Garden. Two syllables. No difficult “ch” or “tz” sounding pronunciations. The guttural “ayin” is left entirely out of the mix. However, as a graduate student studying landscape architecture, I still find myself grappling with the word.
As a child, there was only one garden, the Garden of Eden. There were no difficult questions. The garden was paradise, the place where God took care of all of Adam and Eve’s needs. Then I learned that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. You can imagine the shock a first grader must have felt. If my parents threw me out of the house every time I disobeyed a direct order, I would have grown up on the street (thankfully, they were patient with me and I was only grounded a few times). Paradise was lost and I made a point of telling my parents and teachers how I felt.
Like most children though, I was only indignant while there was an adult around encouraging my theatrics. So eventually, I put the tragedy of it all behind me and moved on. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the plants, animals, and hidden wonders that I found in the overgrown corners of backyards, parks, and gardens.
This sense of wonder and surprise has stayed with me to this day. The experience of gardens – their light, smell, and texture has provided me a place of pause and reflection. As a professional designer, I am being taught to see and analyze gardens through a host of new lenses (new names, formal characteristics, history, and context). However, these lenses are still secondary to my experience of a particular place. Inevitably, I lose points on exams for this, but the fact remains that gardens (be they baroque, renaissance, picturesque, or otherwise) are phenomenal and sensory. They make you feel.
In an age of information and sensory overload the garden may be losing ground to the internet, smart phones, and ithings, but in this writer’s opinion the garden still holds sway and captures the imagination. No matter what you grapple with in your personal or professional life, I encourage you to hold on to those things that genuinely and deeply make you feel. There is no substitute for direct experience and I might argue (maybe in another post) that that is why the entire story of creation is set in a garden. So go out, experience the world, and remember how it makes you feel.