It was an unmistakable feeling which struck us the moment we entered the garden through a narrow path that was guarded on both sides and from above by thick foliage; we knew that the place was loved much as a child is loved; as the child-face reflects devoted care, so did the garden, with a beauty that was alive and warm and whole.
My companion expressed this feeling, as his eyes looked deep into the face of the garden: "I have read about this in a fairytale somewhere!" Surely Alice, in her magical passage through the Looking Glass, must have known the same surprised delight at discovering her wonderland!
Time seemed to pass right out of existence; the hours to merge into one living moment that had no particular boundaries — a moment that was made of a combination of color, sound and form. It was Nature's house of arts and Peace's home, and for that privileged moment we were the guests.
In these surroundings we relaxed, and becoming a part of its harmony, we walked quietly and became aware of familiar things: the sound of water spilling softly over rocks; the steady hum-m-m of the working bees; the wind gently disturbing the treetops; the flopping of goldfish in pool water; intermittent bird-song; the riotous scarlet of hibiscus, and the less vain lavender of phlox. All of these things we had seen and heard many times, but never in a way more heart-burstingly lovely.
Near the center of the garden lay a shallow pool inhabited by clusters of full-bloomed water lilies and a school of goldfish. Beside the pool was a rock. We climbed up on it and looked down . . .
to the same delight all over again, in the reflection! It was like looking into the eyes of the garden, and beyond the eyes, into its soul.
The reflected image of the garden seemed to have a greater aliveness than had the one of substance and fragrance. Perhaps it was caused by the subtle tremblings of the surface water; whatever it was, the effect was marvelous! One impression captured the imagination, and one question seemed to persist: which was the real garden — the one that we could touch and hear and savor the fragrance of, or the one that was intangible and elusive? Once asked, it seemed an illogical question; but it was not, for Nature came to our rescue. Nature, ever willing to reveal her secrets when her children approach her in a natural way, chose that moment when our thoughts appeared to have failed to complete the idea we sought, to have one of the little denizens of the pool-world jump above the surface of the water. The splash created a slight ripply disturbance that obscured the reflection, but presently the surface water calmed and the image returned. My question was answered. The garden, the pool and the goldfish were saying:
We live in a world of objects that we perceive with our senses. Much of what we experience is beauty, like our garden-wonderland, and there is also much that disturbs our equilibrium. For like the goldfish, that for a second in time had disturbed the surface waters, so are all the vexing influences that unsettle our patterned living and briefly confuse us in the pursuit of our goals. When the surface waters of our lives regain their calm, we are again able to perceive the inner life of our objective world, reflected in the vibrant "pool" of thought and spirit. No matter how ruffled the edges of our horizons become, the deathless underlying, peaceful home of the living spirit in all things remains intact and secure. The pool is there for us to gaze into when we take the time to climb up on the rock — to see reflections, and to see beneath the changeable surfaces of our lives; to look into the eyes of life, into the soul of living. There we find assurance that the realness, the divine spirit in all things cannot be erased by the daily problems and perplexities.
We breathed a silent thanks to the pool and to the potent beauty we had enjoyed for a timeless moment.
Then, almost out of earshot, a goldfish splashed above the surface of the pool and sank down again, deep . . . where quiet dwells.
(From Sunrise magazine, August 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)