I find anyone's passion about anything fascinating and intriguing. I noticed this years ago when I called on a friend and found only her partner at home. He was a lawn bowls fanatic, and when he embarked on the subject I heaved a resigned inner sigh. However the next half hour was riveting, as he shared his passion: the physics, the physicality, the finesse.

On Sunday, I encountered another passion at a family barbecue on Tamborine. S is my daughter-in-law's sister and her passion is miniature gardens. The house is filled with them, all so different from each other. People are tempted to fiddle with what she's made, which irritates her a lot, so she provides a small fiddle-garden with exquisite pebbles, sand and a tiny rake, so visitors can have fun without spoiling her works.

The back verandah is her work room and is a jumble of pebbles, branches, plants, containers, mosses. She collects from creeks, garage sales and op shops, and recruits family members to keep their eyes open too. She told me that hours can disappear as she imagines and creates. The miniature is becoming larger as she moves into the front garden, the stairs leading to the house and along the outside of the front fence. One feature in the front yard is the curl and curve of tree roots with the dirt scraped away. In the late afternoon sun, the stair garden is striped with bars of light from a bamboo screen, and plant shadows are sharp on the corrugated iron behind the letterbox.

Her husband mightn't quite understand, as he told me, but he crafted her a wooden bridge, and said I was stealing the garden's soul by photographing it.


Miniature gardens in the house






If the urge to fiddle with pebbles becomes too strong, S has provided a garden for you to play with, complete with miniature rake.