I have been spending a lot of time walking through the Botanic Gardens behind our rooms in Collingwood College. The design of the gardens is very thoughtful — a main path that loops back around to the start of the gardens with occasional offshoots and shortcuts into different parts of the property. Walking through for the first time felt like an endless wonderland of “discovering” different regions of the world– from the ghostly white forests of the Himalayas to the tangled fire bushes of South America.
Although I have already walked through the entirety of the gardens several times now, I have continued and will continue to retrace my steps. I am trying to build a “memory garden” of sorts. Through mindful repetition of the same awe inspired by the same informational signs for the same plants, I hope to remember the tiny details of the gorgeous greenery and gain a better understanding of conservation work/dendrology. But no matter how much attention and energy I devote in the next week to walking and memorizing, soaking up all of the gardens’ beauty and knowledge is impossible.
My time in Durham, England, was simply not enough.
I have enjoyed my time walking the Durham University Botanic Gardens and certainly do not regret the time I have spent here. But I wonder if I would have learned and loved the gardens more deeply had I spent a full summer walking in the Duke Forest, Duke Gardens or the North Carolina Botanical Garden. On the other hand, I am also not sure if I would have identified “botanic gardens” as a specific interest — as opposed to “nature” in general — had I not visited the Durham University Botanic Gardens.
Though more time in Durham, England, would have been nice, I am also ready to go home: to New York and to North Carolina, to family and friends. I am looking forward to the fall, particularly to continuing my work with CEF (though I am, of course, scared of my heavy workload too, haha). My time with CEF in the first half of the summer also felt inadequate.
Memory is fickle, so I don’t know if I will remember my walks in the Botanic Gardens. But in my small way, I hope that the gardens will remember me– I am in the process of donating £10 to put up a plaque in the birdhouse. And I also hope that the Success Board that Beini W. and I are working on for Changing Lives will be remembered and grown in years to come (more on this in our final blog posts!)
As time goes on, my memory may fade and my contribution may be misplaced. But the inevitable passage of time shouldn’t diminish the utter peace I have felt in the Gardens or the gratitude I have felt toward the residents whom Beini and I have interviewed.
All plants die, but they were still once green.