My first individual garden post from the Fling is about the very last garden we visited. I guess it haunted me more than any of the others did. For me – more than any other – it drove home the concept of time as an ever unfolding, never resting phenomenon, that will transcend all memories, and eventually either engulf everything, or turn it to dust. As I was making my way through the gardens, I had this feeling of voyeurism – that I was somehow encroaching on stories from times long past, memories and secrets, created for other eyes than mine. At the same time, I rejoiced in finding that I have much in common with the creators of this garden. We share a love for weathered, worn materials, repurposing industrial- and everyday cast-offs and old tools that have long since lost their usefulness, as well as an appreciation for the absurd.
Gardening has taken place at Bella Madrona since 1980, although I think the spirits that inhabit the place have been there far longer. Out of the many gardens we visited, this one expressed an unmatched sense of mystery – a kind of magical allure that drew me into its folds. Many times, throughout my wanderings in the garden, I felt like I caught snippets of unfolding tales that were somehow frozen in time. There were countless details to be discovered along my path, each with its own story. But, as the outside voyeur I was, I always seemed to be deprived of the story’s ending, possibly because it was only reserved for the initiated.
At the very end of our stay, I was stunned to hear that one of the garden’s owners and creators was returning home from Hospice later that night, to die at home. I never got to meet either of the owners, but I suddenly realized that what I had been privy to viewing was nothing less than a life lived well – by necessity admired and appreciated outside of its pulsating core. I think it was at that moment that my full appreciation of the gardens of Sampson and Beasley kicked in. What a unique privilege to be invited to enjoy the works created by a lifetime’s worth of joyful togetherness, love, passion, laughter, sorrow, friendship, fantasy, and creativity, on the cusp of such inevitable change! And, what a remarkable manifestation of strength, to be able to so amiably and generously open up the garden of your love and life at such a vulnerable point in time! I’m beyond words…
This was our last stop of a three-day weekend packed with one marvelous sight after another, and it was time to say goodbye. I can’t stop thinking of Geof – the remaining owner and head gardener – who so graciously took all of us strangers in and let us explore their creation, when he too – in a cruelly ironic twist of fate – was nearing the time to bid a final farewell to his partner in life, love, and creativity. Bella Madrona is dreamy, surreal, and intensely spiritual. It was a treat to be allowed a glimpse of it. Regardless of what the future has in store for Geof and the garden, I wish the echoes of the many joys of their life together will continue to dance in the shadows under the trees. Anche il crepuscolo è bello nella Bella Madrona.