Sunday, May 19, 2013

Walking the Created Landscape....

   There is something wonderful about walking and photographing in the "created" landscape.  In New England, we are blessed with many marvelous examples. I planned to visit two this month.  The first, which I visited yesterday, is the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, a horticultural masterpiece owned and maintained by Harvard University. Founded in 1872, it is the oldest public arboretum in North America.  It was designed by the world famous Frederick Law Olmsted, and it is the second link in the famed "Emerald Necklace" of Boston.  It is home to many rare and exotic trees from around the world but in May it is the more domestic and commonplace lilac that takes center stage.

    Lilacs are one of those simple rural flowering shrub that every farm wife planted next to their front door in New England in the 19th century.  I have some old examples at my 1851 farmhouse in Maine.  I went with a friend to enjoy a stroll through the 265 acres of the arboretum on a glorious Spring morning.  Every step brought another wonderful vista or a charming detail to explore.  The pure joy of walking through a landscape designed to elicit joy was very therapeutic.

  What insights can the contemplative photographer gain from walking in a created landscape...a place specifically designed to wrap visitors in a blanket of peace and tranquility?  Here, in the heart of a vibrant city which had suffered such a tragic event as the marathon bombings, was a place to gain solace in nature's ability to heal itself and emerge with fresh hope.  The lilacs, with their intoxicating fragrance seemed to be telling us, rest here for a while, all will be well in time.  Here, amongst the birdsong and sun dappled landscape, was a place  the founders created especially for city-sore souls to find peace.  It was the brilliance of Olmsted's design that has given generations of people a safe haven to escape to and this contemplative photographer never ending inspiration.  In the late 19th century people had awakened to the need to create these havens of created landscapes before urban sprawl removed every visage of nature from the map.  Olmsted was, in fact, America's first landscape architect.  He also gave New Yorkers their wonderful Central Park.

   In about ten days I will visit an entirely different created landscape, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, Maine.  It will be an interesting counterpoint, I think, to the Arnold Arboretum.

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