The first thing I see whenever I log on to my computer is a photo I took last July 4th – the Swan Boats in the Boston Public Garden. Whether it’s due to the fact that I took it on my cell phone but am now viewing it enlarged as my wallpaper or because of the nature of reflections in water, it reminds me of an Impressionist painting. Every time I look at it, I focus on the short lines of color and light that make up the water. I rarely spend time noticing the boat, the bridge, or the buildings – just the water.
I’ve always loved Impressionist paintings. I can spend hours looking at them. I marvel how diffuse light and color can create such vivid pictures; how they can be so clearly what they are without actually being at all clear or sharp.
Last week, on vacation, I visited Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny. The gardens in late August are a riot of color and of flowers going to seed. They lack the floral fullness that I’ve seen in photos of Giverny in the spring and early summer, but are no less beautiful. It was long past the season for the wisteria, but the water garden had willows draped over the pond, bamboo growing alongside, and water lilies.
While we walked around, I took some time to sketch the boats on his pond and a few of the flowers in his garden.
I am not a gardener. No matter how inspiring it may be, I have no desire to dig in the dirt, no plans for creating an environment of color and scent. I would rather play with fibers or spend my time immersed in a good book. But I am grateful for the gardeners of this world. I give thanks for those who spend their time creating environments filled with beauty and tranquility. I also give thanks for the One who created the forests, lakes, rivers and seas, the deserts and mountains – environments that are not always beautiful or tranquil or under our control; environments that testify to the untamed powers that challenge and terrify us and fill us with awe.
This Elul I am taking time to stop, to raise my eyes from my books and computer, and look — really look — at the world around me: a world of wonder, a world filled with riotous color, a world of inspiration.