GARDENING, WRITING AND ART
http://eachlittleworld.typepad.com. Once you've finished reading our blog if you haven't seen the blog Linda and Mark write, Each Little World, you need to go over and look at one of the best conceived and inspirational blogs out there.
On one of those last beautiful Sunday mornings this year Mark and Linda invited a group of friends over for coffee and breakfast and a tour of their home and gardens. We were fortunate enough to be included. Once I saw the gardens and their home I knew I had to do a post on these two unique people. What follows are excerpts from an hour long interview with the two of them just as the trees were beginning their glorious color transformation at the onset of autumn.
LM: Let's start out with a bit of history. Can you give me some sense of your background?
Needing a better paying job I took the first job offered to me by the State which was a security officer for the University. This was my day job well really my evening job. I worked the pm shift. I had my days free to do what I wanted. I worked on my art. Then I held shows of my art in my apartment. I'd have an opening on Firday night and then I'd have an open house on Saturday and Sunday and that would be the show. I just invited my friends and they brought people and I'd maybe make enough to buy materials for a year.
Then I met Linda and she brought me to gardening. So for twenty-five years that's been my principle medium. After 34 years I retired from the University. Since I retired I've been working on my painting and photography.
A ways into the job my boss said to me, "You're always telling the sales staff when they go out to this and that store who they should talk to, how they should pitch it, what the store features. You know all this stuff. You should start writing a column, Can you start next week. Lets come up with a name." That was in 1981 and I wrote that column in print until 2009. It was called "Artful Shopper". It started out being; if you saw this in House & Garden who has it in Madison or what's the closest thing. I'd go out and shop and come up with themes. I started doing stuff on how do two people deal with financing, letter writing, family traditions, cooking and then more and more gardening until it became more or less a gardening column. That newspaper only stayed around for three years and when it folded our editor went to the Cap Times and they took my column.
At some point after I had moved into the newsroom they started an editorial board and I got onto that and that was the group that would interview candidates and decide what political position the newspaper should take. We started writing more political kinds of columns and then I became an editorial writer with John Nichols. I was still doing my artful shopper column. Then I became a features editor. And then when they stopped publishing daily I left and started blogging.
I'm an artist based on all my training but the thing I've done much more of is writing so in truth I'm much more of a writer than a visual artist. The line in my blog reads, "An artist by training, a writer by profession and gardener by choice".
LM: Can you define a style that represents your work?
LB: My writing is eclectic because I wrote editorial so in editorial you are writing the newspapers institutional position not yours. But then I wrote a lot of political commentary of my own and then I wrote about every possible subject in my column over the years.
If I think about my artwork in college I was doing abstract painting.
LM: Let's look at how the garden and house came about.
LB: Our neighbors have a cabin up north. I said I don't want another house to deal with. I want to walk out the back door and be on vacation. The other thing we really wanted to create was a place where we could have this really wonderful experience without leaving home.
MG: There was nothing in the yard but the big trees and stuff on the perimeter. There was nothing in the middle that you had to get rid of. The lot slopped and most importantly there were these big windows. You walked out at ground level and everything in the house worked. We weren't going to find anything that would be a blank slate for the garden that would be better than this.
LM: Did you have a plan for the garden?
As the first year went on a couple of things happened. We were on our way to a party that winter. As we were driving we saw this scroll in a shop window. Linda said stop the car. It was snowy and slippery. I drove around the block and we pulled up and we feel in love with the scroll in the window. We went on to the party that Saturday night .Sunday morning we called the owner of the shop, who we knew, and told him not to sell the scroll until we had a chance to see it. It was on consignment. They were asking more than we had ever paid for a work of art before. It was this purchase that started us thinking about an Asian influenced garden.
That first year we didn't mow the back at all. When the grass got really high we'd cut paths through it to kinda play with where the paths might go. We had hoses and ropes all those techniques. When we decided that we were going to have a pond and needed some rocks we made cardboard rocks and put them in the yard to see how big a rock we needed from a distance and then I'd go out to Madison Block and Stone and see how much they would cost.
We had planned to start working on the second summer we were there but we decided we weren't ready and we waited until the third summer
LB: As we started stockpiling stuff in the driveway we met all our neighbors because everyone kept coming over asking us, "What are you doing?" A neighbor down the street called and said we're taking up a brick patio do you want the bricks and Mark went up and down the street with a wheelbarrow getting the bricks and then another neighbor gave us a tree that he had to move.
LM: What's your routine with the garden?
LB: That's true. We do that a lot. We say, "Want to go for a little walk in the garden? I'm sure other gardeners do that as well.
LM: What about the teahouse?
One morning on my way back from the coffee house a storm was brewing and I said I'm going to go up to the teahouse. I just sat up there for a couple of hours and it was wonderful.
Some nights we'd say how about drinks in the teahouse. We'd take our shaker of martinis up there. Martinis because if we spill them on the mat they're not going to stain
People ask if we meditate or do tea ceremonies and no none of those things are a part of our life. I am finding how peaceful it is up there. When I'm there I start noticing the sounds, watching animals flitting by and splashing in the pond. It's really quite nice.
LM: So what's left on your bucket list?
LB: To a large extent that's true. When you see all those hundreds of gardens you must visit. I think we've seen two or three gardens that were so fabulous nothing will top them.
LiB: Oh yeah!
Michael Kenna, photographer
Represented by Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago