"Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer
than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders."
- Light in August, 1932
In this opening passage to Light in August, William Faulkner is drawing a distinction between the lasting effects of early memories formed before language and self-conscious "knowing" exist. I doubt Faulkner thought much about gardens, except as symbol or literary device, but his recognition of the power of early memory to shape an individual has bearing, for me, on the nature of emotional response, and by extension, on emotional response to the garden. I have my own inarticulate memories.
On a recent sad visit to Oxford, Mississippi, I visited Faulkner's home, not to see the house, but to walk the grounds which, especially near sunset, have a tranquility and quietness any garden might hope for.
The garden is very simple--sky, space, trees, derelict remnant of a long lost rose garden, lines of ragged privet hedges. In years past, I might have doubted whether this place could properly be called a garden, but now know it can.
Vacant brick-lined beds mark the old rose garden, now moss covered in the deep shadow of trees, evoking thoughts of time past, layers upon layers of cultures mostly forgotten. Like a palimpsest, the substance is wiped away, but the outlines remain.
These scattered bricks make a profoundly evocative garden that far surpasses any actual rose garden that might have existed in this place.
The old, straight cedars (Juniperus virginiana) measure off the large space, giving sense of scale ...
|House through trees|
... and they frame the sky. Light and sky are, in fact, a central theme of this happenstance garden. Everywhere you walk the sky opens through apertures in the trees, and light floods in, making dark shadows appear even darker ...
|Sky encircled by trees|
... and the effects of low sunlight at this late hour and this late season are everywhere apparent. Just look at the chiaroscuro-like quality of these images ...
|House, circa 1840|
Culturally, the subjects of the images take us back beyond the rose garden to even earlier times, suggested by the modest house of a beloved black servant ...
|Another life, another race, another story|
... and to an even older time when this land was inhabited by native people who had no concept of ownership of the land ... and even further back, to wilderness itself.
|Ancient grape vine|
It's fitting that our exit should be not through some wrought gate or formal entryway, but by an almost invisible path through a tangled green hedgerow.
|Hedgerow path to the car park|
"He ranged the summer woods now, green with gloom, if anything actually dimmer than they had been in November’s gray dissolution, where even at noon the sun fell only in windless dappling upon the earth...
- The Bear