22nd Feb – The Grain and the Punctum – thoughts in the garden

I mix things I’ve read up all the time. It doesn’t help when two ideas come from the same writer, and I jumble them into one concept, then spend a really long time searching my books for a very precise phrase I know I underlined in there somewhere – only to realise the quote was mine, the concepts yanked from several sources…

Anyway, I wanted to write about this thing in Barthes, and this thing in the garden, and how the garden and this thing together help me to better define something I’ve always found very difficult to articulate. It is a passion, a magnetism toward a certain aesthetic or quality in the arts…

That which suddenly pierces you with a sense, (I suppose akin to recognition or familiarity), between the body and substance of a thing… For example, the grain of a voice which connects you to a body and thus becomes dear and wonderful to you, even though it might not be ‘good’ in terms of musical tone. Or a texture, like rust or weathering which speaks of age, time, place, the history of the object which in spite of being an ‘imperfection’ or ‘defect’ is precisely what pricks you with a sense of value or meaning, or sometimes longing – what the Japanese refer to as Wabi-Sabi.

Hands by Axel Mellin

Sometimes I wonder if the drive to be in the garden, to be close to those growing things, the smell of the earth, the velvety tuft of moss, the tightening of the skin as mud dries on cheeks, knuckles, knees – if there isn’t something about the naked whiteness of exposed bulbs, like bones in the ground; the rubbery snap of roots pulled; the violent smash of the first water bursting out of a hose onto the little winding path – if all this isn’t just some strange kind of connection, between a meaningful puncture and the grain of all things…

It’s funny where the mind goes when you don’t get out enough…

7 thoughts on “22nd Feb – The Grain and the Punctum – thoughts in the garden

  1. I like the way your mind works…makes mine thoughtful, as well, which is definitely a good thing. I’ll be thinking Wabi-Sabi all day long now and looking for examples….something productive to do on yet another rain-soaked, cold day that prevents gardening. Thank you!

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  2. I have often thought to myself that it is hard to articulate the essential qualities of a garden. Partly it’s that the quality is not an exact thing, partly that it can be hard to find the right vocabulary. I think you’ve done a good job of expressing one such quality.

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    1. Thank you Audrey! I always think signs of wabi-sabi in the garden is a very good commendation on the gardener. It denotes wisdom, and gentleness of spirit and a refinement of the senses. Not many would note these subtleties when looking at our gardens – perhaps a carefully run-down shed or a massive pile of what appear to be just weeds – but we sensitive few know better… 😉 I jest. We just don’t have the killer spirit of the warrior weeder, do we?

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    1. It’s such an irresistible thing to try and articulate, I think only other gardeners can know it, but it’s interesting when artists and philosophers and cross-disciplinary thinkers touch on the similar sort of twinge in their own ‘field’ (pardon the almost-pun). From a writer like you, I take this comment to heart! Thanks!

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