Gardens Under Glass

 

43971923_fabe4c4ee5_zThe photo was taken almost ten years ago when my oldest son was first in Helsinki, and I thought of it this morning as I practiced meditative breathing exercises.

The beautiful flower bloomed inside the Helsinki Winter Garden, which is a place much like Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory: both transparent glass skins held together by metal bones, both housing carefully gardened ecosystems of  tropical plants and koi ponds.

There is nothing more restorative than a visit to one in winter.

You step inside such a place and, if you wear glasses, they are immediately fogged up, you become overheated but don’t really care, and the vibrant perfume of growing things saturates you in a healing way.

So it was the perfect day to visit the St. Paul Conservatory–especially now that we are in the thick of winter, experiencing one of the coldest days of the year. I needed the restoration it offered. I could imagine that many similar visits are being made these winter days in Helsinki – which can be even colder, and even darker than winter is in St. Paul

The Conservatory was the perfect place to practice my breathing exercises, by which I mean meditation –

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Nowhere are you more aware of the breath than when you are in such a place, so damp with the thick, wet breath of green things exhaling and inhaling.

As I walked through, occasionally pausing to sit and breathe–I thought how conservatories are much like our own bodies–fragile and resilient–in need of care in order to be remain balanced and vibrant. Beautiful.

I glimpsed a half-dozen gardeners working behind the scenes in staff-only greenhouses. Others stood watchfully in the bonsai room and elsewhere, making sure visitors kept a safe distance from the rarest plants.

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Now I am thinking of myself as both a winter garden and its gardener: I inhale and exhale calmly, protecting and maintaining the beauty within my fragile crystal skin and strong metal bones.

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

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