Quiet corners are hard to come by. Finding a bit of public space that allows for one to sit and be still is not easy. There is a wonderful little garden in our town, hidden in behind brick walls, which is almost that. It’s tucked away. With an inviting stone bench.
I nearly didn’t make it here today – with looming projects and intermittent rain, I thought twice about it. However, once I was on the bench, under the intricate Japanese cedars, bejeweled by rain droplets, I was glad I came.
This was the first time I had lingered here on my own. My last visit was with my son’s wedding party for a photo shoot. The time before, I had brought a class of young artists to sketch with charcoal.
The walled space was very much a secret corner, but it was not a quiet one. At 8:00 on a Monday morning, the roar of cars from the nearby intersection, augmented by the hiss of tires on wet pavement,was unavoidable. It made me think about how public life is becoming more and more dominated by noise and images. And how critical stillness and reflection are to finding an artistic vision.
Sitting, even with the noise, was a good exercise, as it always is on these benches. It wasn’t until twenty minutes in that I noticed that the “legs” of the bench beneath me were actually carved squirrels! I feel very much like a squirrel at times, fidgeting, restless, always looking for the next thing, moving distractedly from idea to idea. An immovable squirrel (despite its oxymoronic description) is a good mental picture for the kind of focus I need.
Then again, in front of me is another visual piece of wisdom.
Interesting: they gave up the view of the garden from inside the house so that the view from the garden might be more sheltered, more enclosed. Not a bad thing to consider: for the sake of focus, what distractions should be walled off? They might be good things, on the surface. But even good things can be sidetracks.
Sometimes, focus is not just about what’s in front of you. It’s about what’s no longer dancing in your periphery. We only notice what’s inside our secluded places when the world outside is truly outside.
Just on the other side of the wall.