Artist Sara Robinson's Secret Garden

Written by Anne Silver, with special text by Frank Bourne

Life in the garden is at turns humble and grandiose, seen and unseen.  From the peonies that dazzle us with their floppy, sumptuous heads, to the sweet-faced pansies that greet us as we pass, to the silent worms that till the earth around their feet, a garden is a haven of mystery and wonder.   Roots push deeply into the ground; heads point toward the sun.  Each year the plants become stronger, more solid, more equipped to handle whatever comes their way as nature takes its course.  Storms come and go.... Ice and sleet, wind and rain… followed by baths of golden sunshine.  Seasons wax and wane.  Darkness gives way to light, which gives way to darkness again...  Every day a thousand tiny deaths; a thousand quiet rebirths.  And those of us who look closely, who take the time to move slowly along the winding paths where the catmint and lady's mantle tumble towards our feet, we will see that treasures lie hidden in the folds of the dahlia petals, laced among the fading hydrangea blossoms, tangled up the rose hips.  We will smell the spicy-fragrant mums and the decaying of the oak leaves that ride the autumn breeze toward their final resting place.  We will hear the whispers of the flowers, inviting us to take part in the dance.

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden —in all the places.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The gate is open; come on inside....  





it was the willfulness that set her flying, the acrid taste of oxidizing adrenaline that set her heart racing, sent the blur of memories cascading past. she closed her eyes as she approached the mirrored surface of the water, hands outstretched. a shadowy reflection rushed up from the depths to extinguish her.

“how strange,” she puzzled, “such simple movement could harden the water so.” she felt the rush of cavitating blossoms, turbulence slowing her descent, white noise muted by the weight of water.

beyond the wall, the silence is punctuated by the sound of children’s voices and their innocent explorations, by a nervous burst of laughter, an evening in its early stages.

the harvest moon shines dimly, burnt umber light washing over the garden.





“would you care to dance?” he moved in closer, limiting the possibility of their being overheard.

“if you insist,” she responded with a casual air, following closely the parameters intended to govern a familiar encounter, precisely as she had specified in the rules of the game. “though my dance card is full,” she continued.

“oh, but they’re playing our song,” he insisted.

she pressed herself into his leafy folds until the two were hardly distinguishable, a brilliant bit of photosynthetic transmutation that produced a momentary pause in the flow of the evening.

the music played. the moon shone. he spoke softly of evenings past, her tender heart.







seventeen, nineteen, twenty-three. prime cluster. mysterious, indivisible abstraction. history of the universe spread across a number line (- in the beginning, the ironic brevity of a superheated concentration, the infinite pressed into a nutshell; then the dispersion, the clusters, tribe-like, defending themselves against a carbon-undateable, noiseless and unknowable opposition; finally, the isolation. )

once, she dreamt it into consciousness, saw what lay beneath it all.

“i am not indivisible,” she realized. “i am infinitely divisible, the product of a million million chance operations.” there was more, she realized. she could not recall it. “i suppose i should have written it down.”

she smiled.

a deep black sky lingered beyond a layering of winter clouds. the air was very cold, very still.






the blossom found her near the wall, apart from all the revelry, her head tilted slightly toward the sound, a murmuration of starlings weaving their chaotic patterns overhead.

“they have no idea, the picture they paint,” she observed, noting the arrival of her close companion, “their limited cognition permitting them only to avoid when in the clear and to follow when in the crowd.”

“yes,” the blossom replied, “i suppose our actions present a similar look, at least from a distance.”

the flock split almost perfectly into halves, forming a relaxed figure-eight before recombining and moving off toward the horizon, its macro-organic floorshow a work-in-progress.







she sensed rather than heard the evening bell’s tolling, had expected its familiar sound, its spectral tones caroming off the village’s haphazardly arranged streets and buildings, fading in and out of hearing, riding the winter currents, fundamentals mixed with evanescent reverberations. immutably finite, this instantaneous blend of constructive and destructive interferences.

