So once you suspend your disbelief, and get used to a shell tower rising 14 feet of the floor of the porch, framed by a ceiling of moss, what happens in that porch? This porch used to be an exterior quarry tile terrace; someone before me enclosed it. Thus I have an indoor downspout; what magic to hear that water rushing off the roof and down, inside. Cabinets of curiousity, or wonder-rooms, have for centuries housed antiquities, examples of natural history, works of art, and relics, keepsakes and mementos. Souvenirs, if you will. My shell tower was about to get a room full.
An old French wire garden table and chairs provide seating. A pastel self- portrait I did 30 years ago shares the wall space with specimens of butterflies, bugs and moths. Objects of meaning to me – as in, the clay bust I made of Julius Caesar in the third grade, letters from my Mom while I was in college, a collection of early twentieth century American fish plates-all the quirky things that have held my interest or been significant to me at one time or another, have a home together. The souvenirs of my life. Though the word souvenir now brings to mind postcards or paperweights from some tourist attraction, that was not always the case. The word souvenir, translated literally from the French, means “the act of remembering”, or “that which serves as a reminder”. There are times in my garden when the season or the light or the rain is just right such that memories will come strongly to mind.
This antique 19th century French orrery evokes some of my most treasured memories as a garden maker. An orrery is a model of the planets and moons, with the sun represented at the center. It was a birthday gift from a client whom I have had not just known 25 years, but with whom I’ve had a serious and significant relationship for that long. I have many memories of designing, working, interacting-even fighting with her, over her landscape and garden. Any one of many memories might pop up; this is an object with an aura, an atmosphere far beyond the solar system it represented in the 1830’s.
At the time of its making, only seven planets were known. Though it is a beautiful relic from a culture and time vastly different than mine, it is a reminder that one’s world is only as large as one sees to making it.
The sun, represented with a human face sporting a wry, quizzical , perhaps world weary expression, is as much a fine piece of art as it is some unknown person’s memory and concept of the natural world.
The face of the sun reminds me much of this face. I bought this watercolor mostly as it reminded me of my Mom-the scientist, the naturalist, the photographer, the gardener. She was at the center of my universe for a very long time, doing a great job of seeing that all my planets and moons continued to revolve as long as I needed that. Now I have an orrery that reminds me that I am able to keep revolving, and discovering in great part from the sponsorship of others. From them, I know as long as I am able to do, I should.
So as long as I am able, I will. This room is a record of that. On occasion I visit, so I remember this.