What type of earth magic exists where you are? What is the local nature of air, fire and water? How do you make magic with the living forces all around you – not as they appear in books, but as you see and experience them when you step outside your front door? Every locality has its own flavours, energies and secrets… and when we work our magic and ritual in alignment with our locality we enter deep into the earth’s living magic.
My Secret Garden
I have a secret garden. Well – it’s not actually mine – and it’s not entirely secret.
Magical places aren’t always accessible – in fact inaccessibility can make them seem more magical – and our places of local magic may even belong to other people. That garden so stuffed full of roses in summer that it spills over the fence, into the air and the senses of everyone passing by; that glimpse of parkland through high, barred gates; rivers that are inaccessible or bush land areas fenced off for regeneration. It’s a different sort of magic, maybe, when we can’t freely come and go; to me it seems a less related magic; I receive something from the place, maybe I am able to offer something but it all happens at a respectful distance. These places may even feel like my allies or teachers, but I feel less that I would have a casual conversation with them, it’s a less intimate relationship, maybe than a place I can freely walk or sit or swim.
There’s a garden in the State Library of New South Wales no-one can go into. It’s below street level, with a green-house style roof. If you know it’s there, and peer over the stone balustrade between the pavement and the building, you can look down and catch glimpses of green but not knowing, you’d walk straight past. But if you go inside, down the stairs, through security, down another floor and find yourself in the family history records department and walk through to the end there are half a dozen long white tables abutting the floor to ceiling glass windows and behind them is the garden.
No matter how many people there are in the library or studying at the tables – and sometimes, because the place is popular with year 11 and 12 students, there’s a lot of people – there’s no-one in the garden. It’s one glass door is locked. A few times I’ve seen gardeners or maintenance people go through, they unlock the door carefully and go through, shutting themselves in. They look like explorers, astronauts on a new planet or gardeners in paradise. They trim, dig, plant and water, on display as much as the garden. It’s actually beautiful to see people in service to plants, in this display cabinet of glass. If they make any noise it can’t be heard through the glass and so they seem especially earnest and focused.
The plants in the secret garden are tree ferns, other ferns and greenery. It’s not a wild place, they are carefully spaced apart almost sculptured and they have a perfect quality; not subjected to weather, people, birds or animals. So the thing that makes it special is this strange combination of inaccessibility and being on display. As for why it’s magical for me…
This was where I came to write, for over a year. I took in my computer, my wallet and a cardigan. It’s a hassle to take books into the State Library, so I didn’t. You can’t take in water or food. The tables and chairs in that section are ergonomic, a perfect height for writing with comfort and support. I sat next to the garden when I could, separated from it simply by the perfectly clean glass. I stared into it and then I wrote. Every time I looked up, there it was. There was nothing else to do there but write or look at the garden. Mostly, I wrote.
It got so that just walking towards it, through the library, catching that first glimpse of green I would begin to feel like writing. My mind would settle, distractions disappear and – soothed by the garden-behind-glass – I could work pretty much no matter what else was going on; emotional dramas in my life; dozens of Year 12 students muttering, flirting or chatting at other tables; noisy photocopying nearby… I was in a green zone of writing. The power of that garden reached out past the glass and ordered my mind; for a bit over a year I wrote, in effect, in a garden.
I miss that place. I write in other places, of course, but I miss my secret garden and when I get a chance I visit. I leave my belongings in a locker, I walk down the stairs and I can feel excitement rising in me, of how the garden will be there, waiting for me, undisturbed, potent. I walk towards it, smiling; I put down my computer, sit down and start it up and then, gazing through thick glass at the garden that unlocks a doorway in my mind, I write.
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