Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Alcatraz: An Inspiration

These are images from my last trip to Alcatraz a few years ago. At that time I had already been ill for a few years. Seeing the gardens in bloom, being brought back to life, really blew me away. I felt kinship with the place in a way. My hereditary angioedema has made me a kind of prisoner too and gardening really opens up the world to me too. The cell I sit in is right here with my laptop, in a zero gravity chair, looking at my walls, flipping through library books. To escape the pain, suffering, and isolation of chronic illness, gardens and plants are the only things that don't make me dwell in the darkness of my own thoughts for long. (Having seen depression and anxiety already, I know how dwelling can make it worse.)
Later, before we boarded our ferry back to San Fran, I bought a book about the gardens of Alcatraz and their history and development. I read it from cover to cover in one night when I couldn't sleep because my legs were so swollen. It freed me in so many ways and it inspired me to keep going. I wish more people understood how wonderful garden therapy can, or could be, for so many different situation and folks.
Funny too when I look back to my first trip to Alcatraz over 10 years ago. One of the few pictures I took that day was of the old greenhouse. I wonder now if I somehow sensed what was coming. At that time, I was nowhere near gardening. My love was for literature and art history. (If you haven't been to Alcatraz—go! It is amazing!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hollyhock House Hollyhock

A few years ago I attended a conference in Los Angeles hosted by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. While there, we visited all of the cement block homes in the LA area, including the Hollyhock House. Although not my favorite structure due to the confusion of the architecture—too many hands in any project can do that—I still enjoyed it. Their gift shop at the time had only one small object I could afford. Seeds are always just the right price in my book. After some delay, I finally planted some at home, and this is a bloom from one of them. I'd show you more, but due to some neglect, they are not exactly upright citizens in my garden and tend to nap a bit too much. Hollyhocks are, for some strange reason, a favorite of mine. A traditional cottage garden plant, they can be difficult, but I'd rather have them any day over fussy hybrid tea roses.
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