Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Let there be gardens to tempt them, breathing saffron flowers."

Quotes I love from _The Lost Garden_ by Helen Humphreys

"It is very easy to return nature to itself. The clean lines of a garden go first. Then the balance of what has been planted. What used to be a conversation between the different elements becomes a tuneless cacaphony. No one thing distinguishable from another." (67)

"What is longing if not the ghost of memory?" (99)

"Let there be gardens to tempt them, breathing saffron flowers." (Virvil, Georgics, in Humphreys 117)

"Sometimes,...I used to go down to the Thames at low tide and collect the bits of old clay pipes that would wash up against the pilings. There were so many of these tiny hollow tubes. They were like bird bones. I liked to think of all those people, those men of a hundred years ago, dropping those pipes into the river. I liked that in the modern city, with all its busle and clatter, I could be engaged in a private work of archaeological excavation." (123)

"The moment opens. The moment closes. There is sunlight. There is frost. There is the brief idea of roses amid the patch of weeds." (140)

"There are so many different stories to tell. It's never the same. Every day weather blows in and
out, alters the surface. Sometimes it is stripped down to a single essential truth, the thing that is always believed, no matter what. The seeds from which the garden has grown." (142-3)

"The language of roses shifts like sand under our feet. It blows in and out like the wind. It carries the fragrance of the flower and then it is gone. Rugosa. Canina. Arvensis. It is how we learn to speak about something that is disappearing as we say its name. It is a trick, a false comfort. Humilis. It is what we think we need to know and how we think it needs to be known. Involuta. It is where we want to go, this name, and stay there, safely held for ever. Indora. Alba. Sancta." (148)

"It is a place we have all arrived at, this book. The characters fixed on the page. The author who is only ever writing the book, not gardening or walking or talking, and while the reader is reading, the author is always here, writing. The author is at one end of the experience of writing and the reader is at the other, and the book is the contract between you. And this is what you're doing, being in the book, entering it as one enters a room and sees there, through the French doors to the garden, Lily Briscoe painting on the lawn." (182)

"When a writer writes, it's as if she holds the sides of her chest apart, exposes her beating heart. And even though everything wants to heal, to close over and protect the heart, the writer must keep it bare, exposed. And in doing this, all of life is kept back, all the petty demands of the day-to-day. The heart is a river. The act of writing is the moving water that holds the banks apart, keeps the muscle of words flexing so that the reader can be carried along by this movement. To be given space and the chance to leave one's earthly world. Is there any greater freedom than this?" (182)

"Dead flowers hold their fragrance. That is one truth. Sometimes our passion is our ruin. That is another." (209)

"The thing about gardens is that everyone thinks they go on growing, that in winter they sleep and in spring they rise. but it's more that they die and return, die and return. They lose themselves. They haunt themselves. Every story is a story about death. But perhaps, if we are lucky, our story about death is also a story about love. And this is what I have remembered of love." (210)

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