Monday, April 16, 2012

In the Garden: White Space


After clearing debris and uprooting errant wild grasses in the garden beds, I smoothed a layer of fine mulch between the perennials. As I did, the spaces I created reminded me of the artistic concept of white space. At that moment I didn’t have to understand it completely to know it was powerful. The invitation to relax and take a deep breath felt so natural. It was as though the space were whispering, "Take it easy. All is well with the world."

Reading about the use of white space in art and design, I found a partial description of my experience in that the space allows the eyes to rest and the body to relax. I realized my clear view of the Oriental poppy was a result of the presence of that nothingness: for it provided a place of rest for the object to be appreciated for what it is. Without the white space, I would lay my eyes on a whole garden of wild grasses, weeds, and mixed perennials standing one on top of the other without any demarcation. I would know only a canvas amassed in variations on a theme in green.

Reflecting on the act of creating a momentary retreat of out of nothing, I wondered, “Can I create other momentary retreats? In the litany of my to-do list? In my office? In my thoughts and in my conversations?”

I believe I can and perhaps it’s important that I do. Each time I stop to breathe or to think, I am creating white space in my daily life. When I clear the counter or re-do the overstuffed file, I create the space or room to see clearly what I have in my possession. When I make the effort to listen to others, their thoughts come more clearly into view: I become a better observer, a better listener. When I remind myself in the grocery store line that I am fortunate to have a cart full, I create a pause in the hurry. In that space I find a quiet and still emotional geography in which I am the recipient of a momentary peace.

It was a lot of hard work to clear out my gardens this year. I’d let the meadow grasses have their way with my perennial beds last summer without fighting back. This year my will was greater. Through the physical labor of pulling and digging weeds and grasses, pushing back overgrown and wild perennials, like an artist, I brushed white space, a rich nothingness into the gardens and rediscovered so much. I also find it a lot of work to simply remember to take a deep breath in the middle of the rush, to finish the list or to interrupt my thoughts long enough to listen to a friend. But it’s through my conscious labor I’m able to place myself next to nothingness, at rest and fully present.

No comments: