Composting Beauty.

The first of the Autumn anemones.

Even though it’s still hot, we’re reaching the end of the Summer.I’ve been cleaning up the gardens here. Rapunzel’s Cottage was beginning to resemble Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, so overgrown had things become.

These past few days, with Merlin beneath my feet at every moment* have been spent in the garden, or at my desk, pruning – shrubs, trees, words. My arms ache, and I’m a good, clean kind of weary at night. I compost woody limbs, and hurt, and rage, and memory. It is turning into something rich and nourishing. But it takes time. So much time, this process of rotting, and loving, and transformation.

And I dream of a rose garden along the front path, as I remove a (to me) ugly varigated shrub, (a kind of yellow pine – squat, garish, and soil-depleting). I add compost to that impoverished soil. I can see future roses blooming there. I know they will thrive in that spot, that gets the all-day sun. I also see jasmine rambling over the railing, and virginia creeper climbing over the house and verandah.

Rapunzel’s Cottage has told me that it would quite like to be autumn-coloured, thankyouverymuch. Before we arrived here, the cottage had been freshly painted – in a colour I would not have chosen, but it’s certainly not offensive, (a kind of warm, light chocolate brown). It would be wasteful and expensive to paint the entire house again. But I do feel I can justify painting the trim, which is a banal “suburban green” – so ubiquitous in this country; and it flattens the brown, making it bland and disappointing. I do rather despise the effect of that green and brown together. It’s just not in the least romantickal. And Rapunzel’s has a romantic soul.

So I think I’ve settled on a deep red-purple/plum colour, (much more subtle than it sounds). It tones beautifully with the brown, and lends it both warmth and story, and just a bit of surprise – of a rich autumnal kind.

Also in the works, is a medicine wheel herb garden. A bit like this one. I made one of these when I was 16, and have wanted to have one again ever since. I’ve located a spot for it on the only available flat pocket of land.

This past year I’ve been getting to know my new garden. Observing the seasons, the movement of light. Learning the language and patterns of the land here. I now feel more confident about the changes I wish to make.


In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind. ~ Blaise Pascal.

I’m not a religious person, and unlike many of my friends, I was not raised in a religion. It’s hard to explain what this feels and means to someone who has religion in their bones and pores; even when they have left religion behind them. Just as it is difficult to try and explain to me what the experience of being in a religion feels like. The heart-mind-body-spirit feeling of that eludes me. How it can impact upon every thought, and experience. How God is always there, watching us as an omnipresence. I can’t imagine that, an anthropomorphic god. I possess a heathenish naivté about certain things. But I begin to imagine it a little, when I contemplate Beauty. I believe Beauty may be my religion. It’s what brings me home to peace, and to my deepest self. Time and again.

ginger lilies in my garden.

Beauty is not something that can be possessed. It just is.

Small devotional acts of beauty – stringing fresh lavender above my bed head at dusk, dreaming of rose-printed skirts, breathing in the scent of ginger lilies, the red and gold aura around my child’s hair in the sunlight; the way music weaves me, and then unravels me completely. Being enraptured by a beautiful letter from a friend, that arrives in my letterbox with the loveliest drawings on the envelope. Lighting candles and incense in my kitchen in the mornings, jasmine-scented bedlinen, a tiny cardigan, knitted with hand-painted yarn that feels like butter between my fingers.

a cardigan for my new niece.

I was reminded recently of the archetypes of survival, as proposed by Caroline Myss. According to Myss our psyches are composed of an array of archetypes,** but the one that I have identified strongly with is the Magical Child. The Magical Child, is imaginative, and among her qualities, is the ability to see the sacred beauty in life and all things. But the shadowed aspect of the Magical Child can be depression, pessimism, the absence of possibility, and no longer believing in the miracle of life. I have related to both the positive and shadowed aspects of this archetype throughout my life. And I realise how much I need to protect and cherish this very real aspect of myself, because she’s sensitive and susceptible. The Magical Child lays herself wide open, and must be wise in choosing her companions. Her loves. And she is, perhaps too easily, crushed and damaged by fear, ridicule, and the cynicism of others.

But she heals. I believe wholeheartedly that she does, because we can choose to believe again. Each of us has that inner world of which we are the Creators. Every moment we weave new worlds within us, visions and dreams. They are not necessarily grand. But they can be beautiful, kind, hopeful. Of all the archetypes, it seems so crucial that the Magical Child is healed and given hope.

