Gardens are, as they always were, a retreat. Centuries ago, humans retreated from the wildness of nature, seeking protection from “lions, tigers and bears.” Today the garden is a retreat from the wildness of 21st-century life. Encouraged to shelter inside because of the pandemic it seems the world is looking out a window wondering what the way forward will be.
The Roman poet, Juvenal late in the 1st century CE, wrote, “This is what I pray for a little bit of land with a garden, a reliable source of water near the house and stand of trees-I ask for nothing more.” If we have a garden view from our window, we are fortunate indeed.
Our windows reveal the morning light. Looking through my window, I glimpse a bit of my garden, the flowers, some grass, a tree. Each day I look through the same window and think, this is the garden! Like a living painting, the light shifts, seasons change, and so does the view. The garden grows, declines, and remerges in new growth. We don’t know what we will see when we look out our windows, and as with this pandemic, no one knows what’s going to happen.
A few years ago we replaced our home’s original windows. Now I live with efficient windows, double pane, snuggly fit, safety glass with UV tinting. I’m happy about this. The purpose and value of windows is something I realize I take for granted.
As 2020 comes to a close and we are trying to celebrate the season of lights in safe and joyful ways I’ve been looking through my collection of photos where windows overlook gardens. As pandemic fatigue sets in, I’ve found some inspiration for this time where we have as poet Dan Jaffe writes “snapped our locks, pulled down our shades, taken all our precautions.” Since this pandemic is raging over the globe here are some enchanting window views others are looking through in gardens around the world.
Drafty old lead windows in castles let in light and provide a view but didn’t allow an opening to let in a breeze to provide cross ventilation as we easily do today.
The wonderful old windows from English Villages are not made of safety glass, which I easily overlook while feeling the romance of the place.
Windows in a French Chateau Villandry offer a view of a show garden, normally open every day of the year and now are open only a few hours on a Saturday.
Windows have a way of reminding us of life lessons such as this artful window from Painswick Rococo in England, though the engraved message is in Latin. Maybe it echos Michelangelo “Ancora Imparo,” I am still learning.
At Mt. Cuba Gardens in Delaware, these splendid conservatory doors look out over the garden and to the mountains in the distance.
In Long Vue Gardens, in New Orleans, I discovered the garden designer convinced the owners their current home didn’t fully benefit from the beautiful views outside their windows. Hence, they rolled the old house down the road and built a new one with better windows to enjoy the garden! This action takes window views to an entirely new level.
Windows invite us in. A decorative display in a village shop or one with a sleepy pup is hard to resist.
There is such a variety of shapes in windows throughout gardens, round, square, fleur-de-lis, tall, thin, and incredible curves.
There is no more fascinating and beautiful place to experience the significant difference in views than the Lattice Windows in the Wall of Colorful Clouds in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Gardens near Pasadena, CA. The Lattice Windows in the undulating Wall of Colorful Clouds is a highlight of the Garden of Flowing Fragrances, Liu Fang Yuan. The windows themselves are works of art. Each of the 25 windows is unique, with stylized patterns of flowers, petals, and geometric forms dating back to the 16th century. Outside each window is a carefully designed landscape to surprise you.
Modern buildings clad in mirrored windows reflect the garden around them stretching the view up into the sky.
Today in hospitals, full of pandemic suffering, it is unlikely patients can appreciate what limited window views exist. The research supports faster healing with windows on a garden, and the most superb example I’ve seen of this is in Barcelona, Spain.
The Hospital de la creu/St Pau art nouveau hospital is composed of 10 stand-alone pavilions surrounded by gardens with interconnected underground tunnels. This campus served Barcelona’s citizens for 80 years. following a guiding principle advocating the importance of natural light and garden views in treating their patients. The architecture incorporated elements of nature and emphasized beauty.
Some windows look out on an unlimited view, such as this sight from Fisherman’s Bay in New Zealand, from here traveling further south the next landmass is Antarctica.
Throughout history, we know there is war, strife, plague, and thankfully times of peace. Many a contemplative moment occurred during all of these times, looking out a window. There are currently 65 million refugees, people forced to flee their homes, who no longer can look through a window onto their garden, to their view of the sky, the temple spire, or the mountains in the distance. They had to leave the place where they would gather with those they love and enjoy a moment. Many in the USA currently facing homelessness due to loss of employment and illness will be forced to leave their view of the world.
We crave the light, and if we are lucky enough to have our little patch of earth which surrounds the place we call home, whatever size, how can we not celebrate our good fortune and see it as a beautiful, nourishing place for our spirit? Yes, we are lucky enough. Look out your miraculous window with hope.
A Happy Project
In thinking about this post, I did something you might enjoy. I looked out each window in my house. I took a photo with my phone and then I studied the image. The images surprise me when I study the captured moment. Some windows look directly out into the garden, and I see different sections of the same scene. My view includes borrowed scenery on the golf course with the towering pine and eucalyptus trees. Beyond the trees, I see a broad section of the sky. A front window looks onto my little patio courtyard with accents of red and where the entry pots are filled with the shiny green leaves and red blossoms of dragon wing begonias.
The high window in my stairwell, enhanced with a long-ago stain glass class project Rich and I made, gives me a view of the sunset colors streaking the sky at the end of the day. The patio door off our bedroom onto the deck gives me a distant view of the Superstition mountains. The mountain peaks have greatly diminished over the many years we have lived here as the trees in the neighborhood have grown tall. It also gives me a view of our garden from above. Studying each view I realized how the window frame impacts my perception. I feel a passion for this place, my garden. It helped me rethink my sense of space.