Into the Gardens

Friday, January 16th

By Lorena, Harvard ’18

do garden

The camera whirrs as the last photograph of my second roll of film is taken and I wind the dial down to “0.” Ozdemir has just graciously taken the last photo on my disposable camera as I am standing by the side of a pool. Although I had instructed him to “make sure the pool is in the photo—and me too!” I’m more concerned about getting a good shot of the pool. It’s probably in the high thirties or low forties, but I swirl around the lawn in a floral sundress. Actual flowers are conspicuously absent from the lawn, but even without anything in bloom I can tell what a majestic place this is. The very structure of the paths, walls, occasional sculptures, and trees fits together in a composition of shape and line.

Our guide and course leader, James Carder, talks about the art installation in Lover’s Lane Pool, where a series of strange tubes rise from the frozen water’s surface. At the top of the cloudy transparent tubes are black pipes, which look like the intersection pieces of PVC pipe. Inside the tubes you can make out wires descending from the black pipes. James explains that the artist and musician Hugh Livingston has installed a temporary “sound sculpture” here. The pipes are like organ pipes and will emit a recording of remixed natural sounds, creating a strange music to fill the hills and terraces of the gardens.

The gardens! After five days of wondering whether the weather will permit us to visit the gardens, we are here and it is sunny and, to me, balmy (although the rest of the group is wearing winter jackets). James leads us around the gardens, detailing the history and development behind the beauty. When he mentions Mélisande’s Allée, an allée extending down from Lover’s Lane Pool, I am convinced I must return. In the spring, the allée is overtaken by swarms of flowers as they sequentially come into season, changing the color and smell of the path as spring gives way to summer. Another patch of bright color we are missing on this sunny January day is the yellow swell of forsythia that, in spring, covers the side of the valley and spreads into the woods across the Dumbarton Oaks property line. For now, the blue azure of the sky and the mossy celadon of the lawns will do.

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