Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Garden Sanctuaries

A carefully tucked away garden sanctuary.
A mountaintop outcropping that offers a sort of spiritual experience, not just from the view but also from the journey to get there, the isolation, and the beauty of the rockery.

Winter is a time of contemplation and anticipation of the pleasures of the garden. The most profound book I know of for guidance for achieving the pleasures of the garden is not a garden book at all but one that defies adequate description in this brief format. It is A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, and was published in 1977. The book offers many axioms for planning a good living environment which often apply directly or indirectly to gardening (and thus my theme, lifestyle garden). In describing one axiom they say, We believe that every community, regardless of its particular faith, regardless of whether it even has a faith in any organized sense, needs some place where this feeling of slow, progressive access through gates to a holy center may be experienced. When such a place exists in a community, even if it is not associated with any particular religion, we believe that the feeling of holiness, in some form or other, will gradually come to life.... I extend this idea to the garden where I think every garden could benefit from a secret or special destination for repose and tranquility. The staging of the approach to and the siting of such a profound place can be an overriding theme of the entire garden. (At Kingwood Center, where I work, the swimming pool couldn't be accessed without going through a garden.) Illustrating such a place is a challenge because the all important approach is difficult to include.

My fiance's family has the good fortune of owning a naturally occurring "sacred" place which they protect and revere as sacred but probably never describe it to themselves that way. One family member even wants to have her ashes scattered there. (See my dog above.) Not everyone can have a mountaintop rock outcropping, but many people can create a special spot in their garden that can convey an emotional or even spiritual sensation like an intimate little sitting area as in the top picture above.

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