Gone but Not Forgotten

The Transitory Nature of Time


Here today, gone tomorrow, but never forgotten. Time does not let us forget, even though the phrase ‘all is forgotten in time’ is oft said.

We connect past, present and future intuitively, yet time, really defies definition.  We experience time by remembering our past, being aware of our present, and speculating wonder for our future.

The present is transitory in that it is ever flowing, constantly changing and almost magically transforming. This could be viewed as subjective time, that which has a direct relationship to the experiential moment.

In a religious sense, time is supposedly eternal. We will be, but time will have no meaning. Did you ever wonder then if when trees move on to a higher plane, do they change color for beauty and enjoyment for all? My imagination wanders on occasion.

Go into the white light my young friend, time is eternal. A little levity for those involved in squirrel warfare.

Time is a building block of our very existence. Poets, philosophers and scientists are good at expressing what they believe to be time and our human sense of its passage.

The task is not so much to see what no one has seen, but rather to think what no one yet has thought about which everybody sees.

Erwin Schrödinger

As a youngster, we think in terms of the future but as we age, we slowly transition into living in terms of the past. Living takes place in the now, in the moment of which it is taking place. So is this not a dichotomy of awareness?

Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.

Henry Van Dyke

The Red Spire Pear through time.

The image to the right was shot on Sunday. The leaves were picked today. Don’t time and weather make a great team, with the leaves getting prettier day by day? More leaves are red rather than bright gold. So many are green and orange, too; and all from the same pear tree. Even the shapes vary.

An odd thing happens to those that garden. They look forward to the future more than most. We plant bulbs we hope to see flower. We plant trees we hope we will live to see tower. We dream and plan, we plant and question, we watch as they grow, whither and emerge. A cyclical process. Time in motion with an active awareness.

Are we the only creatures in nature to ponder this phenomenon, the relationship between the past and future?  Without an understanding of the past, imaginative thought and foresight, the present is all we can hope to experience. And if you really think about it, the present barely exists at all. No sooner than an experience occurs, it is already the past. Since the future is a construct of the mind, it also does not exist.

We see time with movement in a straight line. Yet, the earth revolves and the seasons return. Personally, I prefer to see time as cyclical, although intellectually I can surmise this is wrong. I just like the image of time revolving, like the familiar image of a clock. It simplifies such a complex and abstract model.

Nature has a way of expressing time where no physical clock is needed. But physics postulates time in a curvature, where time is slow and not a time dimension. The shape is outward, growing and curved. Not as elegant of an image of time to me, although I imagine physicists would heartedly disagree.

We can see the effects of time over time. Aiding weather with transformation and taking a really long time as a matter of fact.

And time leaves an impression in more ways than one. Fossilized leaves and animals are a picture in time, yet they are also a product of time. Stamped into stone, becoming stone, a literal garden on a rock face, nature’s art and nature’s tablet of time. So much to see, so much to imagine.

And an astronomer said, “Master, what of Time?”

And he answered:

You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.

You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.

Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,

And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.

And that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

Time XXI Kahil Gibran (partial )

We subjectively experience time mostly when we ask for the time. It has a physical embodiment in the clock. But time also has a psychological aspect as well. We can sense time flying by, and the opposite, where time drags. Paths can be created and designed to slow physical movement, therefore instilling the slowing of psychological time. But since time can not be quantified with a beginning or end, where does that leave us?

The Relation of Being and Becoming

In a strictly narrow sense, being is now, what is, and what exists in life, actuality and reality. In a metaphysical sense it is the soul, spirit, nature and essence.

In design we can strive to create a metaphysical moment through the reality of form. We are situated in site but transforming in conceptual and intellectual philosophy. Finding a way to create mood and sense of place, while adding mystery, surprise and journey. Creating a being imbedded in a becoming.

The circle is an object of nature, a product of pure mathematics, and a framework to which we use to describe and make sense of our world. The time I like to imagine.

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”

Hermes Trismegistus

It is an ancient symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity, female power, and the sun. I bet you never look the same at a simple circle in your landscape again.

A circle is not just a circle.

A design can take you on a literal path (a being) or one of imagination or emotion (a becoming). A good design is not linear in concept, like the most common view of time,  but has a bit of abstraction, wonder and wander, an outward and continuing growth. A different view of course.

