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MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND #16 (article first published : 2006-06-21)

Taking an afternoon stroll through Durbanís picturesquely perfect Mitchell Park recently, I recalled something my daughter had said when we were commenting on the fact that for most of her life sheís lived in an apartment or a flat. I left my husband when she was just 15 months of age and, after several duplex apartments got tired of stairs. For the last ten years that she lived at home we dwelt on one level, albeit the top of my present block where I have a pleasant sea view. On purchasing her own home she chose a compact but pretty little flat which sheís marked with her personal stamp so that itís a haven of tranquillity reflecting her love of art, nature and serenity - and I treasure the time I spend there with her.

We were discussing the fact that property would appear to be the best investment these days and how both of us would love to have a garden of our own. At that point she remarked that sheís realised that sheís quite happy to forgo that particular pleasure, as the ocean is her private pool and a walk through a pretty park her own brand of enjoying a garden. Neither of them requires any cost of outlay or continued maintenance on a personal level!

I saw the sense in that statement as I surveyed the splendour of the myriad of colours in the flower beds around me, the beauty of the small pools in which goldfish swam and a miniature waterfall trickled peacefully behind the bench on which I sat reading an enjoyable book, every now and then glancing up from the pages to observe the gardeners going about their tasks. I revelled in the fact it was them and not I who had to think about felling and pruning, digging new seedlings in and pulling weeds out.

I recalled how, at a very young age, I loved playing in my grandmotherís large garden, with its terraced area which the family referred to as the tennis court, even though no such game had been played on its pebbled surface for generations, and lying in the sweet-smelling grass at the very apex, where a gentle stream meandered slowly by under a weeping willow tree. I would remain there for hours, just listening to the birdsong. Gran had a a green thumb (or green fingers) and her enormous rockery that fronted the main road was a fine testament to that reputation. Much as I loved admiring her myriad of plants, I have never been one for enjoying getting my own fingers dirtied by the soil. In fact, family lore has it that whenever my hands got sticky as a toddler, I would run straight to Mommy, fingers spread apart, a look of dismay upon my countenance, uttering Phooey! (This was interpreted as: I donít like this sensation at all. Please clean me up.)

So instead of tending an outdoor garden in my mature years Iíve preferred to bring the outside indoors by way of hosts of different plants. All I have to do is lift a watering can to them once a week, then sit back and survey the splendour of the sun lighting up the greenery in each room at different times of day throughout the year. No worries about trying to find a trustworthy gardener to engage. Instead I can take a leisurely stroll through a large and luminous area tended by someone else - and no cost involved.

The same applies to my love of swimming. Not for me the decision about whether to go for a chlorinated or a salt-water system of purification, or the concern at seeing the water turn an unpleasant shade of green. Iím fortunate to have the pick of four or five different pools to enjoy at little or no charge Ė some of them salt and others what my Dutch friend refers to as a sweet-water pool, which I guess means a regular pool and NOT filled with sea-water. Again itís the task of others to maintain both the pool and the lawn and shrubs surrounding it. Or, in the case of nature, to have the tides come in and out, freshening and cleaning the tidal pools Iím so fond of. No water bills to consider, no lawns needing mowing. Someone else always does it for you!

In Durban weíre fortunate that many municipal pools donít even charge an entrance fee for most of the year! (And when they DO, itís extremely reasonable.) The other aspect is the varied personalities one meets and strikes up an acquaintanceship (sometimes a solid friendship). And at least youíre able to swim laps of a decent length, as opposed to those little home pools where itís a case of eight or ten strokes and youíve reached the other side! Being a Durban resident means one can enjoy the water at a decent temperature for about eight months out of twelve Ė unlike most of the other provinces in South Africa. But, having recently joined a gym (mostly for the heated pool in those three or four months when an outdoor pool goes below 20 degrees Centigrade) it means I also now have the facility of extending my exercise regimen to include a tad of treadmill and a source for cycling Ė all of it helpful to my continued attempts to lower my weight slowly but steadily and thus enjoy a life with less back pain Ė and consequently more agility and ability to enjoy the exercise! A wonderful full circle, one might say.

So Ö no bending, weeding, soiling of the hands and so forth when it comes to enjoying the beauty of a garden; no mulling over mildew or fishing out frogs or looking out for lurking leaves when it comes to the pleasures of a pool for me! Itís a lock-up-and-go kind of lifestyle Ė one that suits my personality and pocket just fine! Thank you, Mother Nature, for all the prettiness and pleasure you provide a poor pauper like me: itís highly appreciated!

And now a titillating teaser to terminate this pieceÖ Guess what? Iíve recently made a sublimely superb discovery Ė that of a SECRET garden. And YOU can participate in its pleasures too, no matter the millions of miles you may be from where I reside in Durbs-by-theSea. But youíll have to wait till NEXT time for me to tell you more! Ė Bev Pule




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