A practical art

Whatever art I bring to landscaping comes from an my evolving experience of nature.
I used to sketch. I would look at a maple leaf for instance, and sketch it on paper as carefully as I could, taking note of the patterns of light and dark and how the margins stood out against the background. After sketching and observing many maple leaves, I could draw one out of memory.
But it wasn’t one specific memory. What lived in me was not one of the many versions I had sketched, it was an ideal maple leaf I never did find out there. I came to realize that this ideal leaf lived only in me. I could only find by exploring my own inner world.
But did it live only in me? Going back to my search for the ideal maple leaf to sketch, I soon began to see every variation of the ideal I had in my mind. The leaf image in my mind seemed to gain a certain mobility, unlike the static leaves outside. By mobility, I mean the idea was no longer a finished, stylized maple leaf like the one you find on the Canadian Flag. It had life.
At some point, this living ideal leaf in my minds eye became something I saw behind every leaf that I picked to sketch. What came to mind was what I’ve heard many times before from people who are trying to lose a lot of weight. They say that they don’t feel like themselves. That they need to shed some weight to feel like their body really belongs to them. They are living inside a blubbery shell. If they could just shed this shell, they would be free. I began to see that every leaf was struggling to become itself against the rough and tumble of life in nature. Its “self” was the same living ideal I beheld in my mind behind every maple I saw with my eyes. What lived as their ideal, lived as my ideal. Their essence lived also in me. I, too was struggling to manifest it more perfectly, first in my mind and secondly, in my art.
As my landscaping has evolved, I have used my living mental image of what is natural as my design guide just as I have used my knowledge of natural processes to guide my organic practices. It is necessary to have an experience of nature that actually comes alive in your soul in order to draw from it in your art, your gardening, your landscaping.
This is the conscious experience of something sacred, of which one of my favorite authors, Emerson, speaks: “The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.”
Emerson also recognized that all the members of the household of nature struggle relatively unconsciously in their myriad attempts to manifest perfection, where as we, as human beings, struggle for the consciousness to do the same. “The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches.”
I could go on to what Spinoza, Goethe, Whitman or Steiner say about these things. But, I really had to do the work myself to fine tune my own experience of nature. Listening to my experiences or their philosophies will not bring them alive for you. You have to do the outer work of observing the details, and the inner work of developing the images. I can only give you my concept. You have to get the idea. It is your art.

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