Another busy day – a long meeting and a hastily snatched lunch break before braving the aisles of the local supermarket. I buy a sandwich at a village in the Lower Mountains before driving around the semi-rural backstreets to find a quiet place to eat. Finding my mind leaping ahead to the dreaded shopping expedition, I stop and look instead at the neglected nature-strip beside the car.
At first it appears simply to be a tangle of weeds and grasses, decaying vegetation strangled by sappy groundcovers, brash saplings and peeling tree-trunks. But as I observe more closely, it is clear that this was once a well-tended area, laid out with care, a small garden of specimen plants chosen to complement the now-derelict garden behind the fence.
Slowly, detail emerges from the riot of texture and colour and I perceive an entire ecology, a miniature forest of canopy, emergent and understory.
Solomon’s Seal thrives beside feral pittosporum and, in a small clearing where a handkerchief sized swath of woodchips has managed to resist the incursion of kikuyu, a single flannel flower lifts its head to the sun. I am mesmerized by this small, native flower, so beloved of children and adults alike for its petals, the texture of puppies’ ears. How has it managed to survive and re-emerge each year? Is it simply chance that it thrives among the chaos, or is it a symbol of hope, of clinging to the possibility of renewal, a metaphor for the person who lives in the tumbledown cottage behind the fence?
I do not know the answer to these questions and never will. But the quarter-hour I spend, observing the minutiae of a domestic nature-strip, yields a gentle insight into the nature of existence, where islands of beauty and order can be found, even in the midst of chaos.