Gardening with words.

I always have to stop and consider how to spell the word “spirit.”  There seems to be a conspiracy between the “r” and the “p” and at least one “i” to try and trade places, or want to duplicate themselves far too many times.  But spelling it correctly has become rather important to me just now.  Because I may decide to literally etch it in stone.  Or brick.  Or cement.  Or perhaps wood.

I have recently become quite intrigued with the idea of creating a “words garden.”  It’s also known as an “inscription garden,” and I first read about such things in The English Garden magazine.

Inscription gardens are different from sculpture gardens, but they do share a bit of founding principles and philosophy in that they both insert into the art of nature the art of humans.  

In words gardens, carefully selected inscriptions are imbedded into pathways, engraved on stepping stones, incorporated into bench seats or gates, placed at the edges of water or beneath the surfaces of bridges.  The inscriptions may be single words, or perhaps longer inspirational messages from ancient philosophers or favorite prophets, expressed in any language, in a variety of type fonts, in a variety of sizes.

But the words themselves are meant to add to the beauty and the experience of the garden – to give it added dimension and connection between the human heart and the heart of the natural world.  The inscriptions are intended to enhance the moment, and to open up more than our eyes to our surroundings.

One example the author of the magazine story gave was the simple word “WAVE,” which was inscribed in a garden at a site precisely where one pool of water overflowed into another.  And the inscription was carved with a slight separation or pause between the letter “W” and the rest of the word “AVE” – thus revealing, as she noted, an ancient Latin word of greeting, as if the trickling water was whispering it to the garden visitor.  Other inscriptions she described were from poets and gardeners and writers out of the past, well-known and lesser-known, all mindfully and emotionally provacative.

I was smitten with the idea immediately.  And I’ve been gathering such words and quotations and inspiration ever since – writing them down on paper, circling some of them, crossing others out.

At first I was going to create a single space for my “words garden” – contained and defined in one area.  But now I think perhaps I will integrate it throughout my entire (albeit rather small) patch of yard and planting beds.  From front to back, side to side, I will weave chosen inscriptions into all of its possibilities.

After all, I suspect that may be the best expression of inspiration – joyfully cast about with abandon – like wildflower seeds and compassion, like breadcrumbs and music and thank you notes.  Perhaps even like spirit – when you don’t care how it’s spelled.