A Life-Giving Force

I walk into a garden and I immediately sense a shift. Perhaps it is simply the aromas of thyme underfoot, jasmine on a trellis, roses in bloom, and rich loamy soil. Maybe it is the visual profusion of greens punctuated by blooming color. Whatever it is, I cannot help but feel a pulse of life shimmering all around me, and that sense of quivering growth heightens as I sit and draw, sinking into the quiet yet tingling energy surrounding me.

Drawn in the Promise Garden, NC Arboretum in Asheville. Ink & Watercolor. Hannemuhle Sketchbook. 7″ x 5″.

I experience this even in my yard, or on the back deck where a small tea garden is currently shifting from spring, blooming into summer plantings. I can even feel that shift when I walk in our neighborhood breathing fresh air, listening to the birds sing and looking at all the neighbor’s landscaping and floral abundance. My definition of what constitutes a garden is expanding and I now prefer the British reference of a “garden” as their own yard, and the larger concept of the natural world as one big ever-evolving Garden. Nature, and especially a garden, is a life-giving force that I do well to walk or sit in as often as I can.

“Million Bells” gift from my youngest daughter. Back deck. Ohuhu Sketchbook. 10″ x 11″.

I wonder why I’m keenly aware of this life-giving energy lately, or why I’m drawn to gardens. I seem to be irresistibly lured to sitting in my drawing chair sketching away in a little book. I wonder if it is due to so much around me dying. The gorgeous pansies in my back deck garden are leggy and brown with only their happy faces still hanging onto color. On my walk yesterday leaves were falling, albeit gracefully, from a small tree in a neighbor’s yard. I didn’t know what kind of tree this was nor why it would be shedding leaves in late spring. More painfully, loved ones are experiencing all kinds of hardship as their brains lose memories and abilities, as children fall ill, as parents age and friends endure struggles of all kinds. I cannot even compute nor make sense of the death in recent wars and shootings. Whether it be the natural evolution of nature, or the destructive work of hatred or illness, dying is all around us and cannot be escaped. This has to be, at least in part, why I’m drawn to garden spaces.

Promise Garden, NC Arboretum. Hannemuhle Sketchbook. Ink & Watercolor. 7″ x 5″.

As I sit and draw, I feel that I might, in time, become a small stocky tree, rooted to the earth there as I sketch the leaves of strawberries at my feet, the diaphanous stems of asparagus and the riotous heads of bee balm. Something unnameable and tingling begins to seep into my toes and through the bottoms of my sandaled feet. It isn’t a bug or a snake. I’m certain it must be a life-giving force that winds its way up my legs into my core and out my arms and hands as lines dance around on the page. I become fully absorbed in it and it’s a wonder my head doesn’t pop off from the sheer delight of it. Perhaps that accounts for flowers…simply an energy so exquisite the stems and leaves can’t contain it any longer and it bursts out the top in a glorious display of color!

Drawn at the Ciener Botanical Gardens. Ink & Watercolor. Somerset Paper. 11″ x 11″. Available for purchase in my ETSY shop.

Do I make too much of this? I hope not. It is my experience, sure and certain as I live and breathe. If I stay there long enough, in a garden of any kind… walking, looking, drawing…I can even begin to sense that at the same time all this life is happening, death is right there with it. Older leaves yellow. Last season’s blooms brown. Beetles destroy leaves. Voles eat roots. I might even get to a place where I could see the death as a necessary part of the life-cycle, and the energy I call “life-giving”, could even be in some measure emanating from the natural dying of all living things. Please know that I am not here referring to senseless killing or acts of hatred. Yet on a grander, more cosmic scale, even these horrific things may one day be reclaimed or resurrected in a hope beyond our wildest imaginations.

Garden outside of a yarn shop in Seagrove. Ink & Gouache. Ohuhu Sketchbook. 10″ x 11″.

But I cannot contain such things, nor hold them for long…and so I come back to my chair to sit and draw in a sketchbook. And to sink into the delicious Light and loveliness tingling all around me in a garden, a yard, a neighborhood, or a back deck filled with life-giving flowers and herbs. The next time you find yourself in a garden, sit long enough and see if you don’t sense this same force pulsing around you. Better yet…sit and draw…I’m sure you will experience it then. ❤️

All the world a Garden. From imagination. Marker, acrylic, oil pastel, watercolor pencils. Ohuhu Sketchbook. 10″ x 11″.

P.S. There are a few “momentos of joy” in my ETSY shop all garden related! You might enjoy having one of these to remind you of this life-giving force!

5 thoughts on “A Life-Giving Force

  1. Rosemary Mock says:

    ,Jennifer, as one who is finding sure steps diminishing I relish the thoughts of enjoying a seat in your memorial drawings and imagining the scents as they come! Thank you!

  2. Cheryl Wright says:

    Jennifer, as always, your thoughts resonate deeply with me on these matters. Bless you for sharing your thoughts and observations in such vivid detail.

    I love this:
    “…flowers…simply an energy so exquisite the stems and leaves can’t contain it any longer and it bursts out the top in a glorious display of color!”

    I agree wholeheartedly and I consider their “glorious display of colour” a form of unbridled worship and praise to God. Similiar to those times when we are enveloped with gratitude for God’s goodness and mercies and we burst forth in prayer and songs of praise because we cannot hold it in.

    • Jennifer Edwards says:

      Thank you for your kind words Cheryl! I hope all is well with you and yours! In the midst of difficulties, I too am feeling “enveloped in gratitude” as you say, and especially so in a garden! 🙂

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