Sacred Arts: Session Fourteen – Landscaping and the Art of the Natural World

Email to Participants

Our next session is on [date]. Our private and public spaces are full of trees, plants, rocks, water, paths, and objects, which we call gardens. And whether the garden is a permaculture yard, or a formal herb garden, cement planters or just expanses of green grass, we seem to crave these carefully – or carelessly – curated spaces for nature. For this session, we will consider our use of nature as an artistic medium and how we understand ourselves in relation to nature.

Readings and Videos

Exercises

  • Engage and encounter a garden or other curated landscape that you did not design. If none are available, use an online resource. Hopefully even a small space will be available for direct engagement. Remember to follow the process:
    • Observe in silence. Look with your heart, mind, body
    • Initial impressions. Note what you have observed.
    • Learning: learn about the garden – who made it, when, why, the style/school, etc.
    • Sharing: reflect in your journal on the impact, meaning, and connections you are making with this garden.

Questions for Reflection

  • When you read in “Gardening” about the “link to the land” and “feeling like an earthling,” did you share in that feeling to a spot of land you love? How do you become a part of the plants, the rocks, the water, and other garden features?
  • Ruchotzke’s observations about sustainable leadership in faith communities is tied to our ability to mutually care for and find sustenance in our faith communities. How does your balance sheet look in relationship to your congregation? How do you balance your giving with your receiving? How is this mutuality leading to burnout or sustainability for you?
  • In the video on biomimicry, what touched you about the line between creating spaces to observe nature unspoiled? What do you notice about yourself when spaces integrate nature into design? How does observing, manipulating, and incorporating the natural world for human consumption speak to you?
  • What insights did you have about the social/political/ethical drivers of the people you learned about from the list of influential landscape artists? You might bring photos or videos on your mobile device, or send links to me, your facilitator, so that we can all observe the spaces you found intriguing.

As a Reminder

Our shared observation was the enjoyment of shared improv exercises.

I look forward to being with you!

In faith,

Session Plan

Gathering (5 minutes)

Note for Facilitators:

Allow for some chatter, settling in, and other busy-ness;be gentle but firm as you call people in to listen to the reading and check in.

Chalice Lighting, Opening Reading, and Check In (25 minutes)

Our opening reading is “A Garden Prayer” by De Vandiver (UU): https://www.questformeaning.org/quest-blog/a-garden-prayer/

What are you carrying in your heart tonight? How is your spiritual practice going?  Your work with your spiritual director? Do you have anything to share from your creative work- either something you’ve observed or something you’re working on?

Covenant Review (2-5 minutes)

Note to Facilitators:

Use whatever process your group has established to stay current with the covenant, including reading it out loud together at each session.

Is there anything about the covenant that we should address?

Shared Observation (30 minutes):

Note to Facilitators:

Hopefully, some of the participants brought/sent videos or photos from works by one of the landscape architects on the top ten list. In case no one has anything to show, use this video tour of Central Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead:
https://youtu.be/wjn8QcZzmQA

Today, instead of encountering an unknown garden, we will share a bit about the landscape architects you found intriguing, and view some of their designed spaces.

Instead of our typical process, I will invite each of you to share a bit about the landscape architect and then show one of their designs. Our discussion can investigate the artist’s philosophy or design, the impact or meaning of the space, or our aesthetic impressions.

Reflections (50 min):

Note to Facilitators:

Invite participants to choose the prework observation, reading, or reflection question that most intrigued them. (Participants often reflect that the readings inform their observations and experiences but don’t necessarily lead them into deeper discussion; often, they set the stage for the individual and shared observations or their own creativity.)

  • In the prework, you were asked to observe a garden. What space caught your attention? What did you observe? How were you able to connect with this landscped space?
  • How do you engage with this art form? Are you a practitioner, spectator, first timer? How does that affect your approach to this art?
  • What lessons about life might this form teach you?
  • Turning to the reading, what moved you or piqued your interest?
  • When you read in “Gardening” about the “link to the land” and “feeling like an earthling,” did you share in that feeling to a spot of land you love? How do you become a part of the plants, the rocks, the water, and other garden features?
  • Ruchotzke’s observations about sustainable leadership in faith communities is tied to our ability to mutually care for and find sustenance in our faith communities. How does your balance sheet look in relationship to your congregation? How do you balance your giving with your receiving? How is this mutuality leading to burnout or sustainability for you?
  • In the video on biomimicry, what touched you about the line between creating spaces to observe nature unspoiled? What do you notice about yourself when spaces integrate nature into design? How does observing, manipulating, and incorporating the natural world for human consumption speak to you?
  • What insights did you have about the social/political/ethical drivers of the people you learned about from the list of influential landscape artists? You might bring photos or videos on your mobile device, or send links to me, your facilitator, so that we can all observe the spaces you found intriguing.

So What? (10 minutes)

How does this reflection relate to your spiritual journey? Your creative work? What are you inspired or challenged to do next?

Gratitude and Closing (5 minutes)

As you prepare to pack up and clean up, each person, as moved, says one or two words about something from this session for which they are grateful or how they are feeling in this moment. After everyone has said a word, close with a brief statement of thanks and appreciation, and clean up art supplies as needed.

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