Friday, February 25, 2011

Landscape & Politics Rant

Linda Brazill & Mark Golbach, people I admire tremendously for many reasons, run the excellent blog:Each Little World. The topics they cover are pretty wide-ranging and include art, gardens, books, food, home-decoration, history,and their relationship around these. For the past week, they have been doing a fascinating, necessary and thoughtful job of covering the protests in Madison, WI: their home town. Many people who have never before commented have been doing so. One person wrote them and said she turns to their blog "for enjoyment and to get away from the conflict and stress bombarding me daily from television and radio these days. Please get back to home and garden topics."

This reminded me of an often-encountered fallacy I recognize in the landscape world. It is the idea that the garden is a stress-free place, free of politics. Well, I beg to differ. Our landscapes encompass everything about nature (not stress-free the last time I watched a National Geographic Special on Predators) and about how we humans relate to nature. I need not drone on about chemicals, class, race, water, health, food, property & labor rights and immigration to make my point.

My comment on Linda's & Mark's blog included a reference to Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, with its recently renovated landscape by the great O. C. Simonds who began to work there in 1883. I said I'd take them there to visit the grave of one of the Illinois Governors whom I admire as a hero (as opposed to Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker, partially funded by the Koch brothers and the reason for all the Madison protests). Altgeld was a champion of child-labor and workplace safety laws. If you haven't made a pilgrimage to John Peter Altgeld's grave in Graceland: Spring is around the corner!

The photo above shows the Guatemalan city of Quetzaltenango during my trip in July. My non-profit work in that country is reason enough never to doubt the connection between land and politics. They do call it "the political landscape," after all...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sustenance in Guatemala

Sunny Guatemala on my mind during these gray, late winter days...

WATER (in the form of one of the AFOPADI cisterns)


FOOD (Tamale of corn & black beans)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Life Imitates Art

Since both the lecture and class I gave/taught at Wicker Park Garden Club this week included the work and concepts of Piet Oudolf, his ideas are on my mind. Particularly his idea of using plants that look good dying. It embodies the idea of fully appreciating plants at different points in their life cycle. Piet also strives to use plants in community, increasing health & beauty.

I was reminded of the human equivalent of this today, when, after a Memorial Service, I realized that several of those I had attended in the past few years moved me much more than many of the other rites of passage we celebrate. Not only did today's service touch me deeply at the level of appreciating somebody who had touched many people profoundly, but as well, I was so impressed by how his community had come together to celebrate him and his life in all its complexity.

One special gift appeared in the form of the nephew whose wonderful Chicago band, J T and The Clouds, performed at his uncle's Memorial Service. You just missed them at Space in Evanston tonight before they head off to the UK. But you can find them now on Pandora or iTunes.

Above is a client's garden in Evanston last October. I hope it contains some of this attention to life lived deeply at many levels...NOTE: No Flowers, but plenty dynamic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blizzard Antidote #2: Hans Olsson

Why not be inspired by those who love winter weather? Like our Swedish friend, Hans Olsson, who skis Super-G. Not much more exciting than that...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blizzard Antidote: Red Rock Canyon

Lady Luck blessed me last Saturday...O'Hare was cleaned up enough after our blizzard for me to fly out to Vegas for an annual overnight visit to see our brilliant chiropractor, Dr. Timothy Francis.

Not just my body, but my soul too is always nurtured here. I never tire of hiking in Red Rock Canyon, no matter what time of year. Since my last visit, they've redone the interpretive center. It's very kid-friendly and has an extremely useful website with weather, geology, flora, fauna and Mojave Max, the desert tortoise. Not only was it an antidote to the snow still piled high in Chicago, but to the zombies at the slot machines as well...

I found the contrast between these two images useful in thinking about form, texture and perspective in landscape.