I promised this post a few weeks ago after my trip to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. As friends and I wandered through the garden, we encountered workers installing glass art pieces. Huge cardboard boxes and ladders sat alongside flowers. The workers had completed a few of the projects but most weren’t finished.
I came across the first sculpture, not realizing it was part of a garden-wide project. It looked striking but perhaps out of place in a garden.
It occurred to me something larger might be happening when I noticed these glass apples:
Buried deeper along a wooded walkway, purple spikes cropped up, reminding me of an elaborate advent-wreath-gone-haywire.
And here among the purple spikes, an otherworldly bloom/creature?
I have mixed feelings about the glass in the garden. These delicate spears and cones and faux fruits spring from the ground or travel along trellises. But these are not plants that bring life, neither the sort of flowers you cut and arrange in a vase to take to a friend nor the kind of fruit that sustains you. Most of these art pieces conjure up for me a stark, alien landscape or sea creatures flung far inland.
Looking back at these pictures, I struggle to understand why I’m more unsettled than wowed. I think it’s the counterfeit quality of these glass pieces that jar me out of the natural realm of the garden. We expect vibrant growth in a garden, not cold imitations of life, both real and surreal.
But they also stir loose a Robert Frost poem in the recesses of my mind (never a bad thing). In Nothing Gold Can Stay, Frost writes of that golden green color you might see in early spring or at sunrise, but he also mentions Eden and its grief, his last line a haunting reminder, “Nothing gold can stay.”
Glass in the garden is fleeting and fragile and breakable, and it’s a reminder that life is also fleeting and fragile and breakable, and that even the most beautiful things cannot stay.