Placemaking and the Garden

1 Sturch October mud maid

The yard that envelops my dentist’s building is a shade garden that can only be seen from his treatment rooms. Deep green foliage bobs and sun beams play as breezes tousle the leafy canopies. Dental chairs in each room face tall, broad windows that look out on the garden. Each view is peaceful and verdant though the remaining sensations are clinical: the reclined leather chair, the focused light, the antiseptic smell of the room.


The Ship Near Coast by Ivan Aivazovsky

The Ship Near Coast by Ivan Aivazovsky

So few grains of happiness
 measured against all the dark
 and still the scales balance.

– from The Weighing by Jane Hirshfield

When my siblings and I were kids, we observed the attributes of mercury on our kitchen table. We must have gotten it from a broken thermometer (and I’m not sure how we escaped its toxicity). We watched the mercury bead up and roll ahead of our fingers, always propelling itself away from our touch. The silver gem held its shape, in spite of being a liquid, due to its high surface tension. It was lovely and fascinating. Now, all these years later, I see it as a metaphor for longing; a soul leaning toward something precious that’s just beyond reach.

A Specially Tender Piece of Eternity


The room (she looked round it) was very shabby. There was no beauty anywhere . . . Nothing seemed to have merged. They all sat separate. And whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her.

We remove the low table from its place in the entryway, fold out and lock its two sets of legs, and place it on the area rug in the center of the living room. The table is inlaid with a fancy-looking peacock, but the plastic white edging is now almost completely broken off, and even the glossy surface is cracked and beginning to reveal the particle-board realities underneath. We accumulate mismatched sets of silverware and plates and water, a jug of water, and a roll of paper towels for napkins.

The Sacred Harp

26 Spears

It’s the sacred harp—the voice. It’s also the eponymous title of a choral music book, first published in 1844. What’s odd about this book is that the music within it, from traditional hymns, appears in shape notes: Fa, a triangle; Sol, an oval; La, rectangle; and Mi, diamond. The book reflects a style of choral hymn singing, associated with the American South. Except now, it’s making a comeback, not only in the South, but in New England, the Midwest, and the West, as well as in Europe and Australia.

Don’t Worry, it’s Not Religious


We have to react against the heavy bias of fatigue. It is almost impossible to make the facts vivid, because the facts are familiar; and for fallen men it is often true that familiarity is fatigue.
G.K. Chesterton

If you don’t mind, visualize a short little mental clip for me.

A friend and I have just been walking for 35 minutes to get to every booklover’s Mecca, Powell’s City of Books in Portland. One square city block of bookish awesomeness. Despite the heat and slightly sweaty state of our sandals—when book hunting, comfy feat are important—we are hugely stoked about beginning our four-day Powell’s event. Just as we are coming close to our destination, we see two peddlers nearly blocking the entrance to the bookstore.