As you might imagine being the first graphic novel from Mind, Body and Spirit publisher, Liminal 11, The Garden welcomes readers into a tranquil storytelling experience which not only tells the story of a mindfulness journey, but also itself presents an opportunity for readers to engage in their own.
Writer Sean Michael Wilson tells the story of Joanna, who pushes herself too much at her day job until she finds herself in desperate need of a change of pace. Inspired by Japanese zen gardens, she decides to build her own in her run down, cluttered plot of land. This decision takes her on a bigger journey than you might imagine, made all the more impactful through Fumio Obata’s delicate watercolours.
Obata’s washes of subtle colours make the transition from panel to panel graceful and easy. With the focus on the general scope and feel of the illustrations, rather than on an abundance of little details, the flow across the page is relaxed and even. Obata has our main character transcend panel borders to showing her ability to expand her mind, whereas smaller panels are used to showcase prior feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.
Silent panels rely on the expressive nature of the character to reveal her changing emotions, encouraging the reader to engage with the mindfulness practice of being present in the moment even as they read: focussing on (or, as it is called in meditation ‘noting’) what they see instead of relying on too much narration. This means that the calming scenes in the garden, wordless and enchanting, allow for a greater emphasis on Obata’s beautiful illustrations and encourage further retrospection and empathy.
The Garden teaches us the restorative power of nurturing and creating something that was not there before, and the grounding effect this can have on a person’s wellbeing. This story is especially resonant in current times, with uncertainty appearing in all aspects of life. If you have a garden it will inspire you to nurture and reconnect to this space, and if you do not, it is an enjoyable, blissful escape for a little while.
Sean Michael Wilson (W), Fumio Obata (A) • Liminal 11, £12.99
Review by Rebecca Burke