Botanical Garden: Santa Fe Style VI

June 21st, 2014, 7pm

Last evening I attended a lovely garden party to celebrate the first anniversary of Santa Fe’s official Botanical Garden. It’s a modest launch to a very worthwhile enterprise, both the botanical plantings and the Art Trail of sculptures. Admittedly the celebration had more than its share of the one percenters; it was, after all, a fund-raiser to help get the garden established. The atmosphere was gentle and relaxed, as you might expect in a gathering of garden lovers and Santa Fe lovers.

Looking back on what is now a longish life, I realize how important gardens have been to me. This comes as a bit of a surprise since I had always thought of myself as a social activist, first in the Vietnam War era very openly, then as a closet campaigner for several causes, some of which I have written about on Hi. In fact, along with reading books, my love of flowers and of things that grow in gardens and in the wild have been the defining interests of my life.

It started with my grandmother Pearl, a fervent reader of the Bible. Once at the Fairchild Botanical Garden in Miami, I confided in her my great love of gardens She looked at me for a long time, with a sweetly stern expression (did she discern my blooming atheism?). Straightening her back, she uttered these words, without preface or further interpretation: And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge. (Genesis 2:9, as I later discovered.)

In the sixties when traveling between Oklahoma and Massachusetts, I often stopped off in St. Louis at the Missouri Botanical Garden, which was where I first became familiar with Australian flora. In the seventies, I often visited, in the depths of the Canadian winter, the Montreal Botanical Garden, and in 1971 spent the month of May doing nothing but visiting about 30 of the great gardens in the UK, including of course, Kew, Edinburgh and Wisley. In the eighties, I became familiar with some of the great Australian Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Sydney and Melbourne and, above all, the National Rhododendron Garden in the Dandenong Ranges on the edge of Melbourne.

I offer these Gardens up not as a list of achievements. All I did was walk and see and hear and smell and feel and let my spirit soar. Occasionally, at night I go into my SciFi/Fantasy mode and imagine, or perhaps remember, our planet as a garden entire, the cities planted, constructed, cultured and the countryside wild, full of joy and surprise. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, everywhere abundant.

Janet, Shu, Ragini, Peter and 5 others said thanks.

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David Wade Chambers

Born in Oklahoma: 30 years in US. 6 years in Canada, 40 years in Australia. Academic field: history and philosophy of science. Currently, teach indigenous studies online at Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Brandon University (Manitoba). Come visit our B&B on Australia's Great Ocean Road. Mate's Rates for Hi community! (

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