January 8th was a dismal day. Fog enshrouded the landscape, which was covered by a dusting of snow. The cold and damp were penetrating. The Twelve Days of Christmas were now past and the decorations all boxed up. The Christmas tree had been hauled away, leaving only stray pine needles that resisted the vacuum. In this depressing setting I decided to cheer myself up by thinking of the sure-to-come spring and future visits to Bedrock in all its glory. As I was imagining, I began to think about what made me fall in love with the Gardens. I would like to share that reflection.
My first visit was an uplifting journey of discovery. Yet I soon found that I experienced that very same sense of finding something new every time I returned. The Gardens possess an amazing charm of newness, no matter how many visits one makes. I also realized that, to me, Bedrock is comprised of three fundamental aspects. First there is the open space; it creates a spirit of exhilaration. Second are the flora, providing beauty, wonder, and a sense of peace. Finally, and by no means least important are the sculptures, so perfectly integrated into a landscape that is already a work of art. I can enjoy all three elements, but I believe it is the combination and integration of all that creates the special sense of wonder when one visits Bedrock.
German opera composers had a theory about just such a combination that we today might refer to as synergy. It was Gesamtkunstwerk. The idea originated with the 18th Century opera composer Gluck, was furthered by von Weber, and achieved it ultimate expression in the operas of Richard Wagner. Roughly translated it means: a “total work of art,” or an “all embracing work of art.” The notion was that the orchestration, singing, drama, and staging should all work together to support the underlying meaning and artistic intent of the composer’s opera. Prior to this reform movement, many opera works consisted of alternations of arias and recitative, music, and sometimes incomprehensible and irrelevant narrative plots.
You do not have to be a Wagnerian opera fan or even a fan of opera, however, to appreciate Bedrock as an all-encompassing work of art, but that is exactly what it is. The space, the flowers, and the sculpture all have their own virtues and positive impact; together, they bring the visitor something more: into closer contact with something fundamental to human need and contentment. The gardens proclaim the beauty of nature in an abundance of open space. The sculptures, created by the hand of a woman, are exceptionally well integrated into the landscape—distinct but not separated entities, and thus they remind us that we as humans have a place in Creation. The gardener and the garden could not exist more closely together than here.
Indeed, as Robert Harrison points out (Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition) in our western tradition, human life began in a Garden, Eden. Here he connects “humanity” with the Latin for soil, “humus.”
Perhaps this talk is all too much philosophizing about simple outdoor enjoyment. Perhaps you will see this more clearly when you observe children cartwheeling and dancing when they encounter Jill’s “Acrobats.” But maybe this note will help you experience Bedrock a bit differently and enjoy it a bit more when you next visit. I look forward to seeing you there in the warmth of spring.