Back to the Garden by
(88 Stories)

Prompted By The Garden

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In Monet’s Garden 2014

The minute I saw the prompt, I heard Joni Mitchel singing:

The minute I saw the prompt, I heard Joni Mitchel singing...

…”and we’ve got to get ourselves

back to the garden”

We’re in dire need of a Woodstock phenomenon, something that reflects hopefulness and positivity, something to fly in the face of the dark cloud of doom and gloom hanging overhead.

Yes, Mitchell wrote the song “Woodstock” about the gathering at Yasgur’s farm (though she wasn’t in attendance), but it was more to the point a response to the political and social turmoil of the day, a plea to rebuild our country’s soul. It’s certainly a song for today.

To some “the garden” may appear to be a reference to the Garden of Eden, but not to me. “I’m going to camp out on the land, I’m going to try and get my soul free.” I think it’s about getting back to the earth, our mother, our roots, our innocence. And so I go to the gardens, and the parks, havens where I can fill my eyes with natural beauty, where I can look up and out, where I can imagine hugging and holding hands with loved ones, where I can sit on the ground, connected yet free. Free from the isolation of social distancing, free from the dissonance of politics, free from the repugnance and stench of hatred.

It bears mentioning that the same song was also a plea for each of us to become “...a cog in something turning.” No matter what, somehow, each of us must VOTE, in time, at whatever cost, and urge others to do the same! I know I’m preaching to the choir here…but can I get an amen?

And I’ve got to get myself back to the garden: Somewhere I think I still have the pop-up book of Monet’s Garden I used to pore through, imagining myself there, wishing I could experience the glory for myself. In 2014 my dream came true when I visited Giverny, seeing with my own eyes the inspiration for paintings so familiar they were like family, the gardens, yes, and the famous bridge, and of course the waterlilies. And yes, I took enough photos to make an entire book of my own. I even walked through Monet’s house. There was no photography allowed inside so no photos of that, but I’ll never forget the magnificent colors, the glorious light in his yellow dining room, the blue sitting room, looking out at the gardens from his studio window.

Now I have another dream, to go back…when we are finally free to fly without fear. It gives me strength and hope just to know it’s there.


Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your interpretation of this prompt, Barb, and couldn’t agree more. The photos are magnificent and Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock is still one of my all-time favorite songs.

  2. Marian says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this story, almost an essay, about how you are feeling, Barb. Love it. I, too, thought of the Joni Mitchell song, so right for our times now.

  3. Suzy says:

    Oh Barb, I love this story so much! When you read mine, you will see that I end with a wish to see Monet’s garden, because on my trips to France I have never managed to make it there. I would love to see all your photos of it; the ones that you included in the story are breathtaking.

    The Joni Mitchell song is beloved here on Retrospect. Marian used “Back to the Garden” for her story on the Woodstock prompt, and I wrote a story (also about Woodstock) on an even earlier prompt which I entitled “Stardust … golden … caught in the devil’s bargain.” Your discussion of the song, and the clip of Joni singing it, are perfect!

    • Thanks, Suzy…I almost included the “stardust” line, also so powerful.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, I’ve been meaning to make an online book of Giverny…now I’m even more determined to do it and will send you a link when it’s ready. I do hope you make it there to see it for yourself…photos just don’t come close to doing it justice.

  4. I love the feeling of hope, and how beauty, goals and determination can get us “back to the garden.” And that you linked it to current times, and each of us taking our personal responsibility in hand to make our lives so!

  5. I am excited to see the cross-pollination (note “garden motif”) of music with writing–not to mention the broader social vision within which you have embeded your narrative. This gives me a good feeling about what’s possible here at MyRetrospect, which I just joined today.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    What a perfect essay, Barb. If you go to the “Woodstock” prompt, you will see a familiar album cover for my story, but it SO nice to hear Joni’s voice (lots of movies out this past 18 months or so with her in them…”Echos in the Canyon”, “Laurel Canyon”, she’s popping up everywhere; great singer/songwriter). I agree, the song remains appropriate for our time, to repeal this turmoil and I’ll give you that AMEN. GO VOTE!

    I, too, was in Giverny three years ago, both the gardens and inside Monet’s home, though we were allowed to photograph inside, so I have lots of photos of the gardens, bridge and even the kitchen, his study with other artists’ works hanging on the walls. Our Boston MFA is (finally) opening at the end of the month with timed tickets and social distancing. We own a large collection of Monet’s, but the blockbuster show that is coming later will be of the waterlilies, on loan from across the globe. That will be worth the wait. I don’t remember the exact dates. I have lots of bedrooms and am a museum member.

    • Thanks so much, Bets!

      You were so fortunate to be allowed to take photos inside the house…I was really tempted to sneak a few with my iPhone (and a few people did). And lucky you to have those waterlilies in your future. One of the highlights of my life was seeing his huge waterlily paintings in the Musee de l’Orangerie, standing close enough to lose myself in the dappled colors.

  7. Beautiful exploration of the Mitchell tune, Barbara, on just one level of this freewheeling essay. I loved following you along and thanks for that version, Joni’s voice so close to unaccompanied. The pics at Giverny are also exceptional, you captured so much there. You also carried me along with your contempo observations. Really nice trip, Barb, thanks!

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