Claude Debussy is famously credited with saying ‘music is the space between the notes’ and, listening to a piece like ‘Clair de Lune’, one can certainly hear what he meant by that. Every note in that piece is crystalline, specifically because there is space to hear them. I thought about that quote as I began a binge-watch of the BBC crime/mystery show ‘Shetland’. The show is set in (wait for it) Shetland, with forays onto the outlying islands (I had NO idea Fair Isle has fewer than 100 permanent residents – so who’s knitting all that fabbo stuff??) and the scenery is shocking in its beauty. People don’t say a lot – there’s brooding and general just sitting around and the solving of the murder is almost always a bit pedestrian (which I love)… and often, the po-po are all ‘wth? wait. YOU DID IT??? I thought you were just going to tell me where Bob was on Thursday!’ But even then, it’s done in garden-variety quiet, not a lot of hollerin’ background music or scenery-chewing. In one episode a woman is given a letter from a dead lover – and we watch her read the letter in complete silence. No exposition, no narration. Just a woman reading a letter.
It’s one of the most compelling series I’ve ever watched. Until Season 5, where DI Jimmy Perez spends a lot of time in Glasgow and things start getting a bit more Sexy Cowboy. Sigh. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll go back to Shetland, where folks don’t talk a whole lot… here’s hoping.
anyhoo, so. the quieter the show got, the more compelling it became. The vaunted Brian Cox (above), as Magnus Bain, says maybe 100 words through the entire first season’s episodes – yet he eats that screen ALIVE with his presence – and his silence. The space between his notes is …… well. Go watch it, you’ll see.
I also thought about Debussy and Miles and Magnus Bain et al as I began the hard task of reworking my garden. Y’all know how much I love gardening but the last 5 years or so I haven’t really loved my garden. At first I chalked it up to El O – but he’s gone now… and early Spring I realized I still didn’t love my garden. So. I did what any rational person would do: I sat. And I was silent. And I listened to the noise and I realized that what I wasn’t loving was: there was no space between the notes. The last several years with El O were so low-frequency miserable that I thought if I just jammed a bazillion things into that garden it would silence the deafening clamor of my unhappiness. But all it did was add to it!
So this year I decided to take advantage of the pandemic’s enforced isolation (and free time) and rework the space. Space is the optimal word here – I gave my garden Space. I started with pots. I have 234, 000 pots, some fab, some hoi-polloi. But, betchabygolly I would’ve had ever. stankin’ one of those pots filled with Something Flower and set upon every available surface. Not this year. The Hill Border wall? I thought I would take half of them off; I took ALL of them off. The pavers in front of the greenhouse? Clear. The fountain now has 3 large dahlia pots instead of 14 . And so forth.
Pruning and thinning. Hey, guess what? Ain’t nobody got time for 448 Cleome. Nobody! Bees and other pollinators are just fine with 100 of the thorny little snipes. So. Thinning. A lot.
And guess what? Because I did all that, the flowers I do have are now the stars of the show! All 100+ lilies are standing proud, being actually seen rather than fighting for attention amongst the other crap.
And my eyeballs and other senses have places to rest, so I can focus on… well, so I can focus. I think this is a reflection of my current state of mind. I no longer have to distract myself so now I channel Chanel and Take One Thing Off. My garden nerves are settling down because my IRL nerves are settling down. In art (as well as other disciplines) it’s called ‘curating’ – and it’s also a reflection of my place in the world now. When young, few have the ability (or even the desire) to curate – we fall in love with ______ , want ALL THE THINGS _____, and it’s not until we’ve sated ourselves with the amassing of it all can we step back and say ‘wow. that’s a whole lotta lotta’ – and that’s when you still yourself and begin to curate.
A friend is currently curating her nail polish collection, which is wonderfully vast – but can you really enjoy that particularly fabulous iridescent green when you have 30 others very similar. And why would you have 112 pink polishes when you hate the very sight of pink!? My lily collection is next to be curated. I’ve had a few revert to an orange parent and it’s a blistering color, quite unsuited to the bed it’s currently in. Come Autumn I will lift them and probably put it along a fenceline – but lift I will. The more is not always the merrier.
This is part Kondo, part Swedish Death Cleanse – these disciplines have always been around. Collect a lot, then get sick of the clutter and pare it to the things that are of intrinsic value to you.
So that’s me – next up is moving (in sections) a Miscanthus the size of a VW van. It’s in the wrong place (EVERYTHING THAT’S IN THE WRONG PLACE IS YUUUUUGE! why is that?). And it needs to be divided anyway – might as well start digging now, little bit by bit, so that by September I’ll have it out (and planted along the fenceline, where it belongs). If you’d asked me a year ago about removing that Monstro I would’ve blenched and said I’d rather salt the earth. I predict There Will Be Blenching. But I’ll get it done.
What about you guys? Are you in curating mode? Swedish Death? Kondo? Or are you ‘feck it! they can put a match to it when I’m dead!!!’
Anybody watch ‘Shetland’ (or the even broodier ‘Hinterland’)? SOOOOO much soulful gazing. omg.