And she can be healed through Beauty, (which is really another word for Love). Little acts of seeing, and feeling the Beauty in the world and in people. And through her unashamed reclaiming of all the little things that she loved and found beautiful, yet was once ridiculed, or shamed, or dismissed for. Especially as a child and teenager, by parents, peers, even friends: rose-print dresses, a love of gardening, poetry, the natural world, long walks alone, handmade things, strange music and solitude, flowers, being lost in other worlds; spirits, and tarot. That shabby, old-fashioned green velvet coat that she loved so much.***

In the words of that beautiful soul, John O’Donohue, “To behold beauty dignifies your life; it heals you and calls you out beyond the smallness of your own self-limitation to experience new horizons. To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged”.


*Merlin brought a live and very bouncy native rat into the house, dropped it on the ground, (so it sped off to hide behind the couch), and then he jumped up on the breakfast table and proceeded to lick the butter. I am done with the fiend.

**I’ve always been drawn to Jungian archetypes, and this is yet another model – a variation on the theme.

** *It’s easy to love these things now, because they are now a part of the zietgist. Every second person seems to like this stuff now. But believe me, when I was a child and teenager, these loves brought me nothing but scorn. As did my dreams of writing. At that time, I lived in a culture that was unconfident, unsophisticated, apologetic, especially in regards to the Feminine. To heal those scorned and shamed loves is to also feel a certain vulnerability in loving them, however acceptable they may be deemed to be now.

6 thoughts on “Composting Beauty.

  1. ooooohhhhhh. *recognition* but first, the mundane…

    gardening really is good for the soul. i quite envy the idea of your potential medicine wheel herb garden—i have tried four locations around my yard for my herbs and they are all a bust.

    i think the color you have chosen for your trim will work brilliantly! one of my favorite colors. brown IS hard to choose a complement for, as the usual suspects do leave it flat or murky. a-propos nothing, but my front door is a darker, slightly purplier (new word) version of the lovely wee cardigan you are making.

    oh, merlin. merlin, merlin. first the pesto and now the butter. avec rat. he seems determined to challenge the sanctity of the home.

    beauty got me through childhood, and literally kept me alive in my years of depression. i kept reveling in the beauty of nature and art and music and good food and flowers and fantastic clothes and stories and, well, anything gorgeous. anything sensually rich. it led me to choose to major in art and art history at uni (which my parents thought less than useful, as indeed it has been in any financially enriching way). it distracted me from my dark nights of the spirit. it kept my face toward the light and my hands busy with lovely things instead of grasping razor blades or fists-full of pills. it informed the type of parenting i wanted to provide for my child. and it continues to be the foundation of my little cult of living…i believe that immersing oneself in sensory delights is deeply therapeutic and can offset all sorts of external sorrows and even help heal trauma.

    we are designed for delight, and this world is designed with such reckless beauty for the senses—to fail to revel in it seems madness to me. it seems, even—dare i say—impious…

    “i think it pisses god off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” (from the alice walker book)



    1. I’m hoping I can keep the Chook Ladies from destroying my herb gardening efforts. So far, so good with the wee kitchen herb garden outside my back door. But a medicine wheel may be just too much of a temptation for them. So I shall have to fence it off, methinks.

      Oh, and I LOVE the sound of your front door! I painted my mother’s front door a colour like that when I was visiting her, and it’s stunning!

      “beauty got me through childhood, and literally kept me alive in my years of depression…” *nodding vigorously*. Oh yes. Beauty and the sensual life is incredibly healing, isn’t it? I also think it keeps alive that essential innocence and thrill for life that is in us all, but which can be lost as we get older, and feel more battered and bruised by life.

      And this is beautiful: “we are designed for delight, and this world is designed with such reckless beauty for the senses—to fail to revel in it seems madness to me. it seems, even—dare i say—impious…”
      A thousand times yes. xx


  2. Oh yes, to the new trim color, of Rapunzel’s Cottage! I’m sure it will smile.

    Oh that Merlin! It’s a wonder he has made it, this long. lol.

    Lovely, deep, thoughtful post, yet again. Thank you.



    1. Oh Tessa, we all wonder how Merlin made it this long. Believe me. We are thinking of packing him up in a box and sending him off to South America. But that would be inhumane to South America. xx


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