This path wanders in a graceful way, it also makes you want to know where it goes and what you will find. You can see the abstract art off in the distance. You go from classical to abstract on your journey.

This design was created specifically for the daughter of a client’s outdoor wedding. The circle is a reference to the circle of life and all the white flowers, the traditional color of weddings, for example. But at closer inspection, the circle is completed by the mind’s eye, yet, has a means to be continuing and growing. Like a marriage.


A garden landscape is not just about being, it is also about what is becoming. And becoming has no terminus as it is always expanding and evolving.  Even a bird’s nest adds to the complexity of change and becoming.


One thing learned is that a design is never done. In buildings, weathering and time reminds one that a building’s surface is ever-changing. In landscape the seasons brown the leaves only to renew and refresh them green again. Plants grow and plants replace. Forests experience succession and fire both destroys and creates. Cyclical. Life is changing with the help of time.

Time plays an integral role in good design and good designers have a plan in motion to deal. Time weighs heavily on your structures, gardens and life. Acknowledging, accepting and adapting the part that time plays will lighten the load. And sometimes, time is only thyme.

Check back next Monday for May Dreams Garden, Gardens Bloggers’ Bloom Day. My plan is to show more plants and garden objects that have been touched by the hand of time.

Blooms not forgotten, yet sure to be seen again.


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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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43 Responses to Gone but Not Forgotten

  1. Bom says:

    Time is . . . well spent reading this post.

    • What a nice comment. I am glad you took the ‘time’ to read it. It was a bit ‘time consuming’. And I was going to add a qualifier at the beginning alerting to the length and depth of the post, but then thought nobody would read it. Many thanks.

  2. One says:

    How do we be in the present moment when the present keep slipping into the past? 🙂 I was once told NOT to try to understand time as it will drive me nuts. 🙂 I agree with all that you share and love the photos. Those colorful leaves are gorgeous.

    • Time is mind boggling. Time description and analysis should be left up to the individuals I posted, philosophers, poets and mostly, scientists.

      I do like thinking about things beyond my understanding. Ideas hence come.

  3. That was a very thought provoking post with the most beautiful photographs. Time was a very deep subject that my son and dh were discussing at the weekend. I believe that God is outside of time and is never restrained by time, He sees the past, present and future all at once.

    That wedding garden looks beautiful and to sit on that beautiful terrace with the little bees humming away on that thyme would be a special moment in time. Here at home I always find that time just disappears when I am on the computer.

    I always like seeing before and after photographs – sooc and the edited ones and I liked the way you did the seasonal before and after ones aswell here with the shrubs and trees. I think it’s always useful when designing a garden for someone that they see what a plant will look like during the winter months as I have had a many a person think that their plant is dead once all the leaves come off.

    Donna I had never heard of Georgia O’Keefe until you mentioned her so I checked her out on google images and wow that is the type of “art” that I would like to do but by transforming my images rather than on canvas. It’s my mum who does it on canvas. I’ve just realised that you are such a CS5 expert – do you know of any good tutorials on painterly effects using CS5 – I spent ages last night trying to find some but they just were not what I was looking to achieve. (Would it be possible for you to contact me through the contact page on my blog ?)

    • What a great comment. You wrote almost as much as I did in the post. I so enjoyed reading your thoughts. I am not very religious, but I wonder a lot. I looked at God being all places at once, having no distinction between past, present and future, since all is one. I did like the quote in the post having God described as a circle. I like circles and all the symbolism associated with them. A perfect shape. It has to be perfect or it is not a circle. That is why time should be circular, actually many congruent circles, expanding and growing, like when you throw a rock in a pond, even though it is probably as science has theorized. The quote gives the circle a centrality.

      I am glad you like O’Keefe’s work. I have an oil I am doing now in the style of her large florals.

      I will send you some links for the CS5 tutorials. I am hoping they are not beyond your ability at this point. Just follow each step exactly and you will learn all the intricacies of the application. I have been using all the Adobe products for years. I am a member of NAPP. That is the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. They have tutorials by expert users here, but you have to be a member. I will send you links to sites you can access.

