Archive for February, 2013

i am here

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

When appreciating the quality of a place we are often not alone. Walk a few steps and usually you will find some kind of shrine nearby. Nestled in some rocks, hidden in a tree trunk, off to the side of a waterfall. Maybe it’s a gathering of figurines, gems, flowers, a stash of little gifts that say to you, and this place here, you are treasured.¬† It says this place is hollowed, this place is sacred, observe and be reverent and you will be rewarded. I suppose we don’t need the treasures to tell us this, we already feel it, and yet we still feel inclined to make an offering. This might be the urge from which sculpture first arose, a karn on the side of the road marking a spot that in time becomes something much more. It seems a far cry from a Alexander Calder or a Noguchi which may occupy or even over take a spot, and yet they are of the same family. As a girl I remember tramping about the woods to come across shrines and being truthfully frightened. The forest felt deep even impenetrable and here were signs of life that seemed to exclude me if not purposefully at least practically. There was a very dangerous edge I could feel – not unlike like the edge of a knife – treading on somethings meaning. Even ordinarily gentle objects like a doll could take on a new character or disguise depending only on which side of the circle you stand.

Having built some of my own shrines now the weird vacum of such places seems to have lifted. I see a shrine like this and I know that someone else cares as much as I do about the spot. The old religions know something about who we are in this regard, you can see it and feel it in the high desert country of a place like Mexico or perhaps also in Nepal, where resting stops and shrines are near the path. There’s a language of walking in these places that accommodates a hand held out to touch a stone.¬† Taking note of the spot in your mind and body and then moving on. This orienting of self to place, of soul to place is more difficult in a car. We have to strive to be more like the machine than ourselves – keeping our eyes on the road – in order that it function smoothly. We make our language about ourselves also to be about our cars. And yet there is some disconnect, my body is more like a tree than a machine. The veins, the nervous system, the reproductive organs, the pollination… “Filling¬† up my tank” doesn’t quite convey all the subtle needs that are experienced when I sit and have lunch with friends. A car certainly doesn’t need a glass of wine, or does it? On a fine walk home I contemplate whether alcoholism might not have been singled out as an issue unless cars had entered the picture. They really have changed so many facets of our life in this way.

Therefore gardening today has a whole new set of problems than it did only a century ago. It is often the one opportunity in a hectic life of running to and fro to not be a stranger to ourselves, and rather signal “I am here”.


discovery park

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Several years ago someone tempted me into going for a walk in Discovery Park and I eventually found myself drawn off the beaten path. An extensive park so close to the city it is surprising that you find areas that are quite uninhabited like this spot here. What was once the domiciles for army men and their families, the homes had long been removed and the cul-de-sac road slowly over grown. I fell for the spot immediately. There was a kind of echo of the past in the landscape that played upon the senses. Strangely you didn’t miss the houses entirely… the view was somehow more grand with the gentle nod to hedges and topiary, the wild seeding of achillea, dandelion, and long grasses, and the warm sun on the back. A sort of memory gone to seed… wild mixing with the cultivated hybrids of past gardens.

This park is a place with unexpected history. You find all sorts of buildings that suggest a past out of context in a lazy ramble about the hill side. You turn a corner and find a lighthouse on the beach swept up on a spit of sand, army barracks and a water tower as you crest the first of several hills in a row, or a small church hidden in the crease here between body and arm of earth on your way back down. Sometimes a walk through history is just what you didn’t know you needed. Just writing this makes me think it’s about time I make it over there again. I salivate a tiny bit at the thought. Do they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away? It should be a ramble… In fact “A RAMBLE A DAY” could be the prescription on a bottle of pills sans the pills, spelled out in caps – “TO BE TAKEN WITH MEALS” and kept in the bathroom as a choice reminder. Or maybe a picnic basket by the front door full of wine glasses, napkins, and a small piece of paper with the name of your favorite park written upon it in cursive.

Ah… to have a picnic basket packed and ready to go, if only! A walk of this sort requires provisions, no sense in not having all the delights of life there at you side. Short walks are good too, and little jaunts out and back between this or that – it’s just that this park is the size that begs for discovery and the time to do so. If you go a little deeper in you may find yourself ambling down the road to the United Indians Center as I did on my last visit. A little parcel of land with a big heart, that reminds me of what several dedicated activists can accomplish if their timing is right. Here you can see the path through the trees, native plants make themselves visible from the masses in pools of light, this one is medicinal, that one stings if picked clumsily, yet another over there is wonderful for flower arrangements. A park this size contains whole sweeps and transitions of ecological niches. Perhaps it is also special because it has large areas that are still open to sunlight where perennials and flowering shrubs can add color to our pallet. “Take only pictures’ leave only footprints” comes to mind as I want to reach out and pick. And yet it seems that there might be some middle ground here where stewardship and economy could hold hands. I ponder the huge blackberry canes – with no great self interest – at the very least they could use a nip by some unnamed avid pie baker.

So an already colorful history almost begs for new levels of expression upon the landscape… Opps! A painting by Delauney, how impertinent of me. Orphist or Cubist?. It does defy catagorization. I’m charmed by it’s eccentric personality.

And look at these funny body pillows on of the land… You could almost curl up in one of their dreamy smiles. When I got back again last year to the cul-de-sac of wild flowers it had been re-landscaped in a vision of the sustainable. All the roads and most of the topiary had been removed. Wrapped swales like these made of jute and hay had been placed to slow erosion on slopes. Sun shy little cedars were turning golden in the wide open. As you can see below only one or two of the original trees was remaining. Not that this bothered me or anything… after I made several turns around the property and murmured how “Wasn’t the landscape always changing?!” I’m sure I sounded oh so very sage… This little parcel that had become my ticket to memory lane was now finding its own story. Rather than being a memorial gently rendered in a sketch book of someones mind the place was now on its way somewhere. With time I’ve accepted that I am often more enchanted by possibilities than actualities, and yet in my favorite gardens this is not the case. In these one continues to be delighted by their many facets and angles of approach, they are sources of inspiration seemingly without any end.