Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tasha Tudor's Garden and the Joy of Beauty

Tasha Tudor's Garden Tasha Tudor's Garden by Tovah Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. I sometimes fantasize about living in a hand-hewn cozy cottage with a wood-fired cooking stove apart from the noise and congestion of city life. I would love to bake my own bread, raise my own laying hens, milk my own nanny goats and make yogurt and cheese. I would love to rely solely on my hardy pioneer stock and bypass technology (save for the ease with which I could obtain the basic necessities of life…and probably indoor plumbing…and central heating). Hey, it’s my fantasy world.

Yet, here I am, blogging mommy; a Twittering, Facebooking, Linkedin technology embracing 21st century inhabitant.

There are some modern pleasures to which I haven’t succumbed. We don’t have cable or satellite television or a flat-screened TV. I don’t have an iPhone, iPod, Blackberry or a space-aged looking device permanently stuck to my ear.

I do bake my own bread from time to time with grain that I grind myself (in a modern, convenient and easy-to-use electric grinder). I make my own yogurt occasionally and I have sour dough starter on my kitchen counter. I grow an excessively huge vegetable garden each summer, with varying degrees of success and I like to make jams, jellies, pickles and preserves with the abundance. I sew, knit, quilt, cut my kids' hair and in general try to make the world a more beautiful place. (I said try.)

I sometimes feel torn between the two worlds—my fantasy world, which I would love to inhabit, and the real world that I actually do inhabit.

My recent musings were brought on because I just finished reading
Tasha Tudor's Garden, by Tovah Martin, which is profusely illustrated with stunning photographs of Tudor’s Vermont hilltop home and her 250-acre botanical heaven-on-earth. (An aside for those of you who are ignorant of Tasha Tudor, as was my husband. His response when I told him I was reading a book about Tasha Tudor was, “Who’s Tasha Tudor?” This from the man with whom you never, ever want to play Trivial Pursuit. He’s got places, dates and geographic locations permanently etched in his brain. Need to know the capital of Burkina Faso? The capital is Ouagadougou. It used to be called Upper Volta, he tells me. Anyway, Tasha Tudor was a prolific illustrator whose illustrations transport you to another time and place. She was born in 1915 and died just recently, in June 2008. Although she lived in the 20th century, her lifestyle, dress, home and garden were deeply rooted in the 19th century, if not earlier).

This is a visually stunning book that transports the reader to another time and place. I would liked to have read more about Tasha Tudor, but this book really isn’t about her, it’s about her garden, and ultimately about beauty. The pictures transported me to a time and place that is so different from my own, which perhaps is why I find it so appealing. My Colorado garden could never compare to her Vermont hilltop garden. She has moisture and rich soil whereas I have dry clay and rock. She evidently relies on nature to water her garden most of the time, whereas I pay double for Arvada water since I live outside city limits. Because of this, if you come see my garden in late July or August, you’ll usually find my grass a dull green, if not brown-tinged because I’ve diverted all the precious water to the vegetables.

I was disappointed the book didn’t have pictures of her heated greenhouse. It made mention of its lovely camellias which brighten her home in the winter, but no pictures. I can only suspect the greenhouse doesn’t follow the proscriptions of imitating 19th century. It’s probably the technological reason for the stunning beauty of her flowers.

Really, the book is about beauty and not about living a certain lifestyle. Her eccentric dress and lack of 21st century technology may be about her own quirkiness, but they are also beautiful in themselves. Because she spent so much time nurturing her garden by hand, collecting and arranging lovely vases of flowers and painting the exquisite scenes before her, we, the readers, get to enjoy the many images of beauty.

Technology (like this blog I’m writing right now) has done much to spread ideas and information. But we can’t live authentic lives if we don’t allow ourselves to be nurtured by beauty. It easy to be distracted by the technology itself: flashy images, surround sound, instant access. But without beauty in our lives, we are only half-human. If I learned one thing from this charming book, it is that I need to be more mindful of the beauty around me; to nurture and protect it like Tasha nurtured and protected her lilies, roses, peonies, poppies and even the lowly pansies. She cared deeply about each of her botanicals, often calling them by name and always ready to give a history of their planting and heritage. When a frost was predicted, she’d hasten outside to cover the vines of her Concord grapes with laundry, or she’d lay a deep layer of mulch around a tender plant like a mother covers her sleeping child with a blanket at night. Tasha Tudor understood beauty and our human need for it.

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Anna Scott Graham said...

I feel much the same, in that I'd prefer simpler times. I do appreciate some modern conveniences, but I long for days when life wasn't so bound to consumerism and marketing, those my pet peeves.

I bake bread when the mood hits, always make my own cookies too. That seems to surprise people, which I find hilarious.

Lovely post!

Lizzy said...

Dearest Mumzie,

I noticed that you said "It made mention of it’s lovely camellias..." However, the possessive is "its," without an apostrophe.
I really love this blog entry, by the way. You should definitely write a book.


MilitantMom said...

Oh, Dear Lizzy! You got me again...It's so nice of you to notice when I make silly mistakes. Maybe you should quit the PA stuff and just be an English major, eh? (wink, wink, jk jk). Oh, and I'm correcting it straight away. (Its annoying when it's is spelled wrong, ya know?)That last one was also a joke. ;-)