I am not sure that I am a fan of the hot-house, glass house part of the gardens. I am aware that it’s possibly the closest I will ever get to visiting a rainforest environment. I’m a cold weather girl. Heat sets too many sweat glands working. It’s a very green and lush place and it seems as if they ought to issue machetes as you walk through the door. I felt I was about to come upon a lost tribe of pygmies just around the corner. Naturally, being the height I am, I would have been invited to dinner, not as the main course, of course, but as an honoured guest. That’s not to say they wouldn’t have eaten Stevie or Colin.
We were issued with a slip of paper with a prompt.
“Gaze into the pond and watch the koi fish. Notice one in particular - it’s markings, size, shape and character. Listen with your mind. What does the Koi say?”
Koi carp, or in Japanese “nishikigoi”, are "ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp (Cyprinus carpio) that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens." There were one or two big ones, big enough to feed a family of eight easily, and some medium sized ones and some tiny ones. They seemed not to eat each other but swim around and quite often bump into one another.
This is what one of the medium sized ones, a fish with an orange band worn around it’s middle like a Miss World sash had to say to me:-
a scales and fins real fish, not a
not a girl, but a young growing
i’m a leave me alone, don’t
an each and every day
a no-wish-to-harm-the world, or
can I answer your questions about
the meaning of life?
The fish were talking to most of the group. There was the distinct feeling among the big fish that they were fed up with the small pond and the other fish. They were fed up with being stared at by onlookers. One fish was heard to say, “Bloody pond!”
We moved on to the cactus part of the botanic gardens. The topic was about endurance with the idea that it must be hard to live in dry desert conditions. For me it was like walking into the Wild West. Cacti tall and prickly marked the curves of the paths. Just as the pygmies might have been in the rainforest bit, I imagined Indians lurking and fires sending out smoke signals. There was a notice, not about any Indians, but warning parents to mind their children. No one worried about them touching the prickly cacti and getting needles embedded in fingers. They wanted the children to leave the gravel alone.
I am aware that I can be quite prickly at times. A short poem popped out:-
Have I found my home here with the cacti
In this dry, harsh and arid place?
Can I in this hostile environment
A prickly existence embrace?
Paper filled with notes and pictures we headed to the café for a spot of tea and cake. The staff kindly let us have the overspill room all to ourselves. I think they had just finished cleaning it and had pulled the doors close to discourage anyone going in.
We talked about the things we had seen, sharing pictures, observations and poems-still-in-the-womb-stage. Sadly, it is the last meeting of the year and we will have to wait until March. Perhaps, poetry, like the birds, flies south in winter!
As a parting gift we were given an endurance prompt to do something with or not. My prompt was of a small man pushing a very large rock up a steep slope. What came to mind, at first glance, was not a man pushing the rock up the slope, but trying to stop it from rolling down the hill. That’s possibly a telling glimpse of how my life feels right now!
As ever, it was good to deepen friendships and make new connections, to write poetry and to laugh!