Life in the desert

February 27th, 2013 | No Comments »

This week I’d planned to post the third and final piece about In Transit / En Route, the art installation I created in the woods at Glen Villa. I will post it, but not today. Instead, I need to write about where I am today, which is California. Visiting friends in Palm Desert, I find myself overwhelmed by an unfamiliar landscape, vegetation I can’t name, and questions I can’t answer.

Is life in the desert this?

A golf community in Palm Desert: a manicured course, green greens and water everywhere
Or this?
Joshua trees in the Mojave desert

An obvious answer is, both. Plus many more things that don’t offer as stark a contrast.

I’m finding it hard to get my head around life in this part of the world. The dry spareness of an untouched desert landscape appeals to me, as does lounging by the pool. Gardens that use only dry-climate plants are a challenge. I want to like them but in truth I find them prickly and a bit off-putting. Is it only because they are so unfamiliar? They certainly make me understand the underpinnings of Islamic gardens. And it isn’t even hot here now.

In the garden at Sunnylands, formerly the home of the immensely wealthy Walter and Leonora Annenberg and now a public garden, the cacti are beginning to flower. I’m told that the whole desert blooms after a rainfall. I haven’t seen that — the sky has been the shade of cloudless blue you find only in technicolour films from the 50s. Who knew it could be real?

It’s easy to criticize the irrigation systems that make golf course life possible, yet easier still to enjoy the benefits.

The local economy seems to depend on tourists and the visitors who buy the houses and spend the cooler months here, away from snow and slush farther north.

I’d like to understand the balance. I’d like to think there is one. But I’m not sure what it is.

A natural balancing act

In Transit / En Route: part 2

February 20th, 2013 | No Comments »
The In Transit / En Route trail starts at the edge of a field. with a sign that asks a rather odd question. Where are you? Où êtes-vous? As I wrote in my previous post (In Transit / En Route: the beginning), the words aren't easy to read. The letters are small and the words run together with no breaks. Once someone figures out the question, though, it usually makes them laugh. They make a joke, another person responds, and they laugh as they come up with different answers to this question that


In Transit / En Route: the beginning

February 13th, 2013 | No Comments »
In my post last week I mentioned In Transit / En Route and showed a photo of a clearing in the woods. Here's the photo again.                          In Transit/En Route: the sundial clearing in the woods   Do you see the red sign in the clearing? It is part of In Transit, or En Route in French, an installation I created in 2011. In Transit / En Route is not an installation you can see at a single glance. You have to take time to walk a trail that stretches about a kilometre through the woods. And you have to


Art in the Woods

February 6th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
People respond differently to the woods that are a big part of the landscape at Glen Villa It's hard to miss the difference. Some hike through the forest intent on getting someplace, noticing very little.  Others spy things I’ve never seen. The art installations I'm creating throughout the property generate widely different reactions. For some people, the installations are intrusive. Some find them intriguing, some are left indifferent. Only occasionally does someone responds strongly and immediately, finding the signs, words and thoughts as meaningful as I do. In Transit/En Route: the


A Path to The Egg

February 3rd, 2013 | No Comments »
Glen Villa is about the land and the people who have lived on it, me and my family and the generations that preceded us. It’s about the emotions that plants and objects arranged artfully can evoke in those who take the time to really look at what is around them. It’s about the land beyond the garden itself: the woods and the paths we’ve created that have become as familiar as my face in the mirror. A path in the woods, near the big mossy rock I love sharing these