Sunday Opinion: Apple-icious

I will admit to more than a little long standing prejudice against Apple.  Years ago, I tried diligently to get Rob interested in the computer.  How about a PC, I asked.  Unlike my project specific large slotted screwdriver, or my trowel, a computer enables a person to engage in a universe of activities only limited by one’s ability to ask questions or research.  I really felt he needed to make use of that technology.  Nonetheless, every effort at persuading him to learn to use a computer fell on deaf ears, until he visited the Apple store.  A conversion took place.  He let me know soon after that he would learn to use a computer, provided I would provide him with a Mac.  It is no mystery why the Mac appealed to him.  Every aspect of its physical design and built-in functionality is spare and simple-gorgeous. How like him to want a computer that not only worked beautifully, but whose visual story, history, and technical achievement engaged and enchanted him.  It exasperated me that my offer to set him up with a computer came with a highly qualified yes.  What could possibly be so wonderful about this particular computer, beyond its obvious good looks?  

I should preface any further remarks with my own story about coming to terms with the computer.  I barely knew Buck-he was the architect and project manager for a new house for which I did the landscape design in 2004.  He sent an email to the office over the holidays about an interest in an antique English fountain for the above mentioned project.  My assistant was off for the holidays.  Necessity pushed my invention. I opened a beer, and started tinkering with Monica’s computer. I was alarmed the entire time that I would break something.  After all, I barely knew how to turn the thing on.  I sent Buck an email with lots of information regarding that antique fountain.  The back story?  I typed his email address incorrectly, it was after the holidays that Monica scooped up my effort, and got it sent where it needed to go.  But that day, I was pleased with myself.  I had begun to learn something new.

I ordered a computer for myself straight away.  A Dell PC.  I am sure for some time I was a poster child for how to hit the back button, or start over.  It was years before I learned to cut and paste, or produce a word document.  I am still learning.  In 2000, I bought a computer for my Mom.  She had worked with the first computer at Wayne State University in the 1950’s.  That computer was the size of a grocery store.  She had a big black phone reciever at home that sat face down into a black box.  That was her line to that giant computer.  None of us dared touch it.  Years later, I knew she would love to have one of her own.  She was a scientist-surely she could master it.  Neither one of us knew enough to go on, and hook that computer up to the internet.  She used it to play solitare, and edit her photographs.  Though I thoroughly regret that she did not live to see me use a computer, I know my ability to learn to use one came from her.

So back to Rob, and his request for a Mac.  Though the price shocked the daylights out of me, I bought one for him.  Somewhere I have a photograph of a special Apple IT tech installing that Mac, and Rob standing by with that deer in the headlights look on his face. Much has changed since that day.  That Mac has renabled him to keep up with dozens of suppliers in multiple countries.  He plans trips  to other places via his computer, and downloads driving maps of those countries onto his Garmin.  He takes maps of his routes from Google earth with him.  He wastes little time travelling.  This gives him more time to shop efficiently.  The pictures he takes with his iPhone are astonishly good and sharp.  He communicates with clients, via those pictures.  That is the bare beginning of what that phone can do, given an expert operator.  I could swear he pointed his phone at a color, and read on his screen a name and formula.  Is this possible?   This year, I bought him a state of the art Mac with a screen the size of Texas. He searches, maps, coordinates,  studies, inquires.  Should you like the music in the shop, credit Rob and his Mac.  His computer skills have left me in his dust. 

Upon returning from a trip to California, Rob gave me with a coffee mug from Apple – he wanted to visit the company in person.  I was dubious-he was the one with the love for Apple technology, not me.  But a seed had been tossed on the dirt.  All it would need was some water.  My road trip the first 2 weeks of January made me think an iPad might be just the thing for me.  How so?  The Apple technology is portably planet wide.  I like the possibilities this implies.  An iPad is a very small object densely packed with opportunity. It would have been at home in the car, in hotel rooms, at market.  How genial.  It is an infinitely large shopping bag in which to store all kinds of ideas, notes, pictures, intellectual paraphenalia and bits of this or that.  An iPhone-all of a sudden I had to have one.  For the camera of course.  My camera is not always moment-ready.  It is a heavy and bulky thing to haul around, waiting for a moment to make itself known.  I also do not mind having the weather, and the compass instantly available on a small screen.  I am sure there is much more to come that I cannot begin to anticipate.  It has a serviceable phone.  I had no problem with the purchase part.  Meg spent 5 hours helping me get everything set up and teaching me the rudimentary moves.  Many thanks, Meg.  The very best part?  You do not need a fork, or a trowel, or a shovel to dig into it.  A finger will do.  How perfectly splendid is this?

