Why I Garden: The Sensual Garden

First Cicada Molt of 2007, photo taken May 27 in my backyard in Flatbush, Brooklyn
First Cicada Molt of 2007

I'm afraid I have nothing of my own to offer up here. I was struck by the intersection of recent posts from two seemingly unconnected bloggers in the communities of gardening and Brooklyn, from Garden Rant and Blather in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, from Garden Rant:
In the archaeological museum in Naples, I learned something else about how the ancient Romans gardened--with loads of erotic art. For over 200 years, one of the great embarrassments of the excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum--another ancient city in the Bay of Naples buried in ash at the same moment--were all the dirty things that were dug up.
- Sex in the Garden
And I just read today, from Blather in Brooklyn:
When the [Salon des Refusés] opened, Manet’s painting [Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass)] caused a public outcry. The critics were not offended by the nudity, but by the fact that the nudes had no supernatural or religious connotations; rather, they were shown as real people, modern, recognizable Parisians enjoying what appeared to be a bawdy, drunken picnic on the grass.
- Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe
Definitely visit both blogs to read the full posts.

Gardening in the nude would not present my neighbors with the sensual delights presented by Manet and the artists of Pompeii, so I shouldn't start now. Despite my modesty and discretion, nature and gardens have always been sensual experiences for me.

Biophilia is strong in me. Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses spoke to me like many others.

One of my earliest memories comes from outside a school playground. The maple tree there was surrounded by fallen leaves, crisp and brilliant. I stood among them, holding one particularly colorful leaf, examining it until a teacher broke my trance.

I have an earlier memory of sitting in the garden on the side of our first house. I pulled up almost all the baby carrots, grabbing their leaves and eating them right there, dirt and all. In my mind, the whole scene is illuminated by the filtered green light from the sun shining through the tomato plants towering over me.

I'm not always conscious of it, but when I garden, I engage and satiate all my senses. I garden to be surrounded by nature, to welcome it to me, to lose myself in it. The taste of Nasturiums, the movement and rustling of grasses, the shades of green in a single Hosta leaf, the perfume of rosemary, the songs of catbirds and cicadas. These ephemeral moments are why I garden.


Blackswamp_Girl said...

What a wonderful post, Xris. I have never examined this idea consciously, but after reading your post I had a bunch of moments and memories flood into my head. Here are just two:

Being so enthralled with the raspberries in my grandparents' patch that I found myself so deep I required assistance with my own extrication. The sun, the taste of the warmed berries, the scratchs of the brambles on my bare arms, my grandparents' laughing eyes as they helped bend branches and escape...

Being in the quiet, cool woods behind my parents' house in the spring. There were several vernal pools in that woods, and one in particular was my favorite place of all--it was bordered by an almost-triangle of thick old fallen tree trunks. I would sit there and smell the earthiness of the rotting trunks and just be... and eventually the little frogs would become used to my presence and begin to sing...

Steve said...

Thanks for your bird advice, Xris. I'm going to keep an ear out for peeping babies. It may just be an adult bird periodically visiting to catch bugs or something...anyway, I'll be sure to let everyone know if I solve the mystery.

Nice photo. I remember finding cicada skins like that on trees when I was a kid in Florida. Haven't seen one yet in Manhattan, though!

Hayden said...

Cicadas! I miss their incessant drone through still, warm days. Miss finding the empty cases and wondering what it feels like to escape your shell and unfurl your wings for the first time. No cicadas out here on the left coast. No lightening bugs, either.