方禮倫:英國、園藝、香港 Life Springs From The Barest Stem

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Two months ago, as summer gave way to autumn, my wife and I took three cuttings from our small rose garden.(註 1)

We choose three healthy, semi-hardwood stems of this season’s growth, and made clean cuts above a bud. After removing leaves and the soft tip growth, including any new flowers that were forming, we were left with three bare stems of about two feet in length. Each was then potted in well drained soil, watered, and placed on a small, south-facing windowsill, where they would get plenty of light.(註 2)

This year has been our first in our new home, in Cambridgeshire, England. Tending our garden has been an integral part of building our new home and rooting in to a new place. We are new to gardening, and coming from Hong Kong, neither of us appreciated both how hard but also rewarding gardening can be.(註 3)

We only discovered the rose garden in spring, which had been hidden under a sprawling blanket of green and brambles. As we cleared away years of overgrowth, under the watchful gaze of the resident robin, each rose bush appeared as if to reward our labours. Some had become stunted in the shade, whilst others, reaching above the canopy in search of light, had grown into small tress.

By April the rose garden was in bloom, and we were treated to a gorgeous display colours. Deep and bright reds, pure whites, and every shade of orange and yellow. Each day the flowers seem to bloom larger, and the colours more vibrant.(註 4)

A month later an infestation of aphids meant we had to cut the roses right back. In an afternoon the flowers were gone, and with them much of the colour of the garden. It would be September when the colours returned, though without the flush of those beautiful spring blossoms.(註 5)

Whilst potting our rose cuttings, I remember looking at the three bare stems that had once seemed so alive with the promise, and thinking there was something wasteful, even sad, about having stripped them. Among the leaves and fallen petals discarded on the floor lay new buds that would never now come to bloom. Whilst I hoped what we were doing was creating new life, in gardening, as in life, nothing is ever certain. We did not know whether our cuttings would root.

Every few I checked to see how are cuttings were doing. For the first two weeks there was no noticeable change. Then, on the third week, new buds began to appear on one. A small dimple of green, no larger than the tip of a needle, slowly grew outwards from a join in the stem. And then, a few weeks later, a second stem began to bud as well. As time progressed new leaves were unfurled and new shoots began to form. It all happened at a pace too slow for excitement. Patience has, instead, provided a far greater reward: a steady sense of appreciation and joy.(註 6)

However, as life grew from two of our cuttings, the third had remained dormant. I have come to see this bare stems as a reminder of the imperfection of nature.(註 7)The three cuttings had been taken together at the same time, potted in the same soil and placed on the same window sill, and yet all three has responded differently and in their own time.

As much as we wish for control, and take comfort in the surety of destiny, in reality we are defined less by our powers than by our limitations. It is a lesson every gardener learns quickly. In turn, we learn to live without the presumption that we are our own masters, that places every success and failure within our own hands. In turn, this teaches us both the fundamental lessons of humility and of compassion: that our successes are never merely our own, but neither are our failings.

Gardens may be a luxury beyond most people in Hong Kong. Even then, in a society that values pretence, those with gardens very rarely tend to their gardens themselves. This is a great shame, as gardening can teach us many valuable lessons. It build character, and teaches patience and perseverance, and how to manage expectation and loss. In gardens we find that joy is found in the small, and in the unexpected. By gardening we gain a perspective of nature as it is. It checks our emotions and mellows our feelings, tempering excitement and alway giving hope.(註 8)

陶傑點評

移民英國與移民加拿大和澳洲不同。英國文化有上千年之長遠,許多不為大西洋彼岸的美國人明白。

園藝是英國人鍾愛的生活。買一座房子,有一個花園,英國人可以用幾十年的心思設計和打理。香港人幾代都住在所謂的 Apartments(英國不常用這個字,通常叫做 Flats),對園藝缺乏感覺,而富人養有一名「花王」,視之為傭工,至少是三代之前的事。

英國的花園自成生活藝術,而且遇上短的夏天,園藝生活尤為珍貴。

擁有一座有花園的房子不是很昂貴的事,尤其在鄉間。作者移居英國後開展真正的英國生活,由拋卻香港的塵俗、進入自己的花園開始。

文章結構分三部分:開頭以細緻的筆觸描述怎樣打理花園,然後由園藝中頓悟人和自然的關係。最後一部分,還是想到了香港。

此文讀來有「問君何能爾,心遠地自偏」、「採菊東籬下,悠然見南山」的陶淵明味道,雖然在全球化下,對香港的局勢還是有所牽掛,似乎未能做到「心遠地自偏」。

有了一具手提電話,世界真是縮得太小了。

1.