I am fairly sure I am preaching to the choir about how great an Apple can be.  They have been around a long time-I see lots of them.  They don’t make much, but what they do make is extraordinary.  I will admit I was intimidated.  Rob’s Mac has that inscrutable quality about it.  Do I cling to my religion?  Oh yes.  I was sure I would have trouble.  However, the basics of both of my new tools have actually been fairly easy to master.  The finer points-they will no doubt take time.  What this will all come to, I have no idea.  Anyone who has seen a deleted email on an iPhone sucked into the garbage can-lid up, lid down, or heard the airplane whoosh of an email being sent understands that a mechanical device that appeals to and functions via the senses is an experience of technology like no other.  




inspiration 007A good bit of my working life revolves around prints.  A print is any mark made on or impressed into a surface-like these footprints imprinted in the snow. My boots aside, I draw prints. I explain them-I work off them.  The drawing/print of the landscape is a two dimensional means by which I am able to explain my ideas about a sculpture with a client.  Installations are done from prints that are drawn to scale. A print which is drawn exactly the same size as a property would need a piece of paper as big as that property; I doubt I need to detail the problems that would arise with this.  So one foot of length on your property would be represented by 1/10th of an inch on my print.  A properly scaled, flat, and miniature version of my idea is what you would get from me.  

ice white 036Prints are not easy to read, if you have not had practice.  Prints are lines and shapes that make patterns.  A pattern you might see if you were flying over your property.  Who does that?  Google Earth can provide you with a print that has recorded the patterns evident on your property.  Look up your property-there may be something there that inspires you.  The hobnail glass pictured above has a distinctive pattern, but also a volume, a sculptural shape.  Each circle is in fact a tuft of glass; the location of each tuft in turn describes the curve of this pitcher.  A print of the pattern of this glass would give you the plan view-the view from a bird flying over. Flat and circular, the pitcher shape in outline.  The sculpture which is this pitcher is another story- entirely.

inspiration 005This concrete pot is made from a mold.  The mold material records a three dimensional surface in every detail.  I have seen the production print for this pot; I could barely follow it. It was very much like trying to read words from a language not my own. Where am I going with this?  What a first rate landscape designer has to offer may be more than worth your while-or not. But for sure, you need to read their print.  But that big fluid and certainly sculptural situation which is your property-no print truly describes that.  Get involved with your designer. Speak your peace, and then some. 

July15a 009

This winter I drew prints for gardens I doubt anyone will ever ask me to build.  My idea is that one can get the gardens of one’s dreams, one way or another.   Buck took my prints, and is building sculptures from them.  Basswood 1/32nd of an inch thick was his material of choice.  It bends obligingly.  He constructs everything he builds with incredible precision-I knew the models would be beautiful; they are indeed. He has two models finished and ready for me.  Where will I go now with them?     

winter cleaning 007Steve tore apart my entire office, to clean and paint.  Over the course of 25 years, I have amassed a goodly number of prints. He stuffed them into a number of fiber pots.  Good, bad, or indifferent, there are lots of them.  He wants me to go through them, and decide which old prints I want to keep.  I have not told him yet, but I want to keep all of them.  These marks on a lot of pages add up to a life. Many times I stuff mud stained prints into my back pocket, and work with what is in front of me. But those original prints-I save them.  The print is but a mark recording intent-nothing more. Intent-this counts for a lot, from my side of the aisle.  The skill of the drawing-don’t be fooled.  Beautiful landscapes are about a lot of things-but gorgeous drawings of poor designs most certainly exist.  My drawings are simple-but they involve some doing that might require years.     

winter cleaning 009I think, design, and draw for a living. This is how I buy groceries, and pay my mortgage-but enough about me.  Should you be designing gardens for yourself, I would encourage you to put a pencil to a page.  What is in your heart-draw this.  Take your mortgage survey and blow it up.  Look at your spaces, your edges, how your house sits on your property. Loosen up. Make marks on the page.  A print is a drawing-not a committment to build.  Make lots of drawings.  Sleep on everything you draw. Erase, and start over.  Don’t bother to diss your drawing skills. No beautiful garden was ever about skilled drawing.   


MCat loves my drawings; the paper keeps him warm-nothing more.  Those sketches you might be inclined to make this third week of February-they could be a good warmup for spring. They could be the start something.  Should you have prints from a landscape designer, squint, and see what questions you have. No print is precious-it is a tool that might help move a project along. A print is an opening gesture, nothing more.  Make your own, or find someone whose prints will encourage you to speak. I actually love  prints-they are a lifeline from me to you, and back again.