Who would grow a garden in so many common places and so many at one time that they are often missed? Who grows gardens in a stump of a fallen tree? Who in the world would spread so many flowers along the creeks and rivers where no one lives? Why do all this when very few or no one will see them?
The rains fall in the misty forest. It drops from leaf to leaf until it finally hits the earth and little plants with flowers spring up even though no one sees them. Is there a purpose for all this unique beauty or is it beauty for beauty sake? Man has said that art should be its own justification or said, “Art for art sake.” I really don’t know what that means. With man usually there is an ulterior motive, but in reality, all these gardens of flowers don’t have an ulterior reason for being, they just are. They possess no motive, they just exist. Born, live, propagate and die and that seems to be their justification.
I enjoy invading these special gardens with my camera and capturing their intrinsic beauty knowing in just a day or so they will be gone. Not to worry or fret because the next generation flourishes under their wilted beauty to spring up shortly to display their own special uniqueness.
I was painting a picture of an old barn a few years ago. I photographed it in the spring, summer and again in the fall. The wildflowers in the field in front of it were completely different each time. It would have been easy to miss this if not for my short walks with my camera in my pocket. I get up close for details, then back off a little, then capture the flowers in their full environment. Because of this I do take a lot of pictures but one never knows when one of these pictures will play a major role in one of my paintings and they often do because I am a fairly prolific painter. I preserve summer in photos so I can make color sing all winter in my paintings. I look for the little splashes of color near the creek bed or the fence line, the flower that grew up through the barbed wire making a great contrast of subjects, the rusty fence and the bright greens and colors of the flowers.
Some early mornings I take photo excursions in my own backyard which has a lot of wild uncut spots that continuously yield some beautiful pictures. A camera to me is a memory enhancer especially for details. I just don’t have enough brain capacity to store all the details but I let the camera do that for me so I can work on ideas and composition. I then can search my photos for the details I need for whatever season. So with a camera and a sketch pad I journey along familiar roads where every few weeks a host of new colorful secret gardens grow in not so secret road and creek sides.
Sometimes I think fishermen are not really sitting along the creek to catch anything but to simply visit their own secret gardens where they can relax and enjoy nature. They don’t have to answer common sense questions, the line and pole answers those basic questions with an obvious answer. I know all this because I often cast in a line with a bobber and a sinker but no hook. Why interrupt the moment to pull in a fish that you will most likely set free?
I have seen many secret gardens hidden in the roots of a tree along a beautiful creek shore. Beauty is where you find it, but if you’re not looking for it, chances are it will remain a secret — at least to you.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at (740) 852-4906 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.