A WHILE ago I visited my parents with my family to have lunch. Usually either my folks come down or we go up to visit them.
I say they come down and we go up because my parents live outside of town on a mountain. The hill is just under 610m high so it is slightly cooler than the city of Melbourne where I live.
The mountain is famous for its temperate rainforest and for the gardens which have been developed and nurtured by those who live there.
One of the reasons I like going to my parents' place besides keeping up with family is that I also enjoy the beautiful garden that surrounds it.
Their home itself is simple. However, the surrounding garden is breathtaking.
When I was younger I am not sure I appreciated the garden as much as I do now.
Perhaps I took it for granted. Perhaps I always associated it with long hours of work weeding, mowing or on occasion chopping word.
Raking leaves was also a key task, especially during autumn and we would use the leaves as mulch for the garden beds.
These days whenever we visit home, my father always asks us out to the garden for a walk.
I look forward to this request as he always takes time to explain the origins of the plants and flowers and explain what is blooming at that particular time of the year.
At times along the walk, we will stop and look at the surrounding beauty and, at other times, sit down and take it all in. When I reflect on this, I realise that the tranquillity and beauty of the garden has, and continues to have, an effect on my temperament.
The deep green of the foliage and the wooded backdrop to the garden are particularly beautiful.
I like green and blue, so looking at the garden and then looking up to the sky are always relaxing and reflective moments for me.
When I contemplate the effect that my parents' garden has had on me, I always think back to the peace of mind that I have as I stroll along with my father, taking note of this or that plant and simply enjoying the calm beauty that a garden can exhibit. Gardens are metaphors for many things and the serene nature of a garden has effects way beyond the simply aesthetic.
A few years ago, I had my sabbatical and spent it at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). It is known as the University In A Garden.
I think USM can justly claim the title since the beauty of the gardens around the campus immediately struck me and are something I miss to this day.
Sometimes when I ponder on why I felt so at ease at USM, I wonder to what extent it was related to the fact that I had been brought up surrounded by a garden and the effect this has had on me.
Gardens suggest beauty, tranquillity and give us time to think.
The greenness of gardens is always soothing to the eye and, I think, the soul. I cannot help but feel that my sense of comfort at USM, for example, stemmed from a shared experience of having found balance in my parents' garden.
For what it's worth, I believe that all of us ought to have the right to access and enjoy gardens, parks and open spaces with nature.
Such enjoyment ought not to be only the privilege of the rich or well-heeled. In our housing developments, educational and public institutions and cities, attention ought to be paid to ensuring that spaces of relaxation should be available for all.
Gardens can be an important public space and can easily be integrated with playgrounds and other facilities.
Those without gardens ought to have easy access to public parks and gardens.
I do not underestimate the power that gardens have had on me.
I do not underestimate the influence that public spaces such as gardens and parks can have on citizens in general.
For this reason, I found the idea of a university in a garden very attractive. I could see that its meaning was far deeper than a marketing slogan.
Ensuring that in our development we also "tend to our gardens" and making sure that all citizens have access to places of repose where they too can admire nature is a significant issue.
My home and upbringing was surrounded by a garden.
I spent an enjoyable sabbatical at a university in a garden and every time I see a public park or garden in our crowded and busy cities, I thank whoever was wise enough to have ensured that such a space has been made available to us. Enjoying parks and gardens must not be a privilege of the rich.
In our development and growth, we must try to make certain that we appreciate what nature offers and the deep learning that such experience brings.