Thursday, December 18, 2008

A garden is a place, not an object.

Years ago when I used to teach classes at the Dedham Community House this was one of the hardest ideas to teach because we were all sitting in a class room either looking at slides, books or playing with little pieces of tracing paper. But every now and then a student would bring in a picture (or series of pictures) which showed space, usually back yard space and I would doodle a little something on the trace over those pictures and their eyes would light up and they would understand and see the potential of how their space could become the outdoor room of their dreams.

Historically the word garden referred to a place outside, like your yard or a portion of your yard. But unfortunately we have all become so micro-focused that we have reduced ‘garden’ to a thing – like a perennial bed or a planting of annuals. It reminds me of a cell phone ad campaign ‘Micro Man’ (a few years ago) where the people are so focused on details they missed all the funny things happening around them. Until this miraculous phone shows them the big picture. It is the same in the garden, you need to step away from the things and take a wider view and see the space. Don’t focus on that one azalea that keeps dying or that one patch of grass under your Maple tree which is always brown, step back further and look at your whole garden – do you have a garden or has your yard been reduced to a thing?

You need to walk into a garden to experience it, like your living room, or wherever you go to enjoy a cup of coffee or read a book or play with your kids or whatever activity brings you joy. Then you have a garden. A three-dimensional space, which draws you out of your home and helps to reconnect you with the world outside your kitchen door. 

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