“i must remember to speak to the dahlias,” she noted.

narrow tendrils of warm air, a spider’s web of minute isobaric variations, impressed distinctive patterns of interwoven sensations on her exposed skin as she positioned herself in a favorite spot, inhabited a comfortable corner frequented by her friends. she locked her arms behind her. she waited.







she carefully shed her outer shell, her daily routine, draping it over a tangle of green, freed to move about the garden in her more recognizable forms - starlight, moonbeam, slightest whisper of the wind, and so on. the other creatures sensed her presence, her fluid movements among and within them. they stirred the air in quantum shifts, minute disturbances that produced not so much a flow as a vibration.

the clouds threatened rain. there was a soft flash of lightning, far enough away to conceal its jagged journey from earth to sky, producing a soundless moment of silhouette and long shadows cast about her.






she was comfortably wrapped in the dome of the sky, constellations twinkling in the sheltered proximity of the garden.

the sharpening horizon signaled the dawn. the stars abandoned her, flashing instantly into place, re-sprinkling themselves across the dwindling darkness, reclaiming their familiar positions, moving in silent synchronization with the unsteady rotation of the world around her.

the blossoms, animated just moments ago, faded as the light on the horizon grew. her fingers sought out the moist soil, pushed through the layers of leaves and decay that marked the passing of time.

“now to rest,” she mused, her scent blending with the earthy tones of the garden, her outline indistinguishable from the other inhabitants there.






she had the odd capacity to see beyond the momentary blindness that accompanied each blink, each instant the world was blanked.

“to see the world as it truly is,” she realized.

she stepped, for a moment, outside space and time, into a region where it was easier to experience each animate existence in relation to all others, to be conscious and connected. flowers speaking. stones, earth, stars, empty vacuum, too.

“to see the world as it truly exists,” she repeated.

a bird sang in the trees near the garden wall. the frequency of passing cars diminished with the twilight. the stars shone. the sun set. the winter’s evening chill descended.

she blinked.







the photographer abandoned, immediately, the idea of capturing candids, believing herself a more accomplished portraitist, opting to create odd couplings among the guests, absurd anti-moments that would resurface in casual conversation from time to time (to time.)

“mum’s the word,” the photographer would say, after posing a not-a-couple, expecting a smile at her cleverness, her play on words, her nuanced photographer’s wit.

the blossoms smirked. the hostess rolled her eyes. the photographer pressed the shutter.






a few of the earlier arrivals embraced her, soft petals against her pulse, nestled just below her ear. she hummed an unfamiliar melody, seemed to pluck it from the air.

“huhuu, huhu hhu,” she appeared to be saying, repeating this phrase at various points throughout the evening.

“owl language, certainly,” they whispered among themselves. “something witty, no doubt.”

the stars, arrayed, for the moment, as diamonds, shone brightly.

beyond the wall, the hum of a passing automobile dopplered past, footsteps echoed, a couple walking. hushed tones, all greys and blues, filtered the darkness, imbued it with a certain lightness of being.



Sara Robinson is an English photographer living in Surrey.  She is a fine art graduate of painting, who fell under the spell of instant photography in the early days of the Impossible Project.

The majority of Sara's work is a cyclical series of themes born from her semi- wild garden, an attempt at catching the blooming and fading of growth and decay in the favored twilight hours.....  The moment when shadows fade and new ones emerge, at the edge of waking and dreaming....  A nervous human presence sleepwalking at the border of the frame, stealing an instant in the passage of time....

All text that directly accompanies the photos in the above passage was written by Frank Bourne, each poetic vignette inspired by Sara Robinson’s polaroids.   Frank is a sort of artistic jack-of-all trades.  Photography, writing, poetry, music — these are all things he does because he loves to create, because he loves the process of finding beauty in the small, unloved, and overlooked things, because he loves the struggle to translate what he sees and hears on the inside, to make it as close to the truth as he can. It’s a bit like breathing, a bit autonomic. Frank is an engineer, a teacher, a poet, a writer, a musician, a photographer, a wanderer, and, in the end, a curious person.  


You can connect with Sara Robinson on Instagram and flickr.  

You can connect with Frank Bourne on flickr.  

You can connect with Anne Silver on Instagram and on her website.