Thursday, April 8, 2021

G is for Gardens and the Gates of Shambhala #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,
Welcome to the second week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge.

Thank you.

As a gardener, I can think of no better therapy than being one with the soil: the digging and the sowing, the tending and the growing can overcome anxiety and any and every stress. Gardening's healing powers, I feel, are especially effective in these uncertain times of enforced sequestering.

I've been watching episodes of 'Gardener's World' at night and spending every moment I can  in my garden this year.

In The Book of Ichigo Ichie, the authors illustrate the concept of now or never with the help of a  Tibetan legend called 'The Gates of  Shambhala'. In it, a hunter, while pursuing a deer in the snowy Himalayan peaks, comes upon a narrow opening just wide enough for one man to pass through. "On the other side of the opening was a fertile garden, bathed in sunlight... children played happily among trees laden with fruit.." Despite being awestruck by the sight, the hunter decides to go back to his tribe to share his discovery with them. He's warned that "the gates of Shambhala open only once in a lifetime." But, he leaves. He would keep looking for the 'other side' for the rest of his life.

As a gardener and a photographer, I can completely relate to this legend. 

Every day, the garden changes. 

A bloom that was thriving yesterday may be gone today.

Thankfully, the camera lets me capture these precious glimpses for posterity or for as long as my backed up cards and drives work so that I can look back at the 'gates' that had opened up for a few precious minutes and  revisit the magical world on the other side.

I photograph my garden regularly and am amazed at how different it looks every year, every month, even every day. A sudden dust storm or the cold northerly winds can change everything in a matter of hours.

I know it's cliché but I'll say it anyway: do stop and stare and pay attention to beauty all around you. It's transient like breath. Here now. Gone now.

Today, I invite you to peep into one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever visited. 

The day dawned clear and the sky shone blue on the 8th of June, 2019 when we drove out of Cape Town to visit this garden that lies "nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain".

"Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was founded in 1913 to 'preserve the flora native to the South Africa's territory". According to Wikipedia, part of a hedge of wild almond and bramble planted in 1660 still exists in the gardens. You can find more about the garden here: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
(Source: Wikipedia)

An autumnal sky made the perfect backdrop for these crimson blooms.
Tree Aloe so vast, I'd call is Aloe-city.
Can you spot the thirsty sunbird?
They call it the tree canopy walkway. To me, it looks like promise of magic.
Heaven on Earth
Tree branches are antidotes to phone screen addiction. You'll miss out if you don't look up!

How can I resist these? One last shot--I promise.
It was time to leave the garden. 
I rubbed these rose-scented pelargonium leaves on my wrists so that I could  carry the scent of this garden with me, for the rest of the day at least.
Luckily, I have this fragrant plant growing in a pot at home. So, all I have to do is rub its leaves and like the proverbial magic lamp, its scent teleports me to a happy place.
Why Garden?
Whenever you feel sad or blue
step into a garden or two.
And if there isn't a garden near you
no worries
don't fret
sow a seed in a broken teacup
Place it on a sunny window sill
and let it show you 
how to be still
and deep.

Gardens are forests for the soul.
When bodies dwell in cities and concrete blocks,
our ancestral spirits and evolutionary codes
beg us to explore
a patch of green
any patch of green
even a geranium in a pot will do
so when you witness a seed spiral twirl, 
unfurl down and shoot up
or watch a bud uncurl,
stare in awe
for it'll be gone
What are your thoughts on the 'gates' that open only once? 
Do you have a favourite scent that teleports you to magic?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

Last year, I explored my fond childhood memories with G is for Gurudwara post.

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by 


  1. Arti, you echo the emotions of my heart. I love my garden and spending time with my plants. The joy of planting a baby sapling, watching it grow is incomparable. Thank you for the beautiful pictures. Your previous post on unexpected friends and kindness of strangers reminded me of a similar incident that happened to me. Leaving it here in case you want to read it.