  • 「兩個月前,當夏日消退,初秋來臨,我和妻子在小玫瑰園裡裁剪了三度」。如此簡單的句子,引領文章的開頭。看似很平凡,卻以此為起點,準備鋪陳,這是作者文章的一大特色。

2.

  • 進一步描寫如何裁剪。乾枝、新芽、舊葉、陽光。整個園藝的小工程,以細膩的筆觸道來,令人體會英國生活的細趣。
  • 許多英國電影和劇集如 The Crown,也有這種特色:用平凡的細節帶起,企圖在平淡中見不凡。

3.

  • 這是搬回英國後新的家園。園藝是英國生活的新開始。作者承認並無經驗,但願意學習,這是暗藏的要點。

4.

  • 原來這個園子是春天才發現的。當初雜草叢生,需要修整。有「重頭收拾舊山河」的暗喻,暗示由香港回來,心情一樣的雜亂,要重新清理,但要有一份意志和情懷。嫣紅、玉白、深橘、淺黃,描寫文要有視像感。The colours more vibrant,Vibrant 這個字充滿生命,用詞顯句別見心思。

5.

  • Aphids:蚜蟲。草木繁盛自然會吸引昆蟲滋長,為了保護玫瑰,要即刻動手。昆蟲的出現是一種 Dramatic Twist,有了一點戲劇性。

6.

  • 園藝的經營,雖拈花惹草,卻是耐性的練習。大城市的生活熱鬧,娛樂節目很多,下一代的人連閱讀的耐性也沒有了。

7.

  • 三株玫瑰,花開數朵,有各自不同的命運。作者開始想到:大自然本來是不完美的,退一步而隨遇而安,認識到缺陷本身也是一種美,人生不能追求完美的無憾。

8.

  • 若通篇都說英國的園藝,專業文章,難以對香港的讀者引起共鳴。作者很體貼,向香港人介紹:英國的園藝生活令他學到了甚麼?園藝是一種毫無 Pretence(造作)的生活,把花園料理好,不是炫耀。花園不是奢侈,而是對人的耐性和意志的訓練。花草無法用捷徑或心靈雞湯的簡短課程就能茁壯生長。大自然世界四季有序,萬物有時。在花草的小生命裡,我們看見自然和生命的奧妙。
  • 這一點與英國文學的一些田園自然價值觀同源,如早期浪漫詩人布萊克(William Blake)有名句:To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a wild flower.
  • 或者通俗一些 —— 70 年代末的台灣民歌「蘭花草」,胡適作詞:「我從山中來,帶著蘭花草,種在小園中,希望花開早。一日看三回,看得花時過,蘭花卻依然,苞也無一個。眼見秋天到,移蘭入暖房,朝朝頻顧惜,夜夜不能忘。但願花開早,能將宿願償,滿庭花簇簇,開得許多香。」

情趣雖小,情志崇高。中西文化的修養品味,殊途而此心相同。

陶傑英文遊花園

香港和台灣,面臨世紀的變局。海外華人居住西方國家,也數目龐大。如何提升英文程度,克服文化隔閡,加強英文能力,在亂世中至關重要。

許多華人都有合理的職業或專業的英文程度,但如何在原有的中學文法訓練基礎之上,探討高層次的英語文化和表達方式,以備融入英語世界主流社會?

本欄介紹評析欣賞英文的寫作細節,分享經驗,歡迎提出不同的評析角度和心得。

※ 此欄文章為作者觀點,不代表本網立場。 ※
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方禮倫(Evan Fowler ) ,本地出生成長、中英交界的香港人,在劍橋和倫敦大學政經學院畢業。現居英國。 英文怎樣能表達得更好?香港的英文教育,著重文法正確、詞彙廣泛。但除了這兩樣,說好的英文、寫好的英文,還要有某種英語的理性與感性思維。 好的英文必清晰、婉約而有教養,與中文寫作文化略有不同。有時借用英文的文化特色,用於中文,可以別具一格。但若有一日移居英語國家,與以英語為母語的當地人溝通,融入主流社會,摸通英文表達藝術的深層結構,會很有用。 方禮倫的英文筆觸細膩,每週五他會以英文與我們見一次面,講述香港和海外華人關心的事情。除了獨特的觀點,其文筆可供英文寫作學習參考。