"Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A curved room of redwood trees is among my first recollections of being outside the city and in nature. We called it a room, a meeting place for the three of us: my younger brother, our friend, and me.
From San Francisco, our parents drove 60 miles and entered the beauty and calm of the Russian River countryside in northern California.
Each summer, we made our way to "the river" to join our friends at their countryside cabin, sometimes for several days, sometimes for a week or more. The outside was our living space, our living room. First thing each morning, we ate our breakfast at the patio table under the trellis. Then, we spent a short while across the street, playing in our room surrounded by the trees. After lunch and after the fog lifted, we found our way to the river, slipped on our inner tubes and paddled out to the demarcation rope, separating shallow from deep. Returning home, we showered, ate dinner, played cards or board games - all outside - then went to bed, telling each other scary stories before we slept.
Those innocent days spent outdoors, with trees, and shrubs - with insects, lizards, with bees and ants - with dirt on our knees, in our hair, covering our clothes, introduced me to nature. Her rhythms of sun and moon, of wind and fog, of long summer days and cool nights, left an indelibly etched mark on me.
Recently, while walking through Ganna Walska Lotusland (Montecito, California), I felt much the same as when I was a child. One cannot walk Ms. Walska's garden paths without experiencing her passion, joy and playfulness.
Our small Silverlake garden, although restrained and simple, is our microcosm of nature. Although we manicure our plants, periodically, we also permit our garden to grow and develop as naturally as possible. We feed and water, plant each specimen where it does best, and make allowances for happy accidents. At the peak of summer, our garden vibrates with alive-energy. This is what I felt at Lotusland. This is what I feel in our own garden.
Personal gardens are what they are because of their designers and custodians. Ms. Walska was wonderfully animated and unafraid of dazzle - in her dress, her personality and her garden. Our garden reflects our simplicity, our quiet. Primal nature reflects the wild tendencies of Mother Nature. She is calm or energetic, gentle or strong. She is filled with light or darkness. These dualities exist in all gardens.