Saturday, December 8, 2012

In the philosopher's garden...

Gardens of the Villa medicea della Castello
Philosophy in the Garden is in the newspapers today.

The Weekend Financial Review magazine has an extract from the first chapter, entitled 'In the philosopher's garden'. It features Aristotle, and reveals the philosophical value of gardens. A sample:
The garden is not simply a retreat or source of physical exercise. It is intellectually stimulating in its own right, because it is a fusion of two fundamental philosophical principles: humanity and nature. 
This is suggested by the word itself, and its cognates in German and the Romance languages: Garten, jardin, giardino. Like the English “yard”, they refer to enclosure, which requires two things: something cordoned off (nature), and someone  to do the cordoning (humanity).  
Beginning with sacred groves like the Lyceum, every garden is a union of this kind: nature separated, bordered, transformed by humans. 

Nikki GemmellAustralian columnist and author of Honestly, discusses Philosophy in the Garden in a stunning essay in today's Weekend Australian magazine. Delicious prose. A sample:
Just as you can glean an insight into a person's psyche, in all its ugliness or beauty, in an unguarded moment with a dog, a person's attitude to a garden is like a door flying open into who they really are. 
In his new book Philosophy in the Garden, Damon Young looks at 11 writers and their response to tamed nature. And so the author of Emma or 1984 or A La Recherche du Temps Perdu is flared beautifully into being through their communion with the earth and its riches. It's a book you devour with your head nodding, because there's a humbling humanity in the relationship between those titans of the written word and their little plots of green.

And novelist Charlotte Wood has included my book in her 'Year in books', for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. (Thank you, Charlotte.)

Quite a start to the weekend. (Must be about time to mow the lawn.)

(Photo: Sailko)


Jill in a Box said...

Congrats on the book – I look forward to reading it.
I often wonder and worry about what my garden says about me. I have lived in many rental houses and I have always made gardens in them, knowing that they were not mine to keep. I’m proud of these gardens and even go back to visit them. One has been dug up and turned into a tiny lawn, another used to be a naked lawn, which we (my now husband and I) transformed into a lush native garden that is still flourishing more than ten years later. When we bought our own house, one of the deciding factors was that it had a sunny yard – a concrete slab soaking up the sun – but still, sunny. We dug it up and planted a garden. But I am never happy with it. A critical thing is that I never seem to have time to pay it any attention. It wants too much from me, and I am unable to give it. So it doesn’t thrive. We have had some beautiful crops of tomatoes, vegetables and herbs from our tiny plot, but overall, I feel this overwhelming disappointment with it, perhaps because I can’t sustain it. A friend recently turned her small front garden into a vegetable patch. We joked that we should both just give up and plant box hedges and magnolias (a common garden “design” in our area). A part of me has always wanted a tidy, low maintenance, small-scale stately garden like this. But instead I keep creating messy, high maintenance, full-of-failure gardens. Are there any garden psychoanalysts?

Damon Young said...

Fascinating. Ruth and I both long for a townhouse with a courtyard--we're so sick of mowing landlords' large lawns.

But like you, we keep committing to the garden; keep planting, lugging pots and eating fresh tomatoes or lettuces.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a poor gardener. But basically it's a contradiction of circumstance, not value: you rightly want a healthy garden, but you don't own a house. And the need for a garden's benefits--solitude, beauty, reflection, fresh food--overrides the need for consistency or simplicity.