Gardens and Art


Big Clay Pot;CBG

Big Clay Pot

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As I’ve mentioned you some of you, my dad passed away about a month ago.  On Father’s Day, in fact.  He was a wonderful man who lived an enormous, interesting life, from serveying mountain peaks in Alaska to helping design hydro-electric plants in Bangladesh.  Wherever he traveled he made a point of learning local customs and language, and would relate to a person at whatever level they felt comfortable. I could go on and on, of course, as any of us could about our dads. I adored him and feel I’ve lost my moorings without him to talk to every couple of days.

My trips into my studio have been sporadic since he died, and I notice my interests have shifted.  I find I’m drawn to gardens more, and paintings of them. It turns out there is a rich history of artists in their gardens.  Not a serious subject, maybe. But then, I think there can be a useful message here. Many of my environmentalist friends espouse a wish that humans would go away. Some people hate nature, some people love nature and hate people.  Wouldn’t it be better to embrace both?  Since both exist, after all.

My dad would go into a proposed project with a series of questions.  What conditions exist?  What problems exist? How can a solution be found that maximizes benefit but causes least harm?  Well, granted, he worked on a number of dams in his day and we didn’t always see eye to eye on that.  But the point I took from his method was always to look to nature for solutions. For me, a garden can be an excellent model for getting along with nature.  Can you plant beautiful plants in with the food plants? This can keep soil in good tilth and break up pest problems. Can you contour the garden to maximize water where needed? Can you put in plants with big leaves in that area that always grows weeds, so you don’t need herbicide? These are some of the things gardening has taught me. I want to share them, because in the face of all the scary news of climate change, water shortage, (and contamination from chemicals), bee hive crashes, I think we need to find elegant, easy actions to take to help ourselves out of the mess we find ourselves in.

For some, the Garden of Eden was nature before people stumbled.  I’ve always felt it could be a paradise in which people worked with nature.  A beautiful, healing place.  What do you  think? Can we create that? That would be some art.

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39 thoughts on “Gardens and Art

  1. Such a lovely painting Melissa, it captures summer perfectly. I can feel the sunshine. You do your father honor. xo Johanna

  2. Thanks, Johanna! I’m always a little nervous about posting from my heart. I’m really glad you like my painting. xo

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss Melissa! I think you learned some very valuable lessons from your Dad.

    I love nature, and people can be annoying, but I wouldn’t want them to ever go away and be alone. I do love the company of others! I believe we can do it. Humans have done, and will continue to do amazing things.

    Your painting is lovely. I especially like the patina you created on the urn.
    I’d like to sit in this little corner of beauty, and peacefulness, and day-dream, read, and wait for visiting birds. I bet I would easily zone out to mindlessness a few minutes here too.

  4. So sorry for the loss of your dad, I well know that feeling of losing your moorings. It sounds like he was a very interesting and thoughtful man.

    I’ve been reading a wonderful book, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She gives so many examples of how our interactions (such as careful harvesting) with various plants, in gardens and in the wild, benefits them as much as it does us. I do think we can work with nature. We need to take the time to notice what works and share that knowledge instead of blundering our way through.

  5. Thank you, Melissa, and I wish you peace in your loss. It looks like your father practiced respect–for the needs of humanity as well as for the ultimage wisdom of nature. I think most of us would like to live that way, and things happen in life that distract and frustrate us in our efforts. So some of us give up, and the rest of us get really tired continuing to strive. I wonder where he got his energy and sustenance for this? How could we all live from this core value more? Best wishes in your ongoing art! 🙂

  6. Yes, Barbara, you are so right! I read that book too, and loved it. Here’s to sharing more and blundering less! 🙂

  7. Andrew says:

    How sad that you have lost your father, Melissa. I lost mine in 1986 and still miss him. A full life and a proud family is a great legacy. Your painting is beautiful as is your writing. Nature is always my refuge and I know it will bring you great comfort. I have been in my garden today and it has helped.

  8. Beautiful tribute for your dad. I agree with your thoughts and I look forward to your art as you take this important shift. Peace and prayers up for you, Melissa. Take care. 💛

  9. Gallivanta says:

    I would say that the Garden of Eden is when we can live in harmony with nature. It sounds as though your father did his best to maintain that harmony.

  10. My father died 14 years ago but I still often think about him. No doubt you’ll do the same with yours. That’s human nature.

