You were all proud of yourself when this tomato plant that you grew from seed actually produced fruit. Hurrah! So what if it’s only one tomato and the plant is completely disfigured! You did it!
Man, I bet even P. Allen Smith would be proud!!!
Yesterday the Library of Congress announced Natasha Tretheway, a Pulitzer-prize winner and professor at Emory University, as the new poet laureate. I’m not familiar with her writing, but I like that she is from the South and that she is very young for a poet laureate. I will check out her poems soon.
Meanwhile, I wanted to share this quote from the outgoing poet laureate, W.S. Merwin. I have loved Merwin’s poetry since I stumbled upon it in college, but I had no idea that he lived in Hawaii and is totally into gardening. Apparently, he lives on a former pineapple plantation in Maui, and has made it his mission to plant scores of endangered palms on his land. What a cool guy.
This quote comes from his 1997 essay entitled “The Shape of Water” :
“Obviously the garden is not a wilderness but an assembly of shapes, most of them living, that owes some sense of its composition, its appearance, to human design and effort, human conventions and convenience, and the human pursuit of that elusive, indefinable harmony that we call beauty. It has a life of its own, an intricate, willful, secret life, as any gardener knows. It is only the humans in it who think of it as a garden. But a garden is a relation, which is one of the countless reasons why it is never finished.”
I also like that Merwin acknowledges that “the natural world is what is right in front of you. You don’t have to go to national parks or something, just look in your backyard and you’ll find plants and bugs.”
I think Ms. Tretheway has some big, dirt-encrusted shoes to fill.
Enjoy these amusing botanical images from Christoph Niemann’s wonderful book Abstract City. Niemann is an award-winning designer and illustrator, and this book is a compilation of creative little sketches/visuals accompanied by Niemann’s commentary, which is often hilarious. This guy has a delightful imagination and a totally off-beat way of seeing the world. I’d love to wander into his mind for awhile, spread out a picnic blanket, and just hang out and observe what goes on.
Albrecht Durer’s “The Large Piece of Turf” features a chunk of soil and weeds that could just as easily have been dug up from the vacant lot down the street from me (here in 2012) as from the German meadow that likely inspired Durer hundreds of years ago.
“Human place in nature” is a topic I’m semi-obsessed with right now, and though it seems sorta esoteric, I think the issue has huge implications for gardeners and designers.
Here’s what got me all stirred up this time.
I just finished showing the 2005 film Grizzly Man to my English classes as part of a unit on documentary film. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s the story of the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, a self-proclaimed “kind warrior” who lived with the Grizzly bears in Katmai, Alaska for 13 summers in order to study and protect them.
Although Treadwell had a genuine love for animals and appeared to have better relationships with the bears than with other humans, he was actually killed and eaten by a Grizzly in October 2003.
Treadwell’s violent and somewhat ironic death is part of what makes the film fascinating, as is the question of whether he was a courageous hero or a lunatic narcissist. But as I was watching the film with my classes this week, I was more intrigued by something else.
The director of the film, Werner Herzog, clearly felt that Treadwell was — if not a lunatic — at least a misguided idealist. Though he might have had some sympathy for Treadwell, Herzog did not share the “kind warrior’s” warm fuzzy feelings about the natural world. In his narration of the film, Herzog makes some bone-chilling statements about nature — statements that are in direct opposition to Timothy Treadwell’s romantic view of wilderness. After a segment of the film in which a male grizzly kills a cub, Herzog reflects:
“I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.”
When Treadwell looked into the eyes of a Grizzly, he saw a kindred spirit, a friend, a brother. Herzog saw no such thing, just “the overwhelming indifference of nature.”
Thanks so much to all who commented on my last post, regarding the question of whether gardens and designed landscapes belong in the world of “art.” Opinions were varied, with some suggesting that, “of course garden design is an art, you fool!” and others saying that they didn’t much care what sorts of labels were assigned to the practice of garden design, romping around in the world of semantics is for suckers, man.
But what came through loud and clear is the passion that so many of you have for the art (or craft if you prefer) of garden-making.
Before I move on from the issue, though, I want to throw a related question out there:
Should there be more serious criticism of landscapes and gardens?
Wish I could take credit for this one. Julia Kriz — designer at Landscape Projects, Inc. in Bethesda , MD, and a former classmate of mine at GW — created this nifty visual to illustrate how Landscape Designers are perceived by others: