National Geographic : 2013 Mar
68 luminescence of white petals, or—as in the echolocation of bats— the faint outlines of shape. Enough. Better to linger in the dream-dusk of imagination and walk in the Pavilion Where the Moon Meets the Wind in the Gar- den of the Master of the Nets in Suzhou, China, or through Vita Sackville-West’s White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle, England, frosted with white tulips, lilies, anemones, cream delphiniums, gray-white campanulas, and Iceberg and White Wings roses. They were planted, she wrote, in the hope that “the great ghostly barn- owl will sweep silently across a pale garden... in the twilight.” Or we may draw from the past and conjure the pleasure gardens built by Mogul rulers, cooled by pearls of water from marble fountains, cano- pied by trees heavy with pomegranates and oranges and painted with moonlight, like the fabled garden of Shalimar near Kashmir. The word “paradise,” Elizabeth Moynihan, an architectural his- torian, says, can be traced to a transliteration of the Old Persian word pairidaeza, a walled garden. “The Paradise promised in the Koran consists of several terraces of gardens, each more splendid than the last,” she writes. The open-air palace of an Islamic garden was literally and figuratively paradise on Earth, a place to drink wine in silver pitchers, eat Kabul melons, and listen to poetry. “Remote and closed as this soul of Islam remains,” recalled the French writer Vicomte Robert d’Humières after being entertained in the early 1900s by the brother of the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, “I doubt if we ever felt it nearer to us than that evening, among the fountains and the night-blossoms of the garden of Shali- mar, while the full moon of August, from above the snows of the Tibetan frontier, poured down its clear light.” If a garden is a reach to reclaim Eden, then perhaps our longing is best rewarded at night. The moon forgives the blight laid bare by sun. The cankered flower, the desiccated leaf, the rotted branch are swallowed by shadows, leaving only the illusion of perfection, sil- vered by starshine, gilded by moonlight. j Jade spires of bamboo flank a curving path on the grounds of Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. The murmur of wind filtering through a bamboo grove is cherished, and singled out as one of a hundred sounds the Japanese people want preserved. See time-lapse videos of the gardens in our digital editions.