The ephemeral nature of beauty
Here in Italy I live in the land of the "bella presenza", of the sleek and the well-groomed. Looking good is important for success, and there's a corresponding interest in being as beautiful as possible, from clothes to makeup to hairdressing to plastic surgery. It's a big business. All this emphasis on beauty has got me thinking on the subject. We gardeners want beauty, of course, and we put a lot of time, money, effort, and thought into our pursuit. But we don't have complete control in our quest. Nobody ever does, and we're less likely than others to be able to ignore drought and cold, diseases and pests, and neighbors quarreling on the other side of the fence. But I think that the whole idea that one can guarantee beauty, where living organisms are concerned, is flawed. Notice I'm not talking about literature, architecture, music, and so on (though consider live performances, where the fleshly element comes in). Definitely a gardener can, must, set up the prerequisites for a beautiful garden: I spend my life choosing plants, digging good holes, mulching, pruning, watering, and practicing a great deal of patience. And not rarely deer, cane girdler, mildew, drought--not mowing the grass--come along and spoil the effect. We have our remedies of irrigation and various deterrences.
How can I continue? All right: it doesn't work. In brief, you can create the conditions for beauty, but the more you try to guarantee it will be, the less likely it is to appear. Rightly or wrongly, this is what I believe.
Beauty is ephemeral, and it hinges on chance: you can't make it happen, and you can't make it stay. Its independence of our will and skill is part of its essential nature. A long stretch of mild weather, with rain and sun, and the Tea roses are superb. An early flowering, and the flowers emerge before the beetles do, and aren't ruined by them. And beauty depends on the state of mind of the person who's seeing, hearing, and sniffing the garden. A minute, a morning, two weeks, and that beauty has passed.
Realizing this is another way of yielding yourself to the world. Insofar as I can do this, I think my garden and I are the more graceful for it.