“Defiant Gardens”

2 Jun

“Gardens domesticate and humanize dehumanized situations,” writes Helphand, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon. “They offer a way to reject suffering . . . assert the dignity of life, human and nonhuman, and celebrate it.”

ww1 garden

I thought of the act of creating a garden, how at it’s essense it is a way to create boundaries around nature, and guide it, we may even think we are ‘controling’ it, when truly we are in some way, more clearly glorifying it, as a rememberance of the goodness and the beauty that’s present at all times.

I’ve been really moved by the subject of this book, “Defiant Gardens” by Kenneth Helphand. The book is an indepth look at the gardens created, grown, in “extreme circumstances, beyond their obvious use for food,” as written by NPR’s by Ketzel Levine. The gardens that are discussed are those grown in WWI, WWII concentration camps, The interim camps of Japanese Americans in Manzanar, The Persian Gulf, Vietnam and Korea. I have only read about the book, I haven’t gotten the chance to read it (mind you I don’t even own it…yet.) I have seen some of the pictures within the book, the people, the gardens, so sweetly defiant.

I’ve been thinking about our desire to live, to see beauty, to live goodness as much as we can. It really isn’t in our essential nature to be evil just for the sake of it. At least I don’t think so. I think that we at times may make choices that are incredibly bad, for many many reasons. Theology has answers for these evil deeds, philosophy has answers, psychology, etc. I can name it for myself in my belief system what makes us behave in ways that may just plainly be horrific and evil, but, I don’t feel that it’s an inherent quality within ourselves. What I saw, in some of the pictures of these soldiers, and holocaust survivors was our will to exist, our ability to truly grow beauty out of chaos, despair, adversity, and pain. This is grace in action.

Why a garden? Why would growing a garden, be an act of defiance? From the depths of these people’s hearts, as they were taken to their most primordial essense in light of heinous devilry, as they went into the depth of darkness, as they then looked out from within, they saw clearly the beauty of culture, and the refined reflection of nature, as an expression of the depths of their hearts. The expression of these gardens, the work, the watch, the tending of them, was pure defiance, a need to create beauty from the baseness of unacceptable behavior. It’s a testament to us as human beings that if we look deep within, no matter what craziness is going on around, we will tap into the sweet nectar of grace, God, within, and as we open ourselves to once again take on the world, we can choose to make beauty, to affirm our gift of life, by planting and growing only the most refined and clear expression of our hearts.

Please take a listen to the story about “Defiant Gardens,” were you can hear the experiences of some…hope you enjoy, and create a garden of your own!


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