Most evenings, when the sunrays have softened, I put my pet pair of cockatiels into their cage (they live unconfined in our home), and carry them to a garden barely 5 minutes-walk from our flat. A well maintained oasis of fresh air, I place my birds at a spot that receives sunlight well until 6.15pm. Though the garden extends up to 800 meters, I have to stay within eyeshot of my birds inviting considerable attention from crows ready to swoop down for a quick snack!
While my birds get a healthy dose of the outdoors, I too engage in a host of activities in that perimeter of 200 meters. I clutch the soil and stray twigs with my toes, and soak in the sun until toasted. Sometimes a fine drizzle with needle-like rain drops delicately adds moisture to the greens and me. Once a noisy buzz caught my attention. I followed the source, a feisty bunch of bees, and discovered a flowering tree at the cusp of bloom. A richly colored Green Bee Eater foraged for grub in its branches.
Another day I noticed a half grown snail, inching towards a pavement. Moments away from being crushed under a passerby, I slid a leaf under its gooey body, gently lifted it, and put it back in the grass.
Then, for a week, I was busy collecting fallen seeds of the Acacia Coral tree, before the monsoons could wash them away. These scarlet red beauties now sit in a glass bottle on my writing desk.
Another evening, I saw a gardener cutting the overgrown grass with his hi-tech mower. I couldn’t help but imagine the turmoil in the lives of umpteen creepy-crawlies in the foliage as the rotating iron blades sliced their homes. My guess was right. I saw tadpoles jumping helter-skelter in the after-shocks of ‘what just happened.’
Recently, I noticed an intricate cobweb threaded between luscious leaves of an aloe vera plant. I wondered how I missed seeing it in the days gone by.
Now it’s been 4 months since I’ve been spending an hour or two, almost five days a week, in that same area of 200 meters. Today evening, when I excitedly began to get ready to leave for the garden, for a moment, I wondered the reason behind my continued enthusiasm for the ‘same’ location.
That’s when I realized that there was nothing ‘same’ about the time I spent in that limited patch. There wasn’t a single day when I didn’t come back with a ‘moment,’ thought, feeling, memory, observation, fondness, emotion, upsetting or uplifting. Every day, I had a fleeting sensorial experience. And every day, it was new.
A garden is a living ecosystem with moving elements. It’s constantly evolving. However, it can appear as static as a swimming pool or a lounge until we care to notice. You have to ‘see’ the evolution, realize that the plant you saw yesterday is not in the same shape and form today, even though it’s rooted to the same spot. You have to sense the quiet efforts behind a bud turning into a flower, catch early glimpses of a birth in a nest few feet away, appreciate the slowness in the natural pace of life, and feel quiet contentment in spending time with the earth, uninterrupted.
You don’t always need to dig up the ground to find new gems. More often than not, the gems are lightly embedded in familiar corners, waiting for you to catch a glint of their existence. Try to look beyond the obvious. The familiar may not be so familiar after all.
This article was published at Hindustan Times.