      I thought about doing posts on Photoshop tricks an d methods but was not sure if there was more than a handful of bloggers using it. The main problem is making tips that all people can use, irregardless of the version of Photoshop they are using.

  4. fer says:

    Beautiful post! I love the pics of your red spire pear. It must be great to see it change trough the seasons

    • The pear is a great tree in all seasons. I have it planted right beside my patio as you can see in the images. The roots of the tree are less lateral than many other trees and, as big as it is ( 30 foot high), does not affect the pavers. It is also narrower than a Bradford, which keeps it in bounds on a small property. This is Gaylord’s tree if you have been following all the posts.

  5. Karin says:

    What a wonderful post…beautifully written, lovely photographs and thought provoking!

    • I am so glad you liked it. It is a bit off the beaten path, but it has the flavor of what I learned in graduate school. Thinking outside the box and looking at design in a less literal way. Finding meaning and purpose in the site and the people using it. See the importance of weathering and time. Seeing the beauty that weathering (patina and in the case of gardens, growth and maturity) adds. Well, only if it is planned for, otherwise it becomes just plain decay. Not so pretty.

  6. Tufagirl says:

    Agreed, time well spent reading your blog today. It is the one thing the homeowner does not appreciate unless they are a gardener. A homeowner wants lush all the time. The gardener wants the experience of the garden over time.

    • Your comment said it succinctly. I have been wanting to do a post on the difference between a garden and a landscape, of course from the designer perspective, but I thought that may land me in controversy territory. When I am in blogging longer and feel confident with my audience, I will post my thoughts. But glad you added yours.

  7. Karen says:

    Donna, your post is wonderful. I found myself lost in time reading it. So many garden images of the effects of time in the garden and beautiful photos, as always. The garden for the wedding was so lovely too, you have so much talent. What a nice way to start my day!

    • Hi Karen,
      I bet you noticed the small stone wall in the one image. This job had many gorgeous stone walls built by my contractor, but this particular wall was built by the client. It was good to keep him busy for a week. This job took us all summer to construct, because everything in the image was newly done, including the huge dirt terrace, which was made for the reception with over 300 guests. Some day I will do a post on the project. I was designing it from the year before the wedding. Drafting drawing both inside and out.

      Keeping the client busy even for a week was heaven. He was involved in everything and this gave us a week reprieve as he struggled through building his retaining wall. It is really rustic, but worked well with the informal plantings at this ‘corner’ of the garden.

  8. Wow, that is a lot to think about. Although you say that gardeners think more about the future (and I understand what you mean), I find that my garden is a way of leaving my thoughts (and worries) about the future inside the house and immersing myself in the present. I walk around my gardens, and all I think about is what is happening right now, that day, that moment. It is the only place in which I can completely lose myself.

    Your photos of transitions in the garden are so wonderful. You paint a painting or take a photograph and that’s it, but you plant a pear tree and it looks different every day. Gardening/landscape design is a unique form of art where changes over time are part of the process and one of the great joys. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for a different perspective. That is the beauty of time. There are so many ways to look at it. Time in the garden is really a present activity and reflecting a past. And you are losing yourself in time. Again, another way to view time.

      It is curious about photos. They are actually the only capture of a moment. But ironically, film photos change with time, too. In life, all moments fade in the the past immediately. Like nanoseconds or something smaller. Change happens immediately too. Most, far too small for us to notice, but think about your own body. Cells are made new every day, while others die off. Minute change, but it translates to age and the transition is ongoing. Same with all life. That pear experiences change all year, but we notice it most when the leaves change color or drop. What a miracle of time and nature. You have to excuse me a bit, but I am amazed by all things, simple and complex. so I get off on tangents.

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I enjoyed reading it and thinking of more to say too.

  9. Thanks Donna – I wrote that while eating breakfast. I would love to see some posts on photoshop articles. I make my own actions now on cs5 – they save me so much time

  10. Shirley says:

    Interesting subject, time is. I enjoyed your article very much. Well written and the photographs are lovely.

  11. Patty says:

    I have often thought that being in the present you are also in the past and future. The present is that moment of transition where some part of you is still on either side. Wonderful post. I will read it again later today.

    • Very heady way of thinking. That type of being would explain a lot. We can always blame one of us for misdoings and the other one is free of blame, cool, I can go with that version. A very simplistic yin and yang existence.

