There Is A Garden Even When There Are No Trees - Carla Coulson
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There is a garden even when there are no trees

paris, black and white, carla coulson, photography paris, winter in paris, black and white photography, carla coulson photography

Dear Folks,

On a bright sunny winter’s day, I landed back in Paris after an even bigger, brighter, barefoot couple of weeks in Australia still with my beach hair tucked into my hat.

Paris was showing off! All the winter sunshine coming at crazy angles, making every object, person and bare tree have exaggerated shadows and teasing the photographer in me as cafés, shops, and metro stations flashed by from the taxi window.

I was so grateful to have escaped the Parisian winter for a couple of weeks to Oz to see my family and friends and reconnect with my inner and outer Australian, yet today I was dazed and amazed to see Paris in winter in all of this light.

The following day, it felt like God had switched off the light, the way I remembered Paris in winter. Clouds descend and hover over the zinc roofs, the sun comes up at 9 am and goes down around 5 pm and those jet-lagged hours between 5 am and 9 am feel like the bleakest hours of your life as you wait for the first ray of light praying that the sun will rise just one more time.

paris, black and white, carla coulson, photography paris, winter in paris, black and white photography, carla coulson photography

paris, black and white, carla coulson, photography paris, winter in paris, black and white photography, carla coulson photography

Seasonal amnesia had hit again. I had forgotten what it felt like when the temperature is so low it is too cold to snow!!! That darkness that strikes at the very heart of my Australian light-loving spirit, the cold that makes you want to have hot baths twice a day and with a click of my fingers I forgot why I am here.

It was in this bleak jetlagged mood that I was given a gentle reminder by a Parisian friend about where to find the garden in Paris. We were talking about swimming in the sea and having a garden, about the beauty of plants, trees and flowers and how deeply I needed them in my life. He told me this:

“In Paris, our garden is our city, it’s streets, cafes, cinemas, and museums. We call it ‘l’art de vivre’ – taking advantage of the good things in life. It’s not the big luxuries, it’s also the small luxuries, life’s very own luxuries. Soft music, a cup of hot tea in your hands, admiring a beautiful painting, walking along a boulevard as the city comes alive or enjoying a little elegance. It’s about sitting in a café and reading your favourite book, watching life come and go, knowing no-one will ever hurry you along.

Just like you would go and spread a picnic rug on the grass on Sunday in Australia, we go and have lunch in a local café with friends and spend the afternoon in a museum, letting the art be our trees and the cinema be our swim in the ocean. We look inwards and use the winter to slow down, recharge, relax and reflect. We use our city and it’s details like a garden to soothe, regenerate and inspires us so that when the Spring comes your creative well is full, your energy is recharged and you can go forth into the real gardens and enjoy.”

paris, carla coulson, photography paris, winter in paris, carla coulson photography, flowers, paris streets, garden

paris, carla coulson, photography paris, winter in paris, carla coulson photography, flowers, paris streets

So wherever you are, there is a garden just waiting for you to walk through it, to smell the roses, listen to the music and gaze at its beauty. Like Paris in winter, it may be a garden of a different kind; you just need to be reminded how to find it.

Sending love and roses from this beautiful café where I am writing this after seeing a ‘flower filled’ exhibition.

Love and hugs,

Carla x


Related Post: Why Joy is like Spiritual Crack


  • Hi Carla, such a lovely post. It’s funny, I live in Australia but am getting drained by the long summer here that feels like it will never end – the relentless heat, the biting sun and the glaring light! I guess we always want the opposite season to what we’re living through. But reading your post has caused me to reevaluate a little – especially since there are of course, plenty of things to be thankful for here (even in this seemingly never-ending heat!).
    Wishing you plenty of lovely gardens to enjoy in the Parisian winter, in whatever form they take, xx.

    January 30, 2019 at 12:30 am
  • Arabella Williams

    What a lovely piece of writing!

    January 30, 2019 at 8:11 am
  • Wonderful blog post. Can so identify with this – even here in the south of France – or perhaps more, because we are too spoiled with sunshine. When it’s overcast and gloomy and cold and the world is grey, our spirits can become grey too. Love your words on this. My answer is hot soup!

    January 30, 2019 at 8:22 am
  • Ruth Görgens

    I cannot remember who quoted the following but it rings true in so many aspects; “God blessed us with memories so that we can have roses in winter and mothers forever”. I am a South African who was blessed to grow up on a large Karroo farm that had mountains and open plains. I am now blessed to be living along the West Coast just outside of Cape Town, somewhere with a wide open beach where race horses come for a treat and dogs run leash free. I know that feeling of open spaces, sunlight, night skies littered with stars, quietness and a feeling of freedom, no-one intruding on my little private space. I too lived in northern France for 3 years and absolutely fell in love with Paris which seems to be the total opposite of how I grew up and live today. But the cities and little villages of Europe stole my heart. As your friend so beautifully told you they have their own magic, their own garden. The “oldness”and magnificence of the architecture, the history, the artisans in each little village, their simple life, the fresh produce markets, the brocantes and those little boulangeries and boucheries are enough to make me stop and wonder if I had a previous life living in Europe 🙂 You cannot but help to enjoy each place you visit, to see the beauty in each place and store it in your memory bank, your own photo-album. I have tried to deal with those feelings of where would I be the happiest and it isn’t easy. All I know is that for a number of years I have been able to say quite emphatically that the Karroo (for me) is the only place on this earth that has a soul. It just draws me back and I am enveloped in a sense of peace when I am back home. Is it because that is where my roots are, where my very happy childhood memories are, where my sense of security comes from and yet I get drawn to places that are alive with history and almost a pace of business like in Paris or Cape Town. Somewhere where you can take a back seat and enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the world go by, want to “write stories” of the people passing by, almost a reminder that you are not alone in this world. I suppose it really is a reminder to us to enjoy each and every day, to store that memory for when we need it tomorrow when we find ourselves in a different place.

    January 30, 2019 at 9:04 am
  • Beautifully written Carla!! I shall bear this closely in mind as our gardens face terrible drought conditions in the middle of an overheated New Zealand summer.

    January 30, 2019 at 9:50 am
  • Angela Mamalis

    Not only am I inspired by your photos and now also by your beautiful words. Thank you for continuously sharing your endless gifts.

    January 30, 2019 at 10:30 am
  • Margaret Lotz

    Such a beautiful and wonderful read! Thank you!

    January 30, 2019 at 11:12 am
  • I suffer the opposite…when I return from Paris I miss the cafes and steet life and culture and lyrical language. Australian life seems so brash with the bright light and wide spaces and drawling accents in contrast. Then I walk on the beach and sit in my backyard forest and remember how priviledged it is to have both gardens in one life. The biggest garden is the one growing in your heart and you have a hugh heart that touches us all! Love this blog. Thank you Carla:)

    January 30, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Dear Carla,
    What beautifully evocative words your Parisian friend spoke.
    I absolutely love his l’art de vivre – thank you for sharing these wise words which I’m sure resonate with us all
    and remind us to slow down and see the beauty around us, even if you are freezing in beautiful Paris and we are
    sweltering – still! – in 38’C in Adelaide!
    Bisous xx

    January 30, 2019 at 12:01 pm
  • This is just lovely and the pictures capture the beauty of Paris. I would find a cafe and drink endless cafe creme. And then move on to champagne. xoxo

    January 30, 2019 at 1:34 pm
  • Kimberly Muller

    That’s beautiful and inspiring. Even though it’s 20 degrees outside and icy I am going to find my garden today.

    January 30, 2019 at 1:37 pm
  • Ann Scalici Rich

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder no matter what city you live in Winter. It is a challenge for me also! I would always choose Paris or Rome to find a winter garden in, but my Southern USA home has many treasures I can look for too. Tanti baci xx

    January 30, 2019 at 4:17 pm
  • Lori Perlman

    Your beautiful post brought to mind one of my favorite quotes, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
    And that makes me happy.
    For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
    ― Albert Camus, “The Stranger”
    Thank you, Carla , for your always inspiring posts, full of love and ‘life!’

    January 30, 2019 at 5:23 pm
  • Victoria Robinson

    Beautiful. We all need to be reminded of the small joys and pleasures of life. I’m in New Zealand like Adrienne, need to remember this as the garden turns dry and brown!

    January 30, 2019 at 9:36 pm
  • Stephanie Bryen

    Hi Carla,
    Welcome back! I’m reading this in rural Brittany and waiting for the sun to peek out – as it will. Jilly I’ll call you. Carla, this was such a beautiful post and I can’t believe this time in France I will not see much of Paris – it feels sinful! I’m back in Paris on Sunday – I’m hoping to have time to see a little bit between Montparnasse and the airport when I fly back to Sydney on Sunday evening. It’s been wonderful here – the sunshine has been great between bursts of rain. The light yesterday with the cloudscapes was spectacular, and the backdrop of the Valley of the Saints was perfect.
    Steph xx

    January 31, 2019 at 7:42 am
  • So true Carla and having only a petit balcon I have learned all yer round to get my garden fix beyond my walls. Every season has its beauty and as nature dictates we too need a time during the year where we rest more, do not much, reflect, regroup etc this is the WINTER of our life seasons. I cherish the hot teas by the fire, the catch up on book reading, the walks among fallen leaves all rugged up with crisp air on my skin. xx

    January 31, 2019 at 9:48 am
  • Maggie Ensor

    Beautiful words to be taken on board Carla. Keep warm and recharge those batteries! Xxx

    February 1, 2019 at 6:26 am