Thursday, June 12, 2008
In a Monastery Garden
This takes me back to my school days and piano lessons. (No, I didn't go to a Catholic school!) Sooner or later, and in my case it was later, music teachers would introduce students to some of the descriptive works by the early twentieth century composer Albert Ketelby. Piano pieces such as “In a Chinese Temple”, “In a Persian Market” and yes; you've guessed it! - “In a Monastery Garden” figured prominently in the young pianists' repertoire. Those afternoons of piano practice (rather than playing tennis!) came back to me as I was strolling through the garden behind the restored Benedictine monastery in Seligenstadt.
I must admit that I couldn't really relate the tune – those snatches faintly remembered – to the beauty of the garden around me. I must try to track down a copy of the old sheet music and maybe picking out the tune will do the reverse and take me back to the pleasant time spent in Seligenstadt and the monastery garden there.
There are the vines, then the herb garden, fruit trees, flowers and vegetables, and all so neatly organized. Is neatness next to godliness? Both my wife and my daughter are self-proclaimed vege-garden experts. But theirs is a slash, plant and pray variety – slash down the verdant weeds, plant sundry vegetables among their skeletons and pray that they grow and produce. They end up with a disorganized arrangement of various vegetables growing cheek by jowl with resurrected weeds. “Better for the soil. Better for the plants. Duplicating nature. Monoculture leads to the ruination of the soil.” These and other justifications are given for their agri-methods.
Oh, that they could see this monastery garden where the peas are happily growing with the other peas and the lettuces are all lined up neatly. Here the slow-growing lettuce is unable to hide its tardiness behind a pumpkin leaf or indeed die and pretend that a grass-straw was there all the time. This all gives a quiet, peaceful environment surely appreciated by the erstwhile monks more than the discordant aspect of slash and let
grow would have done. But did the lettuce taste as sweet? Alas. That we shall never know!