Similizing the Brain to a Garden, but one in like Washington State or something – Matt Travers

The brain sometimes is not full of delight
A garden which sometimes struggles for sunlight.
Where some days the sun shines on shimmering streams,
and on others the dark consumes innocent dreams.
Where petals of beautiful flowers oft fall
Where life always lives, even when odds are small.
You see sometimes our lives can be covered with clouds
our flowers and fruits starving under the shroud
When our hopes of a bountiful harvest start to wane
and we worry if our garden will ever be the same.
You see change can be a scary and dangerous thing,
When what effects on your garden you’re unsure it will bring.
But after every winter comes the thawing spring sun
bringing with it new life, making winters damage undone.
Every challenge we face, every strife, every plight,
helps our gardens grow up to magnificent heights.
Because it’s the pollen of triumph we get from personal strife
Which give all our most precious flowers their life.

I can’t say I was in love with Milton’s stuff this go around, so I decided to base my final Unessay on the work of Margaret Cavendish. I really like her poem Similizing the Brain to a Garden, but I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit too positive for me. So I thought I would add a bit of an appendix of sorts to it. Maybe this is an alternate reading of the text, or maybe it’s a preface. I’m not really sure. But I wanted to focus my redux on the experiences of a person who maybe doesn’t always love their brain. The brain to me is a beautiful thing, but for some of us that beauty comes as a result of triumph over mental illnesses. And I think there’s a sort of satisfaction in that, in turning your mind into a garden after all that you’ve been through. So that’s the vibe I went for. Also, here is a link to the original poem for reference.

In Cavendish’s poem, the garden is sort of utopian. I don’t feel that to be an accurate representation of the brain, so I tried to allude to that, especially in the introductory lines.

The brain sometimes is not full of delight
A garden which sometimes struggles for sunlight.
Where some days the sun shines on shimmering streams,
and on others the dark consumes innocent dreams.
Where petals of beautiful flowers oft fall
Where life always lives, even when odds are small.

This is kind of the first set up of that idea. Because sometimes the brain is a garden I feel. It has the potential to do beautiful things. But sometimes its dark and it can kill dreams by overthinking or self doubt or by depressive inaction. This is sort of in reference to Cavendish’s first 6 lines, where she establishes a handful of ways in which the brain is beautiful and idyllic.

The brain a garden seems, full of delight,
Whereon the sun of knowledge shineth bright,
Where fancy flows, and runs in bubbling streams,
Where flowers grow4 upon the banks of dreams,
Whereon the dew of sleepy eyes doth fall, 
Bathing each leaf, and every flower small.

The second half of the poem is where I really veer away from Cavendish’s work. I wanted to add a bit clearer of an arc, so my poem functions in roughly three parts. In the first few lines I introduce us to the main theme, which is that the brain (a garden) is beautiful but can also be dark. Then in the middle of the poem I introduce the conflict, talking about moments of strife and change which frighten us and maybe challenge our gardens survivability.

You see sometimes our lives can be covered with clouds
our flowers and fruits starving under the shroud
When our hopes of a bountiful harvest start to wane
and we worry if our garden will ever be the same.
You see change can be a scary and dangerous thing,
When what effects on your garden you’re unsure it will bring.

By the end though, I try to say that it’s surviving those struggles and growing from them that really makes a garden beautiful. I refer to this as the “pollen of triumph we get from personal strife.” By this I mean the sense of pride we feel from overcoming obstacles and growing, particularly in an internal sense. This could mean a lot of different things depending on the reader, but for me it’s sort of a reference to growth I’ve felt emotionally as an adult, dealing with distress and anxiety and depression. But the pollen of triumph could be different for anyone really.

But after every winter comes the thawing spring sun
bringing with it new life, making winters damage undone.
Every challenge we face, every strife, every plight,
helps our gardens grow up to magnificent heights.
Because it’s the pollen of triumph we get from personal strife
Which give all our most precious flowers their life.

I also expand into a garden which can be harvested. I believe Cavendish mostly references a garden which is purely aesthetic. But I wanted to set up the idea of a harvest, the idea that if you cultivate your mental garden, it will bear fruit. While this could be done a bit more eloquently by referencing the growth of healthy flowers or something, I felt a harvest just worked a bit better. So that’s why I reference flowers as well as fruit, especially in that second part.

I also wanted to touch on the title real quick. I enjoy taking the titles of works I’m reworking and just messing with them a bit, in a sort of ineloquent way. In the same way that the poem essentially says “yeah the brain is a garden, but sometimes it’s really grey and depressing” The title builds off of her work but adds a caveat. Similizing the Brain to a Garden, but one in like Washington State or something. I specify Washington State because the state is notoriously rainy and depressing. Because of that though, the state has some of the most beautiful green spaces I’ve ever seen. Seriously, go to Seattle. It’s kind of depressing, but there is growth and life and gardens and moss and vines absolutely everywhere. And that’s exactly the vibe I’m going for with this poem.

3 thoughts on “Similizing the Brain to a Garden, but one in like Washington State or something – Matt Travers

  1. Thinking about this project made my head hurt. The idea of treating it as a garden is new to me, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I really enjoyed the appendix, as you call it, that you wrote. I also thought it was a bit too optimistic, because life isn’t just rainbows and unicorns. Here’s my favorite passage from your writing:

    “When our hopes of a bountiful harvest start to wane
    and we worry if our garden will ever be the same.
    You see change can be a scary and dangerous thing,
    When what effects on your garden you’re unsure it will bring.”

    I couldn’t help think of the age old saying, “treat your body like a temple” here. We make choices that can affect our well-being everyday. The food we eat or the activities we do can have an impact on our overall health. The same can be said for our brain, this past semester has certainly had an effect on my garden. Staring at screens for hours, sitting in the same chair for weeks, I haven’t been treating my garden very well. The uncertainty of moving forward is daunting, but as you said,
    “Because it’s the pollen of triumph we get from personal strife
    Which give all our most precious flowers their life.”
    Great post.

  2. As someone who rarely ever writes happy poetry, I really liked that you decided that Cavendish’s poem was too optimistic and made a twist to it. Life is cruel even when it has it’s beauties like gardens and landscapes. Like winter can be cruel to a single flower as much as it is cruel to a human’s body. Just as continuous cloudy days can seriously harm a flower’s ability to creates food and life, it can also harshly affect a human through their mood or actual health. As people who life in New England, we experience a lot of cloudy or dark days with less sun than people in southern regions so we get less vitamin D and that can cause fatigue and mood changes, like seasonal depression. The brain can be cruel and it can be kind like the world conditions upon a garden.

  3. I loved this project! I thought you did a fantastic job with reworking this poem to tell the truth about the brain and about the struggles that everybody goes to. People’s minds are far from always being a beautiful aesthetically pleasing garden, there are dark days where clouds overshadow. I loved reading your rendition. And I loved the last passage. Comparing the brain to specifically a harvest was a very precise choice you made. It really makes one read into the word, and how you mention that “if you cultivate your mental garden, it will bear fruit”. This ties directly into the fact that mental health is a true struggle for people, mental health struggles are real and valid. In such a fast paced world, some forget that mental health is a valid reason for missing things such as work and school. And if someone’s mental health is helped by various methods, they are going to perform better in all aspects of life. I loved this post, it made me stop and think for a bit about all the ways I would compare a humans brain to a garden. Thank you for highlighting th dark moments, I think it was written beautifully.

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