Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Are A Garden That Serves Life, Not Ourselves

Gardens are one primary way to connect to the world, to lift the veil of our emotions, fears, desires, and hold a dialogue with the environment and species whose language we have forgotten or misplaced. Each garden places us firmly within the context of all life, awakens us to the web, encouragingly humbles us as we become aware of ourselves as a node in that interlinked web. When we touch the soil we touch our ancestors and our children, we know the heartbeats of worms, birds, insects, and mammals with each scrape of the nail and each cut of the skin. The taste of our own flesh is in soil. When we nestle a plant into a newly-dug hole we are reaching out to bees that will gather pollen and frogs that will take shelter in a rainstorm. A garden is our grasping for the world as much as it is a giving to the world – who are we, where have we been, where we will go; a garden is the moment, now, every emotion, every bit of knowing and unknowing coalescing into a timeless equality of mind, body, and spirit. In out best moments we are no less than a garden that serves life, not ourselves.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Are Gardens Impositions on Nature? Are They Art?

I'm really digging Pope Francis. Like this:

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.”

If creation is not a property, I wonder what that means for gardens and designed landscapes. How often we impose our will on the world around us, and how often that will is completely alienated from the world around us. Are gardens impositions on nature? I think a majority are. If gardens are art -- ideal art -- they would act as bridges between our emotional interpretation of nature and what nature inherently is without totally erasing and reworking nature. By "nature" I mean ecosystem function, but even the term "ecosystem function" can become a very slippery slope among ecologists, landscape architects, garden designers, biologists, etc.

I think we see ourselves mirrored back to us in garden landscapes -- and not much else mirrored back. This is too bad. For a long time gardens have been places to see the self only; luckily, that's slowly changing, but I don't know if it will keep changing or how meaningful that change will become. When Europeans hit the Great Plains they obliterated it, made it into the familiar and what they needed it to be. In a lot of ways our gardens are what we need them to be -- yet we don't fully understand that need, which is maybe more of a want. We also don't understand how providing for the needs of others fills our own needs we never knew existed (here I mean other species).

A garden is an echo of our beliefs. A garden is a test of faith, and endurance of hope, a battle of the senses, a voyage against the current. In Christianity Jesus went out into the wilderness to be tested by temptation, and unfortunately this is our protestant view of nature in the western world. Too often gardens and other planted landscapes are a beating back of wildness, a clearing of the forest and prairie to see further in case predators are coming, a place more utilitarian in physical and metaphysical ways than it is a nexus for all life -- and a place for us to re-enter or return to a more authentic connection to life. I wish every landscape I drove by made me want to sing the gift of creation, but I'm more often than not abhorred and alienated from the world. Sometimes, even my own garden feels like a misunderstanding between myself and creation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November Newsletter Goodness

Why fall is tops for planting, garden myth busting, corn doesn't feed the world, my appearance on The Mike Nowak Show, and some gorgeous fall pics await you in this month's Monarch Gardens newsletter.