The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron, helping readers learn how to become a better writer. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. An Artist Date can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. Today, let’s look, listen, and smell what the garden center has laid out for us.
Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small it takes time—we haven’t time—and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
~ Georgia O’Keeffe (as quoted by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way)
I really want to see flowers and nurture my inner creative child, so I visit the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden Center in Palo Alto, California. Flowers, foliage and flowing fountains spread across two-and-a-half acres feed my senses and soul with beauty for one hour.
Not long ago, voluptuous pink peony-flowering tulips graced one bed of the garden behind the Gamble House. Now only green undulating leaves hint at what once bloomed. I stroll along bricks laid in a herringbone pattern, which outline a green rectangle of lawn in the center while beds filled with flowers, shrubs and trees line the outside of the brick path. A gurgling fountain warbles nearby. Birds chirp and zing.
Clusters of purple wisteria still hang from a tree, but the flowers have shrunk since my last visit. The flowers change from a light lavender to a darker purple as they age.
I close my eyes and listen to the soothing sound of skipping water and singing birds. My breathing slows. Next I open my eyes to gaze at a Paperbark Maple tree (Acer griseum) and admire how its dark coffee-brown bark peels off in rippled strips revealing a slightly lighter, but still dark-brown, smooth skin. I long to touch it but I can’t without stepping on the green foliage growing underneath the tree, so I content myself with looking at its peeling strips.
A few steps from a pergola-covered back porch, a faded wood bench beckons to me. I sink into the bench’s rough texture, close my eyes and listen to water flowing from the fountain and the different bird calls around me. Some birds sing a song, while others chitchat. I wonder what they’re saying.
When I open my eyes, I see a white wisteria tree with its bounty of white globes hanging along the other side of the porch. Part of the tree wraps around a white column of the back porch. Glass French doors reveal a room in the house with a vase full of flowers, a table and a chair in a room with wood floors. The doors are locked. On my last visit, I walked through the house’s front door and explored the few rooms open to the public.
I imagine living in the house and wandering the gardens in the morning or after dinner. Perhaps my friends and I amble and talk as we explore the different gardens around the house.
A plane’s loud thrum interrupts my reverie. Several clay pots overflowing with white cyclamen, tiny pink flowers and taller green foliage sit on the back porch. I return to the brick pathway to survey the other beds. A short green tree or shrub labeled “Emerald Green” draws me like a child to cookies placed beyond reach. It looks like it should be in a Dr. Seuss book with its feathery green leaves and squat triangular shape, and I want to touch its feathery leaves, but it’s beyond the path and surrounded with delicate ground cover that I mustn’t crush.
Time travels faster here as I look at my smartphone. I stride toward the rose garden with purple catmint and purple mini-hyacinth planted along the bed’s edge, near the semi-enclosed garden behind the house. Green buds appear on most of the roses; a few roses already bloom. Delicate peach-pink buds appear on a rose labeled “Michele Meilland,” Floribunda, 1945. Other roses are labeled “wild” or “heritage.”
From there, I walk into another garden “room,” where another fountain flows and reeds stand like sentries in the water. Another bench invites, so I sit and soak in the different sounds: cars zoom by, an airplane engine strums, water burbles, and birds chatter. When the wind blows, I catch a faint scent: jasmine.
How to become a better writer? Browse Artist Dates for inspiration, then head out on your own.
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