The enchanting garden

One of the days my husband and I were out in Oregon, he came back from his morning run very pleased. He had a surprise to show me on the campus, one that he knew would delight me. He wouldn’t tell me what it was, though, not wanting to spoil the surprise.

Let me back up a moment to remark on the beauty of the University of Oregon’s campus. Both my husband and I attended universities that were of a mostly utilitarian, bricks-are-best style, and while in Eugene, we found ourselves commenting again and again what a pretty campus it is.

While my alma mater has an arboretum near the main campus, UO’s website boasts that its campus “is an arboretum” (emphasis mine). To call it an arboretum isn’t a stretch, considering the rest of the campus description: “… with museums, libraries, laboratories, and lecture halls situated among over 3,500 trees of more than 500 species. Bring in the harvest at the urban garden, explore the nearby historic cemetery, or walk along the banks of the Willamette River” (Source). They’re not exaggerating about the nature that is an integral part of the university.

Back to the day my husband took me off our usual path through campus. Here’s where our journey took us:

A garden with books blooming in it

A second book in bloom

I was spellbound. Even from a distance, the sculptures looked intricate and enchanting, and I felt compelled to see them more closely. The close-up view of each was rewarding in its own way because each sculpture included either a quote etched into the book’s open pages or a page with a quote on the ground, as if a blossom or leaf had drifted down from the plant.

And the words these flowering books had to say? I’m hard-pressed to pick a favorite of these quotes below. Perhaps one will stand out as a favorite to you:

“Let your bookcases and your shelves be your gardens and your pleasure-grounds. Pluck the fruit that grows therein, gather the roses, the spices, and the myrrh.”
– Judah Ibn Tibbon

“Knowledge is a comfortable and necessary retreat and shelter for us in an advanced age; and if we do not plant it while young, it will give us no shade when we grow old.” – Lord Chesterfield

“Go, little book, and wish to all
Flowers in the garden, meat in the hall,
A bin of wine, a spice of wit,
A house with lawns enclosing it,
A living river by the door,
A nightingale in the sycamore!”
– R.L. Stevenson

I always get a bit giddy when things I love come together, and here in this space, art, books and a garden melded into one. And if it hadn’t been for my husband trying out a different running route that morning, it’s a delight we might have never known existed.

The rewards of the unexpected path
In Walden, Thoreau wrote of his struggle to take a different path from his cabin to the lake each day, especially once he became aware of a little rut he had started to wear through the grass. I think he was onto something.

So let me encourage you today to take a different path. What you discover may be your own enchanting garden.

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