“Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.” – Walt Whitman
Take even the quickest glance through my portfolio and you’ll realize I take a lot of pictures of flowers. Can I grow flowers? Nope. Am I the nature-y type of girl who spends all day outside? No, definitely not. But I love flowers; and more importantly, I love a good garden. I love them so much it was my baby’s first word because I drug him there so much.
I’m not sure when I started to like flowers. It’s just something that’s always been part of me. My mother loves flowers. We’ve never spoken about it, but ever since my earliest memory I have understood that she loves them. No matter where we lived, she had at least one garden and would cut fresh bouquets for every room of our house.
I remember when I was in junior high and I would walk around my small Iowa town every night. I had a very specific route, and at my halfway point there was a simple white house that had the biggest, most beautiful garden I’d ever seen. I never photographed it, or even stopped to tell the woman who lived there how much I enjoyed my walks. Truth be told, I don’t even know who lived in that house, but every night I would slow my pace as I stared, amazed, at her yard.
Meanwhile, a short 5 blocks away, my mother’s garden was an ongoing labor of love. She started with one spot and continued until she had surrounded the house. My first summer home from college, my dad was tearing down a condemned building we owned and my mom asked us to bring the beautiful deep peach-red bricks to her. Every day she would load one wheelbarrow from the growing pile we left and slowly move them to the other side of the house.
This project took her the next four years. I loved coming home to see the progress she was making. It was such an amazing transformation to see the empty yard where I had pitched a softball as a little girl turn into a peaceful hideaway. I would walk along her path, look at her flowers, and then settle down on the bench she had drug from the front porch onto a patio she had built. I would sit there for hours reading or writing letters to friends, but I didn’t truly appreciated what she had built, or the years of work she had devoted to it.
About a year after my father passed away, mom sold our house and moved to Georgia. I remember the last time I was in Monona – I went to the library across the street and then my high school, I said goodbye to my friends and then I went home. I carefully walked through each room once taking in where the pictures hung, where a book had been placed, knowing I’d never see it again. Then I got in my car and started the 8 hour drive to Kansas City.
It was almost a week later I realized what I had done and started crying. My fiancé looked at me and asked what was wrong. I doubled over with my face in my hands, sobbing something that sounded like “but……..garden. didn’t. walk……. ” A few weeks later the house was sold, and shortly thereafter torn down, along with my mom’s garden. I’ve always wished I would have walked through it one more time. I try and piece together moments from various years and pretend, but it’s one of those things you can’t re-do, you just do the best new-do you can. So now I go to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis. It’s my escape, my therapy, my artistic outlet. And this time I take pictures, I tell the gardeners how much I love their work, I walk through the places I find beautiful and the ones I find uncomfortable, and I scout out secluded benches where I can sit down to read and text my friends. People ask me how I can go there so often and not get bored, but I don’t think that it’s the kind of place that I could ever get bored of; and it brings such a joy that my boys love to go too.
If you are ever in St. Louis, and have the opportunity to spend a day at the Garden, I encourage you to go. It’s the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. Well, other than my mother’s. And speaking of, I need to drive to Georgia.
Missouri Botanical Garden: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/