Welcome Autumn

by: EJ on 09/27/2017

Benjamin Vogt, author of the recently released A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future, loves autumn.  This beautiful passage from Chapter 1, "A New Garden Ethic" describes what he thinks is best about autumn and explains what he means by a new garden ethic.

Fall Main Garden (2)

It’s autumn I always crave, suffering through the torment of a slow spring, and then the sugary exuberance of bloom after bloom in the unending summer heat laden with mosquitoes and leaf blowers. Autumn is cold mornings frosting the leaves, warm afternoons fueling the wildlife, cool evenings sprinkled with distant smoke that sticks to my sweater for days. Autumn is the call of snow geese migrating far above; fresh swallowtails rising from dark places to lay one more brood of eggs; and then, eventually, a growing  absence. I think it’s the absence I love most about nature—the way clouds and foxes and bees are given definition simply by passing through a wide-open moment. It’s the idea of negative space, I suppose, that the empty space or absence around an object lends profound meaning to that object. In drawing and painting, an artist makes the shadows first to create trees or stones, and perhaps this is what life is—shadows and voids creating what we interpret as feeling and nature, the real stuff we hold on to. It’s not the ironweed or the bee that gives meaning, it’s their having been in a moment then suddenly gone in the next. In autumn, and then in winter, the absence is so profound you can hear snowflakes hitting the ground, little paper jewels like a slow tide coming in.

While it’s our presence in the form of gardens that brings nature to our urban lives, it’s the wake or echo of our beliefs that lingers and reverberates the longest. The choices we make and the rules or feelings we live by create our gardens as much as the plants that inhabit them. In essence, our values are the negative space that gives landscapes their cultural definition, and in turn, guide our social and environmental principles. What we honor now in our landscapes is what will give life to future generations of humans, plants, and animals....

Monarch Fall

It’s time to rethink beauty, to reimagine our gardens and urban landscapes as we move into an uncertain future. Our gardens matter not because they can literally save species, but because they are a call to action to be more than we let ourselves be. Gardens are living testaments to our wonder and joy, our part of the larger world and participation with all life. Gardens matter because they bring birds and butterflies closer to us, they help release endorphins that make us feel happy, awaken dormant connections in our neurons, maybe even spur empathy as we learn again to care selflessly for other species simply because it’s the right or ethical thing to do. Gardens matter because they call us to act on issues of social justice, bringing nature and opportunity to those humans and other species who are marginalized by our culture. Gardens move us out from ourselves into a community of selves that depend upon and celebrate one another....

In the spirit of an evolved landscape community, here is a new garden ethic for this century.

Your garden is a protest. It is a place of defiant compassion. It is a space to help sustain wildlife and ecosystem function while providing an aesthetic response that moves you. For you, beauty isn’t just petal deep, but goes down into the soil, farther down into the aquifer, and back up into the air and for miles around on the backs and legs of insects. You don’t have to see soil microbes in action, birds eating seeds, butterflies laying eggs, ants farming aphids— just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you. It’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically. Your garden is a protest for all the ways in which we deny our life by denying other lives. Plant some natives. Be defiantly compassionate.






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