I went to the Denver Botanic Gardens last week, and amidst the flowers and the changing colors of the leaves, one piece of architecture in the PlantAsia section really stuck with me. The moon gate. 

There was a small sign outside of the entrance to it that encouraged me to pay attention to what was framed inside the circle. I took a moment to do that and then walked through. But then I turned around to look at the view of where I had been. This is the view I ended up taking a picture of.

It’s been over a week since I went to the Gardens, and I find myself still thinking about the moon gate. I did some light research and found that the moon gate is a traditional Chinese garden wall that gives special treatment to the entrance to the garden. Walking through the circular opening is meant to symbolize passing through into a new world.

And this garden was a new world, filled with beautiful colors and meticulous details in the gardening. And yet, I didn’t take a picture of it. Before I could even fully embrace what I had walked into, I felt the need to turn around and take a picture of where I had been.

In the garden of psychology, I often hear that letting go of the past is an important step to successfully moving towards the future. I hear that a present-moment focus, with eyes fixed forward tends to be the most beneficial. But while knowing all of this, I still find myself looking back at the metaphorical moon gates that I have walked through in my life.

This is where I have found it especially important to be self-aware about your reflections. If you, like me, are looking back at the moon gate, notice your thoughts:

Are you wishing you could go back? Would you change anything?

Or are you simply noticing where you have been, taking a moment to process that before moving forward?

Does looking back offer you a new perspective?

Here at DU, the end of the Fall quarter is rapidly approaching. I find myself looking through the moon gate already, reflecting on the garden on the other side. I want to use what I see to prepare myself for the next quarter. I’m also taking a moment to notice the trees, and the flowers, and the path from this perspective.

It’s still beautiful. Still a bit familiar. But yes, a bit different from over here.

I take a picture. I turn around, and keep moving forward.

– Sarah Hudak –