This past week has been something of an epiphany.
You know those periods when life throws everything at you and you're so exhausted you can't even think straight? (Although some of that is due to intense jetlag at the moment.) Well triple that feeling and then toss in a terrible head cold, a beloved relative dying (the second obviously more devastating than the first), and a whole lot of personal life decisions that need to be made and you're getting close to how I feel this week.
But rather than sink into solemnity, I've tried a new tact.
Gratitude is a funny thing. It's when you feel grateful for life that you start to really appreciate what you have. Indeed, you start to notice things you didn't notice in the fog of worry and stress. You remember the lovely people you've met on your travels; the joyous surprises; the laughter; the unexpected delights of the day.
The potential of life returns.
The potential of life returns.
And if you can't do gratitude, then gardens offer a good remedy too. In fact, immerse yourself in a garden and your spirits will return. I guarantee it.
I've discovered that this week. So, too, have a few others.
Just look at the happy faces of these people. These charming women are some of the loveliest people I've met recently. (Their wardrobes were almost as impressive as the floral borders.) Seeing their delighted faces made me quietly delighted too. And then everything seemed okay again.
There is a well-known Vogue editor that I've come to know because she's a friend of a new friend. I used to think she was brittle. Perhaps even arrogant. And living an existence entirely separate from the rest of us, which perhaps made her seem even more remote and unapproachable.
But then my friend said she puts out a shield to defend herself from criticism. This Vogue editor has chosen to deflect the negativity of life in order to concentrate on the bright, the good, the beautiful, and the inspirational. After all, said my friend, there is only so much negativity a person can take.
The result, added this friend, is that she comes across as being superior and full of froideur but is actually one of the kindest and loveliest people you can imagine meeting.
(And her garden is simply glorious.)
So many of us become caught up in what another friend calls "the gloominess of life": the pessimism, the criticism, even the gossip of society. We do it because a) it is encouraged and b) it gives us a kind of psychological 'lift'. As this same friend suggests: "People put others down to make themselves feel better." But I prefer to focus on the positive. It is far more gracious. And far more rewarding.
Wandering through these gardens this week has made me realise that life doesn't need to be hard. And that you can achieve what you want – if you're courageous enough, tenacious enough, and – perhaps most importantly – positive enough to go after it.
I think gardens teach you that. The art of optimism.
I'll aways remember a wonderful anecdote by the landscape architect and gardening blogger Tara Dillard. Tara was designing the garden of a woman who had been through cancer. Treatments had already taken the client's hair, and made the tips of her fingers and toes blue. Just walking was treacherous.
When Tara was installing the garden, the client asked, "How long till the azaleas cover the wall?"
"Well, with the drought and everything..."said Tara nervously.
But the client interrupted with a smile.
"Tara," she said firmly. "We must always be optimistic!"