blooms, especially going into a cooler season. The tree is puckering up for the remaining stalwart insects, unfazed by the oncoming cold. All the while, the Ash and Redbud are nearing the end of their reproductive journey, ready to cast their seeds out, hoping they will find a spot in the world to grow and take their place. The tired and worn out appearance of the seeds gives a sorrowful feel to the space.

The juxtaposition of the spritely, gleaming camellias and the mournful hardwoods give me a feeling that I have yet to come to terms with, which is just fine. The scene has awakened feelings and emotions that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, were it not for a small break. It is a reminder that it’s a good thing to slow down from time to time, to appreciate what we have, to look at things from a different point of view.

By Nick Esthus, Japanese and Asian Garden Curator

Posted by nick esthus at 6:00 AM


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