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Creative Landscaping

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When we purchased our property and began landscaping, I was constantly struck with awe that David allowed and encouraged me to express myself to my heart’s content. My former husband considered himself the artist of the family, and as such, he took charge in all things pertaining to the design of our home (inside and out). My creativity was not considered much of an important contribution to our world since a more gifted “artist” was making decisions. This doesn’t mean he purposely thwarted my ability to have a voice in our life , and I don’t’ believe he ever intended to dismiss my input, but the dynamic of our relationship definitely put my need for self expression and exploring or developing my artistic gifts second string to his. So, my creative energy, needing a place to go, was channeled into choreography or writing or developing a business –the kinds of pursuits that would not interfere with his joy of creating, step on his toes or rob him of the pleasure of manifesting his vision(s). When you love someone, sacrifice comes naturally, and we make choices to support the object of our affection’s happiness, so my decision to defer to him in artistic areas was never resented nor did it seem unfair. His self-identity and feelings of worth were more wrapped up in being an artist than mine, so he was afforded the role of interior designer of our home, the landscaper, the gardener, the Christmas decorator, etc. I did the laundry and strived to drive the business to keep resources flowing forhim t do his thing. That is just the way it was.

Life is different for me with a new marriage dynamic . My husband, David, is a highly creative man as well, but his interests seem more directed to the mechanics and structural design of things. He harbors a deep appreciation for my creativity and as such, nurtures and encourages it. In the beginning, I felt I had to seek his approval for anything I wanted to do, least he take offense. I didn’t want him to resent me or undo my work, changing anything I put labor into to make it something more his ideal. But over and over, he’d look at me and smile, making clear that he didn’t need or want to impart his own opinion or tamper with my ideas. If I wanted to buy a plant for the garden, and I’d ask his opinion. He’d smile and say, “If you like it, buy it. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.” If I wanted to create a landscape stilllife, he’d simply say, “Gorgeous!”.

Suddenly, my creativity was free to go whatever direction it wanted to go. My only problem now was, if something I did came out stupid or ugly, I’d be the one having to take ownership of it. Ha, a new level of creative concern.

In time, with more and more leeway and never a repercussion to dampen my joy, I gained both the confidence and a sense of value of my own “visions” and creative landscaping is one of my greatest joys.

First, my attention was directed to creating the Chakra garden. The garden was a big investment, so it took both of us brainstorming to envision just what we wanted (and could afford). Creating the garden became a very poignant mutual effort for David and I, with him building the koi pond and using his engineering to figure out and build the basic design, lighting, pathways, sprinkler system, arbors, flowing waterfall, etc… but when the big picture structure was done, I was invited to enjoy putting personal touches around through detail work. I planted flowers, set up colorful pots, hung air plants and orchids, strategically placed crystals, statues, birdbaths, and made mosaic tiles to delineate chakra areas. David’s big role was done when the key components of the garden were in place, but my role has been never-ending. Nature evolves seasonally and as such, I am forever moving plants, added new elements, retiring others, and shifting the placement of décor when the growth of nearby plants changes the juxtaposition of the whole. I often sit out on one of our meditation benches, just letting my eyes wander to the grand scheme, and inevitably, I begin tinkering, moving a statue to the left, noting the need for a new succulent pot to fill a hole, and reaching for my tools to cut back or remove overgrown plants.

When the basic garden design was complete, I moved on to landscaping the areas around the yoga center. The primary project then became the bottle garden. I love stain glass for reasons I won’t get into here, and I’ve addressed the bottle garden before in this blog, so I don’t feel I need to go into too much detail, but the project began with my hanging dozens of colorful bottles from a big oak branch alongside the studio. The bottles had been collected over years from flea markets when I was making cordials, which I have since moved into clear bottles. I delighted in the way the sun lit up the glass hanging from the trees outside. So I added big bottles in the ferns underneath and a few other glass items. We recently put lights on the tree branch to make the bottles show up at night, but I kept saying I just wish the would illuminate more. Just last night, 18 months after our first bottle found a home out here, David put landscape lighting under concrete blocks holding up my bottles. The bottles now light up magnificently at night. I am thrilled! It is perfect.

I added mosaic tiles on the walkway alongside the bottle garden, and hand made grapevine wreaths and bird houses on the yoga studio to further decorate this space. I asked David if he could make me arches to add drama to the gateways. He did, and I planted passion flower vines that quickly covered everything to add gorgeous flavor. It is like entering the secret garden.This area too, will be a work in progress forevermore. I have plans to make a big glass yogi out of bottles to position out in the ferns behind this living art. Will be a challenge, but with David’s help, we can do it, I’m sure.

With bottles a part of our theme now we addressed a particularly ugly area in front of the yoga center. We removed leaning trees and tons of grapevine and weeds to create a clearing. And David then cut up the trunks of those fallen trees and with the help of my son, we created a short log wall that seems almost like another outdoor meditation altar . I tucked in ferns in the crevices and scattered lights about, and loaded this too up with bottles, clear ones this time.

There is more of course. The pond next to the house that David created, covered with blue bottles and plants in blue pots. Just this morning David and I were brainstorming ways to light these bottles as dramatically as those near the yoga center. The curtain arbor to keep cars from parking near the yoga center, a peace pole added by Soraya, my trusted teaching assistant, and a remarkable artist by her own right.

I am busy putting mosaic tiles on birdhouses to cover a fence behind the yoga center in a whimsical way this week.  There are dozens of other projects, gates and small building and more that David has built, too many to mention, and I wish I’d been blogging to share the joy of each project. Ah well.

So now, with living art all around us, we are turning our attention to another very special project. A labyrinth. We’ve been researching, brainstorming, envisioning…..

I’ll write about that next time. Such a dream project deserves a post of its own. The point is, life unfolds in small steps – just as a garden or a retreat center does. The beauty is in the small details, and the extra efforts we make to bypass “good enough” and create a world that is “uniquely special.”

Our lives, and the environment that surrounds us each and every day, deserves our willingness to go the extra mile.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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