  11. shoreacres says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, Melissa. My own dad died in 1981, and in some ways I miss him more now than ever. It’s a mystery, but true — the bonds we have with those we love aren’t severed by death. I feel as though I understand my dad more now than I ever did when he was alive, and I know there’s much in our new world that would delight him.

    Your painting brings back a wonderful memory. After my dad died, a dear friend gave me a glazed terra cotta pot shaped much like yours. She said, “You’re going to be overwhelmed with memories. Every time a good one comes along, write it down on a slip of paper, and put it in your urn. That way, you’ll always have those memories, and when you need a lift, you can pull out a memory, and enjoy it.”

    It was such good advice. After a time, I quit adding to the jar, but I still have those written-down memories. I hadn’t thought about them for a while, but your painting brought it all back.

  12. Oh my goodness, you’ve given me a wonderful gift with this. Thank you. It is odd how our bond, if anything, feels stronger when a loved one dies.

  13. myrsbytes says:

    Thanks Melissa :-). Beautiful painting and words. I appreciate that you always look for the beauty in the world though you are sensitive to all its presentations. I am glad to hear you had a close relationship with your dad. It looks like you already own a terracotta pot to put your memories in :-). It seems that when loved ones leave our lives, they still continue to impact it. New situations remind us of them and perhaps give us new insight into these memories; so in a way, the relationship continues to exist and change.

    I am so glad you are finding solace in your garden. You are right; a beautiful garden is a wonderful example of harmony between many, many living creatures. Gardens are human creations, examples of humans working with nature. I recently read that there is such a thing as hedgehog gardens in England, to attract wild hedgehogs to one’s garden. How neat is that! It always amazes me how much gardens change from week to week; after two months, they become almost entirely different places.

    • Thank you!
      Before my Dad died, I thought the relationship would end when he did. I’ve been surprised to discover that it does continue to exist and evolve. It is so cool to hear you say this too. And yes, I am also amazed at how a garden can be an entirely different place in August from what it was in May. So cool. Wouldn’t it be fun to have hedgehogs?? 🙂

      • myrsbytes says:

        It would be fun to see one going about its business. I pet one for the first time this summer. A young lady was playing with her pet hedgehog on her front lawn. Very cool texture. But I would rather it be wild.

  14. It is a sad irony that your Dad passed away on
    father’s Day of all days. But you have already embarked in a life of fine memories of him and your relationship together. And, no, even when it is obvious that the time is coming, once it gets here it still fills us with sadness and loss. Slowly the sadness will dissipate into just the memories and lots of smiles at the thought of this or that small thing.

    We both enjoy little intimate snippets of nature…whether in the wild or the garden…and this is a lovely little scene that you have rendered so well, Melissa. As well, I still remember your “Garden Gate’ as a lovely work too.

  15. Jane says:

    So sorry to hear of your beloved father’s passing. He sounds like he was a very interesting, intelligent and passionate person. While I did not have a close relationship with my father for many reasons I share his love of nature and I am thankful to have that. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts, Melissa. Don’t be afraid to do so. Sending you caring thoughts and warm virtual hugs as you journey through the process of grief and remember your time spent with your father.

    On the subject of humans and nature, I feel we are a part of this beautiful natural world and a future needs to incorporate humans. Despite the greed and other evils, humanity is also beautiful. We just have to focus on ways to live more at harmony with the natural world – something that has been done by many indigenous cultures.

  16. Lottie Nevin says:

    Your painting is beautiful and I’m sure your father would be very proud to know that you are continuing with your creative endeavours during this difficult and sad time. When my mother died, I found great comfort in books. I’ve just finished The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift. Take a peek of it on Amazon and see what you think. It’s not only about the creation of a garden but about life and its cycles. Its beautifully written, and studded throughout with charming lino-cuts. I hope that you might get as much joy and comfort from reading it as I did.

  17. I’m just seeing this one – I’m so sorry for your loss! I’m glad you have good memories of your father.

  18. Grief well and gardening is indeed a place to be mindful and quiet and escape the chaotic world and slowly we create a new earth, right here in which to live together lovingly… Take care Barbara

  19. Gardens fill you with peace and rest, doesn’t it. As Barbara says, it’s a quiet escape. Your garden painting is beautiful.

  20. Thank you so much, Otto. You are right, gardens are a welcome oasis.

  21. bluebrightly says:

    A wonderful post, Melissa. You learned well from your father. You carry on his philosophy, in your own arena. And your wisdom shows.

  22. So sorry about your Dad Melissa. I hope you continue to find comfort in your art, your writings, and the piece of him that it sounds like you carry with you. ~Rita

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