Lessons from the Garden: What is a Verb Doing in a Garden?

Beloo Mehra


Sometime ago I came across the following quote from Joseph W. Beach: “A garden without its statue is like a sentence without its verb.”

It got me thinking.

What is a verb? A verb, as the wikipedia tells us is a word (part of speech) that conveys an action (bring, readwalkrunlearn), an occurrence (happenbecome), or a state of being (beexiststand).

Verb as a state of being. That’s perhaps what Beach meant when he spoke of a statue being a verb in the garden. A garden comes into “being” with the help of its statue. Or perhaps he was thinking of verb as an occurrence. A garden “becomes” a garden when it gets its statue.

And that got me thinking again.

Being and Becoming. Becoming and Being. Two that are One. But not always. We may be constantly ‘becoming’ but that may not be a real thing. We may be only becoming our self-images. The images we would like to project to the world outside, the images we ‘prefer’ because of our preconceived notions of what is ‘acceptable’, what is ‘good’, what is ‘popular’. Only in the real ‘becoming(s)’ of ourselves, we may begin the process of ‘being’.

Sort of like the garden. Garden is always in a process of becoming and yet it always IS. Even in its sleepy state during harsh winters when the trees are resting and hibernating. Even in its restful state when the flowering bushes are concentrating on preserving their energies for the next blooming season. A garden is always ‘becoming’ a garden, growing, evolving, transforming. And that is what makes it a garden, its real ‘being.’

And what of the statue, you ask?

Perhaps that is the presiding deity of the garden. An outer, concrete, visible and finite symbol of THAT inner, intangible, invisible and infinite force which is behind everything. Which allows everything’s becoming and being. Which is the Source of it all. The Real Cause of the garden outside and the one inside you and me.

Perhaps this too is what Beach meant when he spoke of the statue being the verb in the garden. I don’t know. But that’s what my garden tells me. At least when I remember to pay attention to the statues, no, to the deities of my garden.

Want to take a look?


Devi with the ivy

Devi with the ivy

She provides a certain grounded-ness for all the delicate green stuff around the wall. I get a sense that in a way she makes this little corner of the garden more bound to the place, to the earth itself. This is what I have always sort of intuitively felt when I look at her. And I am really happy with the spot she has chosen for herself because I get a good view of her even from my dining chair!


The one who grants fearlessness

The one who grants fearlessness

Standing in a flower bed in the front of the little garden, she gets to greet the visitors but often stays hidden behind the car parked nearby. I like to think she prefers being away from the gaze of everyone.


The welcoming deity

The welcoming deity

This is the real welcoming deity to the front garden, standing in the Namaste mudra. Together with the neighbouring deity in Abhay mudra, he completes the message of compassion and fearlessness.

But the real guardian of the place is the one below.

The guardian

The guardian

Standing right in front of the main gate of the house, she stands erect and fully in charge of all that goes around. During festive occasions she adorns herself with flower garlands and other adornments and comes to her full glory.

There is also one who hides herself in a corner, only to reveal herself to the seeker who is really interested. She has recently moved her location a little bit thanks to some reworking of her corner, as a result she has given up a bit of her ‘green’ veil.

Seated in a corner

Seated in a corner

Of course, no Indian garden could be complete without its Ganesha, the Lord who removes all the obstacles. Of the garden inside us. If gardening is indeed a sacred act, what is more sacred than working on our inner gardens, removing the weeds and bringing more light and sun to those dark corners where new flowers can blossom? Flowers of love, joy and life. And my Ganesha sits right near the front dear, reminding me that if I make one little effort of removing one little obstacle in my path, he will work ten times more to make my path more obstacle-free. If only I listen to him more often…



I have saved the best for last.

The picture below is NOT from my garden, but oh how I wish it would be! I am not sure, however, if I can create something like this or if I even want to create something like this in the little gardening space I have. But this is an image of a serene Japanese garden that I have always found so beautifully inspiring and aesthetically pleasing, just looking at it I feel transported to a quiet place within.

Not to be possessed


 Knowing that a place like this exists is enough to give me joy, peace and contentment. Why wish to possess it?

Now after all this philosophising, maybe it is time for just a little amateur garden design tip. A garden of whichever size – small, medium or big, even a balcony or terrace garden with only potted plants – always needs its verb, I mean its sculpture. It doesn’t have to be an expensive statue in granite or some other massive marvel in stone, even small beautifully carved terracotta figurines or other object d’art made of natural material that provide some sculptural interest can work wonders in beautifying our little green living spaces.

All the pieces in my garden were purchased from local craftsmen and stone sculptors. They are not very large pieces (I couldn’t afford those). And as you can perhaps tell from the images, most of them are ‘incomplete’ or what could be better called as ‘works in progress.’ Sort of like all of us, I suppose. In fact, a couple of them were ‘broken’ and some creative ‘joining’ work had to be done in order to make them ‘whole’. Sort of like all of us, I suppose.

Go ahead, put the verb in the garden. Let the garden become and be. The garden outside and the one inside.


Picture credits: 1-6 are photos from my garden. 7 – Source unknown

About the author
Beloo donned the hats of school teacher, university professor and researcher for many years, and is now happy to be doing what she does best – learn. Living in Pondicherry for the last 7 years and working part-time as an online educator for a private university in the US. She devotes most of her time to studying the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, blogging, reading, gardening and just being. She blogs at http://letbeautybeyourconstantideal.blogspot.com and can be reached at beloome@gmail.com
    1. donna.osborn3@yahoo.com'

      The ‘verb’ in the garden..I have never heard this description of a statue, but I like it. The statues do make their areas come to life and gently beckon attention. I’ve had for many years a statue of a life size baby, a toddler, that is just learning to sit with legs crossed. Not till now did I realize that the baby is sitting in the lotus position. He represents to me a safe place to play, guarded by the tree behind and the twisted branch to lean back on. Mother gave me a plaque to go there, it says “I heard your voice in the garden.” ..and it’s so true. Thank you for making your spot in the world a beautiful place to rest.

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