Tag Archives: Virgin Mary



The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we breathe

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back to the garden

As the year opens I intend to look back a little at the gardens I visited last autumn and share some more of their delights.  One of the things I’ve been doing this past week is reviewing all the writing I’ve done so far and, apart from keeping on top of all the paper I seem to have accumulated, listening out for themes I want to explore further and absences I might need to address, trying to get a sense of the lie of the land: a writer’s and a gardener’s winter activities.


Padua, the oldest Botanic Garden in the world still on its on its original site, was a revelation.  From my research before I went I knew I’d like it but didn’t realise quite how much I would love it. Perhaps I felt my Italian roots from my father’s side of the family stir, grateful of a little attention.  It was my ‘first’ garden abroad and seemed to be a place all about origins.  Historically, the hortus conclusus, or enclosed garden, was seen as an image of the Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary.

hortus inconclusus

Held in a mother’s arms

happier than I’ve been before

or since – such lightness,

forgetting what it is

to suffer.

Time disappears

in spores of sky, medicine

unasked-for, blue eyes

seeing and asking

for nothing.  Photosynthesis –

what is given

given back:

intimacy and charm,


what’s possible.  My darling garden,

hold our fragile heart.


You can watch a slideshow of some of the photos I took in the garden at Padua, sifted from over a thousand, here.

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