    1. Thank you. I will hop on to the link and read it soon.
      Happy to meet a fellow garden lover:)

  2. Hari OM
    Oh yes, a single flower alone can lift the spirit, so much more a garden full! Delightful images to start my day. Ta. YAM xx

  3. This is a beautiful garden. I also enjoyed the Tibetan legend. Talks about enjoying and savoring the moment isn't it?

  4. Loved reading about the Tibetan legend. Gardens are beautiful, and for that matter, even a single pot of plant is. My favorite scent is the Indian Cork Tree (we call it kadda malli in Telugu). Of course, the intoxicating scent of the parijata is just as wonderful.

    1. I had to google Indian Cork Tree. And then I recognized it. There a couple growing in a park near our house in Doha. And yes, the flowers smell wonderful. Thank you for teaching me its name:)
      Parijat or Sheoli as they call it in it.

  5. WOW! Fragrance works like Time Machine too. (Jasmine) Mogra in Marathi or Mallipu in Tamil & Parijata takes me back instantly reviving memories from my past.
    A night walk in Pune with a newly found friend (Pavi) surrounded by Parijat fragrance,
    A visit to the temple in Muscat, where we just followed the scent of Mogra from a distance and reached this temple at ease.
    Infact I remember these fragrances the most, in both these visits.
    For sometime now, my morning walks at the Park cheers me, prepares me & unwinds me every single day. Even a dried leaf, a dried flower found in an old book, adds a smile and carries a subtle fragrance in that page. Beautiful poem Arti. Cheers.

    1. Yes, the subtle notes of a dried flower in a book--faded but evocative--love those too. Thank you for sharing Vidya.

  6. You have a wonderful theme going on here, what an interesting theme and what a unique interpretation of it Here from atoz

  7. Art, you had me at "Kirstenbosch" - I wish I could insert the heart-shaped eyes emoji here. Well, let me try 😍
    Cape Town is one of my very favorite places to visit and explore.

  8. Gardens. Plants. Greenery. Flowers. So soothing, so comforting.
    That story is really nice.

  9. I love how you take pictures of your garden frequently and as you mentioned it takes on a new face annually, monthly, daily ...even minute by minute as I look into my own garden and see a rabbit munching on some green bean leaves, but then he's gone in a moment only to be replaced by a squirrel digging for leftover pecans. Thank you for visiting my Garden I almost can smell the pelargonium leaves ... they are beautiful.


    1. Thank you Barbie. Your garden sounds magical to me. Enjoy:)

  10. I took to growing plants within our apartment a couple of years ago o have a few plants on my balcony... but whatever plants I have I love them...

    I love scents ....jasmine flowers, nice agarbathi, fruity perfumes, smells in a fruit stall, old books , cooking aroma , sandalwood , the earth after the rain...and a lot more

    1. Glad to find out you have plants growing in your balcony Jayashree.
      That moment when rain drops fall on parched Earth, we call it saundhi khushboo in Hindi:) I love it, too.

  11. Like a beautiful garden there is so much to see and enjoy here. "The Gates of Shambhala" is a wonderful cautionary tale, and I love the invitation. Your photos are fabulous, and it was fun to search for the precious sunbird. Describing the teleportation properties of scents is brilliant. I have a trained perfumer's nose and the gifts scents offer both in the now moment and the reactivation of past memories is something that never ceases to delight me.

    My Peace Lily just opened a new bloom this morning and I'll be sure to take a photo, even as I continue to watch it. This moment will never be here again.

    1. I'll be looking out for your peace lily bloom on your Insta dear Deborah.
      Thank you for being here.

  12. Loved reading about the Tibetan culture. Beautiful photographs!

  13. Gorgeous pictures to go with the writing today Arti, thanks for sharing.

  14. Beautiful words with lovely pictures, so true “Gardens are the forests for the soul”��

    1. Thank you Seema, so happy to see you here. hugs. xx

  15. Hmmm, beautiful photos, and lovely garden. I love gardening too,Spring is just a fabulous season to watch everything growing, and discovering new plants that were not supposed to be there ;))
    Quilting Patchwork & Appliqué

  16. Loved the Tibetan legend... I have been thinking since long to go for planting some seeds but haven't done it yet... I get so motivated and inspired when I read your posts on gardening and look at the snaps from your garden. I should start with that broken cup on the window sill atleast isn't it!


I would love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts and comments here.