a lesson in sacred materials
I remember the day it began. It was a Saturday afternoon, the first weekend in May. I’d been working in the patio garden all morning. After a year of neglect, it needed work. I was tired and sore. I knew I needed help.
I put an ad on Craigslist for a garden artist, to help me reclaim my gardens. A basic knowledge of how things grow was required. I also wanted someone who could help create a special place. I hired two different young women, one a gardener, the other an artist. Both creative, in different ways.
We spent the summer creating the new gardens. The design was already in place. I’d been fine tuning it for years. It followed the lay of the land, allowing for the existing soil and clay, and the movement of the sun. Over the years I had been able to observe things, what was thriving, what was dying. We simply did a make-over. It was a part-time effort, all around. I spent an hour or two each day, thinking, tinkering, planning. Each weekend, a mini-project, plus 3-4 hrs per week from each of them, on different days, doing different things. We finished a few weeks ago.
After finishing the overhaul, I started thinking about the materials involved (as a plastics guy, I am always thinking about the proper use of materials). I was surprised at the variety.
Most gardens have plants and flowers and other things that grow, plus walkways, benches, perhaps other furniture. I like to incorporate sculpture in my gardens, including walls, built with rock and stone, or with re-claimed (and re-painted) concrete blocks, pieces of wood, stepping stones, garden tiles. I then add decorative items, garden ornaments, metal sculptures, driftwood, painted wood, custom painted flower pots, glazed pots, and other experiments with color and texture. The goal is to create a space that is welcoming and inviting, to nurture and cultivate growth.
The materials included soil and earth, but also stones and bricks and concrete. Plus wood of course, lots of wood, in the benches, in my workshop, in my barn, even in the handles of the tools I used. Metal is also used in places, in fittings and in tools, and in nails and screws that hold so many things together. There were also plastic materials used throughout the gardens: PVC pipe, PVC and rubber hoses, nylon brushes, and in various fittings and tools.
There were no sacred items in my gardens made from plastic.
By sacred I don’t mean something to be used in a religious worship, but as something to be revered and respected. Most of us have things that are sacred, whether it is a family heirloom, perhaps fine silverware or antique china, an old photograph. In my gardens I have several sacred items, some hand painted signs, a bronze scultpure, some aluminum wind chimes, even some old pieces of man-made things I call “industrial artifacts.” Many of these have been re-used and repainted over the years, and each piece has a special meaning.
What is about everyday things, that make us take them for granted? Is it because they are common, bland, and mundane? Or is it because they are cheap, and therefore worthless, so they should be ignored, and tossed aside.
What if we could shift our thinking and treat
materials themselves as something sacred?
We’d start treating materials with reverance and respect. Not just plastic, but all materials, steel, wood, concrete, paper, even dried mud. We’d probably have a healthier world, with a lot less trash.
BTW, the summer garden makeover – and all the assorted garden art projects – was a delightful way to recharge my design juices. And while I didn’t go visit some exotic place for vacation, I did get to dance every day, in the enchanted garden.