Finding an oasis in the city


Finding an oasis of calm is challenging in a busy city where the pressure to do, achieve, meet deadlines, and be seen to be highly productive are for so many people “key performance indicators “in validating an existence. Today I find myself chasing my tail in a whirlwind of my own activity but not finding meaning or making much progress (and at a bit of a loss for direction). Part of my frenzied activity this week is trying to redesign my display for a forthcoming craft fair (a task that should be enjoyable on a creative front) but even this has felt like a burden. Something is wrong, I feel the need to take it slow, I am tumbling over my own feet trying to keep up with the pace of the “to do” list I have set for myself!

On my way home from Hatton Garden, I avoid the bus choosing instead to walk, decelerating to a meander. In doing so, I find myself thinking more about my immediate surroundings, noticing the peeling plane trees, shedding their scaly skin. The detritus on the London streets mixed with paling pink petals from fallen cherry blossom, remnants of the cycle of new spring growth and the apparent effortlessness of nature renewing itself. I am entering into a metamorphosis from “achieving” to “being”.

In drifting past the Geffrye Museum, I find opportunity for further detour via the several-times-painted-black wrought iron gates, stepping onto the light-dappled, russet dust of the sandy path. Like discarded relics strewn from the pace of city life, my steps are littered with broken twigs inhabited by little communities of lichen. Tiny worlds just “being” where they have landed on that particular spot of ground.

Pointed signs (painted in my Grandad’s favourite green) summons me towards the herb garden. There I am greeted by the fragrance of English blue bells poking through a wood-chipped carpet with exploding stars of wild garlic. A lilac chandelier of wisteria drapes in the distance, and scented lily of the valley bells call across the afternoon breeze.

Struck by this stop-watch-stand-still moment, I feel a welcome to tarry. I settle into an arbor bench framed with clematis flowers jostling for their own space and light and hide in the perfumed seclusion of the walled herb garden, hibernating.

Time is suspended as I drink in the trickle of the overflowing water fountain, watching the poised dandelion clocks, awaiting the final tickle of breeze to surrender their seeded second-hands to the wind. I hear the jitterbug-hum of bees in peonies and rosemary flowers, the repeat drumming of water as the gardener fills and refills a watering can. The conversations of passing visitors, “Stop where you are, yes, stand just there, lovely……… now smile!". They too are discovering the beauty of the secret garden (and each other) within this gentle space for the passing of unmeasured time.

And in the noticing of small and quiet things I am changed and renewed. In finding a place of rest, and a space for acknowledgement of who I am and what I need, I rediscover my being with all my senses. I too become a small world inhabiting the space where I have landed, to find again a sense of focus and peace.

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