The Garden

Fall 2003 CSANews Issue 48  |  Posted date : Apr 25, 2007.Back to list

Freeman Patterson's "The Garden" is a gorgeous book. It's a combination of spiritual but 'unpreachy' essays, accompanied by his trademark, luminous photographs.

These photographs portray five seasons in Freeman's own garden at Shampers Bluffs, New Brunswick, showcasing his arresting visual genius.

Patterson is not only a Canadian icon, his photography is recognized internationally.

"The Garden" is so much more than a coffee table book. Freeman's photographs highlight his skilful use of light and composition in dazzling, dramatic sunsets, dreamy, misty impressionistic dawns and beautiful winter scenes.

It's also an introspective, thoughtful celebration of life. In a recent radio interview, Patterson admits that in the frenetic activity of preparing for the next season, gardeners often neglect to stop and smell the roses, or listen to the birds. For Freeman, this attitude was radically altered by the life-threatening trauma of two liver transplants in four days.

During the subsequent long recovery, he took time to contemplate the natural life cycle of people and gardens. In this book, he shares his observation that, "every garden and every gardener is a work in progress." He also comments that, "his garden grows wilder as he grows older."

In "The Garden," Patterson advocates cedar fences, and winding paths that go nowhere with benches for reading and quiet soul renewal.

Another practical tip deals with Freeman's duel with the local deer and their mutual fondness for hostas. His solution? A hundred bars of Irish Spring Soap, with a box by every plant. The bars are placed just as the leaf stalks are emerging from the soil. Deer have an aversion to Irish Spring Soap, so they never touch the hostas. To Patterson, this represents both victory and an example of harmonious existence.

I particularly enjoyed one delightful anecdote about a spontaneous, loving surprise which Freeman gave his mother shortly before her death. He had discovered a wonderful growth of scarlet sumac in a clearing near her home. The path was narrow and she was frail, so he suggested that he would pretend to be a horse drawing a cart, and she should be the cart.

Just picture him sticking his hands behind him as his mother grasped them, and he pulled her along the little path. He'll never forget her gasp of pleasure, and their mutual quiet enjoyment of the autumn splendor. These are the magic moments of life - the positive memories.

In "The Garden," Freeman Patterson's five seasons reflect spring, summer, autumn, winter and finally early spring again. His final observation: "Eternity travels in circles" (he is obsessed with circles). "The seasons roll around and around" and, in Freeman's fifth season, "the expectant Earth stirs...and I live inside myself more powerfully than I have in months." Freeman challenges us all to journey out of doors, and to travel inward simultaneously.

"The Garden" is truly an inspirational book.