Listening to Winter

January 30th, 2019 | 8 Comments »

On a winter day when temperatures throughout Mid and Eastern North America are plummetting, it is difficult not to project human emotions onto the landscape.  How can winter be so cruel and miserable?

A poem by the American poet Wallace Stevens suggests we should think more objectively about what we see outside our door.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

To have “a mind of winter” requires an objectivity that escapes me. At one and the same time I see beauty in “junipers shagged with ice” and hear “misery in the sound of the wind.”

At Glen Villa, inverted tree branches walk across the land like the original inhabitants, the Abenaki. At the base of the hill, the walkers encounter a split rail fence and become entangled in barbed wire.

 

The Abenaki were the original inhabitants of the Eastern Townships of Quebec. This part of my installation, Abenaki Walking, shows the period after the arrival of Europeans, when barbed wire impeded the movement of Abenaki across the land.
This part of my installation, Abenaki Walking, shows the period after the arrival of Europeans, when barbed wire impeded the movement of Abenaki across the land.

 

I can’t be the snow man. Listening in the snow, I  see beauty in the barbed wire encrusted with ice, and that beauty makes more real the cruelty implicit in the scene. I see something that is not there, and the something that is.

 

 

Haseley Court and Making History Visible

January 22nd, 2019 | 4 Comments »
The topiary chess set at Haseley Court was one of many things I admired there.
My last blog post, about making history visible and listening to the land, struck a chord.  Many readers responded via the Site and Insight web page or commented on Facebook and on the blog itself, saying they were touched by the piece. Several described how experiences in their pasts affected their responses today, both to their own garden and to gardens they visited. I know that is true for me. I grew up in Virginia, in a house with a big back yard where I could hide under bushes and pretend to be an explorer

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Making History Visible

January 16th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
Glacial erratics form part of the waterfall at Glen Villa. T
Making history visible on the land is the concept that guides the projects I undertake at Glen Villa, my landscape and garden in Quebec. Recognizing and honouring what happened on the land before I came onto the scene is my way of hearing the voices of the past. It's my way of listening to what the land has to say. The land speaks in different voices from different times. Glacial erratics talk about the ice age. [caption id="attachment_7240" align="aligncenter" width="3271"] Glacial erratics form part of the waterfall at Glen Villa.[/caption]   A wolf tree standing among younger oaks

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Houghton Hall: A Garden Review

January 6th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
Add something about building
England has many fine gardens. Houghton Hall in Norfolk is one of the finest, offering a stimulating combination of horticulture, contemporary art and history that is far too much to absorb in a single visit. The most popular part of the garden is the five acre Walled Garden. Divided into contrasting areas, the Walled Garden contains a double-sided herbaceous border, an Italian garden, a formal rose parterre, fruit and vegetable gardens, a glasshouse, a rustic temple, antique statues, fountains and contemporary sculptures. With so many aspects, the area could feel muddled or over-crowded,

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