The Quiet Places Inside Forest Gardens
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
As in the past, forests and gardens both offer unique places for reflection and contemplation. They are spaces where wildlife and natural encounters happen. This exchange also happens often unexpectedly while people are busy working the land. Alternatively, long hikes across a range of terrains still make for a refreshing walk. What takes place along travels will depend upon our state of mind, and what we come across along the way. Both will influence one another, and with a little luck, they can both turn out in a rewarding way. Sometimes birds can appear on the scene suddenly or take flight from an unknown hiding spot.
In the courtyards of old monasteries, there are sheltered areas protected by walls or enclosures which naturally insulate the interior. We can create a sense of space in the garden by changing the contents of what we find inside them and how we make up their borders. Adding historical sculptures and timeless features can deepen and layer the atmosphere. Ponds and water features add reflective surfaces, create depressions and open up space for water flow. They intrinsically develop walkways along their bordered edges. Shaping spaces like courtyards can happen at a smaller scale repeatedly over different places. There is a positive and negative use of space between form, space, light, and shadow. The more we protect the area inside, the better the shelter from the wind. However, we can make a pocket that can be quite open to sunlight (as in a sun trap). Similarly, we need to be aware of ability to accentuate a frost pocket if the area is low lying. If it is spacious enough and unshaded in its centre, it can quickly overheat on summer days.
Similarly, most gardens border along forested edges or common land; in these spaces, the shadows created by the forest canopy shroud the events that happen there with a sense of mystery.
Folk tales and legends often include wildlife and other mythical encounters with the creatures inside forests. These traditional tales consist of wildlife characters in natural settings. Many new ones still play off of the old storylines. Modern-day superhero plots add another dimension to storylines. From the stories such as Snow White to Sleepy Hollow, there are both uplifting and horrifying meetings in the woods. Like Joseph Smith or John the Baptist, there can also be personal spiritual encounters in the wilderness that transform their lives. The casual following of a path, of moving and existing inside a living space can make for a rewarding experience in real life, provided the weather and mood are appropriate.
Stories of sorcerers and witches are also found in forest settings away from central spaces like town squares. Perhaps a careful distance between the townsfolk and the countryfolk was the norm back then. Today, there are still those odd encounters between core and peripheral elements that make up shared living spaces. The modern myths echo the old tales that play with duality and their differences between light (good forces) and dark (underworld), between the city and the country. There are still mysterious places in every forest and garden space. It is with this sense of intrigue that we explore forest gardens and the exchanges they allow. The quiet spaces in the forests and gardens are an ancient place that early mythologies also explored. Druids and other ancient peoples would use collections of oak trees as places of particular significance for their rituals and seasonal celebrations. The trees, rocks, and other natural features had special characteristics ascribed to them.
We can remember our past and the history of others when we revisit the places to reconnect with nature. The location and the timing are only as meaningful as one takes from the experience. Depending on our inclination, the right mood can make for spontaneous happenings.