As a long-time suburbanite and recent city-dweller, the world I know is a winding valley of buildings colored brown and grey. Though I’ve grown accustomed to living in urban areas (and, admittedly, would not survive without the conveniences most cities have to offer), I eventually grow fatigued, weary of walking beneath sky rises that seem to stretch upwards without end, and of the ongoing stream of traffic that sounds of horns and screeching tires and of passersby with their heads in the future, and of the lights that never go out but glare on and on into the night… and I yearn to stand in a field of flowers in bloom.
Intimacy with nature touches the heart in a way no other earthly thing can, so when I find myself longing to be liberated from the cold hand of industrialization, I look for a garden. Apart from the noise of the city, the cacophony of business, in a garden I’m altogether at peace and exquisitely satisfied. To be in a garden conjures a feeling all at once refreshing, pleasant, and sweet – like a bite of fresh bread with homemade jam, a long overdue conversation with an old friend, cool mist on the cheeks after a long walk in the heat. A stroll through a garden on a warm afternoon is often all that I need to be soothed and revived.
Several years ago, browsing at a local swap meet, a friend happened upon a book titled The Lover of Gardens. Well aware of my uncanny obsession with gardens – with sweet-smelling flowers, berry bushes, and trellises adorned with vines – my friend graciously gifted me the book and I haven’t parted with it since, even after moving homes four times (two of which required me to cross the planet with only two suitcases in tow). Though the reading experience is by no means an acceptable substitute to wandering a real garden, The Lover of Gardens has more than once calmed and comforted my listless soul.
Compiled by Gail Harvey and designed and illustrated by Liz Trovato, the book is an elegant and enchanting collection of quotes, poems, and essays, authored by both well and little known persons who share an adoration for the garden and its transcendental ability to invigorate and restore. The authors’ ode-like descriptions and love letters to the garden’s incomparable beauty, virtue, and grace elucidate man’s ingrained, deep-rooted bond and unparalleled connection with the natural world, translating into words the delightful, pleasurable feeling that comes from standing, wandering, resting, etc. in a garden.
“I look upon the pleasure which we take in a garden as one of the most innocent delights in human life. A garden was the habitation of our first parents before the Fall. It is naturally apt to fill the mind with calmness and tranquility, and to lay all its turbulent passions at rest. It gives us a great insight into the contrivance and wisdom of Providence, and suggests innumerable subjects for meditation. I cannot but think the very complacency and satisfaction which a man takes in these works of Nature to be a laudable if not a virtuous habit of mind.”
– from “The Pleasure of a Garden” by Joseph Addison
An adoring tribute to “the purest of human pleasures…the greatest refreshment to the spirit,” The Lover of Gardens will continue to be one of my most faithful hardcover companions, and an honorable supplement to the garden I will one day call my own.