When I first arrived in my new Cape Town home, I really didn’t much like the plants in this garden – too many spikes, cacti and succulents. They seemed aggressive, harsh, not beautiful. I wanted to see more colour, more flowers, a softer beauty. I contemplated planting roses and other flowers. Until someone pointed out they are not indigenous.
That stopped me in my tracks.
I felt shamed by my unintended horticultural imperialism. De-valuing the unfamiliar and imposing my perception of beauty. Tempted to change it and dominate it, before I had really seen it and known it.
So I sat with it as it was. And watered it.
After a few weeks I now see more beauty and more flowers.
Maybe the flowers were there before and I didn’t see them, only seeing them now as my eyes are accustomed to this garden, its particular indigenous beauty, having stopped subconsciously but arrogantly expecting it to look like an English garden. I can see the beauty in the shape and structure of the African non-flowering plants too – different to the colourful, showy, soft beauty of flowers, but beautiful none the less.
Or maybe some of the flowers have bloomed since we arrived, as we have watered the garden and loved it.
I think it’s been a bit of both.
Forgive me, my African friends for my ignorance and arrogance. I am learning.
Not wanting to stretch a point but this has made me think. Maybe the plants aren’t so dissimilar to us. Showing our beauty to those who truely see us, who care and nurture. Beauty seen in difference as the lens of expecting familiarity is removed.