Tuesday, June 29, 2010

6.29 Creative Services

How to describe the role of the gardener in the thing itself?
Today I spoke to an artist for a story. One of the things he likes to do, he said, is design landscapes and decks.
Landscapes and decks? What I heard was “gardens.”
My artist interview was an illustrator and furniture maker who considered himself both artist and artisan. He drew, painted, measured, built, designed, cut, hammered, finished – provided artistic solutions to customers’ problems – and did everything by hand.
He worked on his own property the same way, building a deck, a stone wall around the entire yard, a stone stairway down to the garden. It was just another way of making something beautiful.
I know that gardening – which to me means “caring for plants”; a definition I borrowed from an essayist and scholar whose book I read a few years back – feels like a creative activity to me. The feeling was strongest back when we were creating a garden, the assemblage of plants shining back there right now in the midsummer sun, out of almost nothing five years ago. We were creating a living work of art.
I do this, I remember feeling, because on top of all the other reasons practical and impractical I can adduce, it feels creative. I am painting, I thought, not in a medium but in living things.
I don’t do any two-dimensional art. I can’t draw (at least not well) and I don’t do or make anything beautiful special with my hands, except (on happy occasions) dinner. I’ve long been aware of a desire to paint, draw or in some visible fashion portray nature, though my only homages require the abstract medium of language. Thank god for digital photography, but photos (at least the way I take them) are still flat, and lived experiences, even ones as simple as walking in a garden, are alive in more dimensions than we can count.
Nothing “captures” being there. By definition.
So what is the gardener’s role in the creative process that results in the created landscape? Gardening, growing living things, obviously contributes to the created “there.” It’s there because we helped it to grow. We help make the world. We’re not “the creator” in the sense of prime mover – that’s nature, the life process. Life, the life force, forever indefinable, grows the plants. But we had a hand in the work. We put our fingers into the bowl, we kneaded the dough, we pounded the grain, we rolled the clay between our fingers – we planted, watered, dug the earth – we chose to put what where. That’s what creators do.
The artist I mentioned above told me he and his wife took a property that had nothing but some “rotting trees” and chicken wire in it and turned it into a showpiece landscape with a beautiful deck. It took about 10 years. You could never imagine back then, he said, what you see today.
I know what you mean, I told him.
Gardening, helping things grow, may be a creative outlet for me, but it’s also the most philosophical thing I do.

Window Scene

Butterfly alights
Purple lands open to thee
Monarch of the sky