  12. lifeshighway says:

    Time was well spent reading your lovely words and viewing your well placed photography of landscaping changing over the seasons. It is evident a lot of time and thought went into the writing of this essay. Well Done.

  13. I enjoyed reading your post and looking at the changes in your garden. It is amazing how there is not enough of it sometimes and too much of it at others. It can crawl, yet fly by.

  14. debsgarden says:

    “.. But for those who love, time is not.” And so explains the eternity of heaven.
    I really enjoyed this thought provoking post. And all of the photos are so beautiful. The wedding design is marvelous. I hope the weather for the big day was as beautiful as in the photos!

    • This wedding was in 2005 and the weather was great. The landscape got completely changed after the event. The circle garden is no more. We still work with these client’s at this property. They only live on the property part time.

  15. TS says:

    Wonderful post and well worth the time to read it! I see time as a spiral – no beginning or end, just space marked by the natural cycle of life. We only add numbers to make sense of that which makes no sense. Numbers are abstract symbols that give us the feeling of control. But as with most of life, time is beyond our control. So is traffic!!!

    • Good comment. Our only difference in our views is I see time like a rock thrown in a pond. The circles keep growing and expanding. A spiral has a beginning and may not have an end. It follows one path. I guess my version is kinda like sound waves except they can be interrupted and reflected back. But the physics version has time working both forward and backward. Way beyond my understanding but it still amazes me. So the water reference fits a little better if the pond is boundless.

  16. What a beautiful post Donna. I too love circles and their perfection, simplicity and beauty in design. Your wedding circle is such a thoughtful way to begin such an important journey in life and what a lovely reminder of the wedding of their daughter.

    Btw, I’m curious, what is the white flowering shrub/small tree to the left in the comparison photo (photos before you speak of the garden in fossils)? It’s so pretty. I’ve been drawn to white flowers lately… 🙂

    • Hi Catherine,
      It is Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’. It is a beautiful cultivar. It has pure white flowers in May plus a shorter, more horizontal growth habit make ‘Shasta’ a shrub easy to use in smaller spaces than many of Viburnums. Bright red berries are a brief ornamental attraction in late July before providing a summer picnic for robins and other fruit-eating birds. I should have included a photo of the berries.

  17. Les says:

    What a marvelous post. Thank you!

  18. Ginny says:

    I’ve been intrigued with concepts of time since first reading some books of Madeleine L’Engle’s in which you writes about chronos – chronological, linear time – and kairos – immeasurable, ontological time. Gardeners are so aware of chronos with the changing of the seasons, with plants bearing fruit, with bloom time and dormant time, with seeds germinating and trees growing. Time passing. But we also experience kairos, the moments outside of time when we are (to quote L’Engle) “wholly awake”.
    Wonderful and thought provoking post – and I love the design for the outdoor wedding.

  19. tina says:

    You tied time into design and life just perfectly! The photos are great indicators of time too. Boy does it fly!

  20. Dana says:

    Since moving out here, the one thing I’ve noticed that I never considered or expected was a changing perspective on time. Time use to be related predominantly to the clock. Everywhere I needed to be and everything I needed to do was tied to the time told by the clock.

    Out here in the country with animals and a garden, I no longer feel so tied to the clock. Instead, it is about seasons and the sun. In the heat of summer, when the sun is high, I need to refresh water dishes. And the animals come in at sunset regardless of what time that is. In some ways, my days are more regimented because living things depend on me responding to their needs on their time. But in others, it is so freeing.

    We have a daily and season rhythm set by the sun rather than a clock as task-master.

    • I can believe that a change of place, environment and lifestyle would change the way one could view time. Without the clock as a contraint, actions would be driven more by activities through seasons and sun movement. Of course, having those that depend on you would as well. This is a much better and more content way of going about a daily routine, where knowing something must be done, but not by a certain time. Less pressure, more happiness.

  21. PatioPatch says:

    A little belated in my response but I have needed time to digest it all and it would certainly take too much space to comment fully. Suffice it to say, you have surpassed yourself Donna with this articulate article which weaves together the temporal with design and the nature of existence in such beautiful images – “We are time’s subjects, and time bids be gone” William Shakespeare.
    Laura

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