We Deserve Beauty: Finding Inspiration in Patterns
“When you put beauty in a place that has none, that’s a game changer.”
— Ron Finley
To live in a beautiful, uplifted situation with dignity should not be seen as an exclusive privilege for the elite. It is the birthright of every being born to this earth. The idea that rest of us should content ourselves with stodgy utilitarianism is oppressive. We all deserve beauty.
To surround oneself with beauty is old, powerful magic. It’s no wonder it was seen as so revolutionary, so dangerous for Ron Finley to create a beautiful food forest garden in his poor LA neighborhood.
Look! The elk in the wood carries itself with pride, dignity, its chest uplifted, its head and shoulders like a king, its every movement, its very presence is an incantation:
“I AM HERE!”
When we dare to create a beautiful, uplifted environment for ourselves, it allows us to be in the moment boldly, rather than shrink to some sense of shame or inferiority, or worse, an aspirational fantasy of salvation – some savior, the lottery, that promotion, the dream-job, the business breakthrough, the revolution – which may never come.
Instead, we can each make our worlds beautiful and our lives rich. This does not require money. It’s the ultimate taboo of our age, the truth almost everyone wants to hide from you, but you have more power over the way you will experience your daily life than anyone else on this planet does.
The world we want to see starts with us.
Looking for “patterns” and models to replicate and adapt is both a good tool for improving function as well as creating beauty. This “pattern language” paradigm makes beauty and good design available to anyone, not just those who can afford designers. (See “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander.)
Whenever I approach the teamwork of design, and design is ALWAYS teamwork, I begin by finding patterns that fit the landscape, the architecture, the history, ecology and community character of the space. Each space will be different. What is the “genius of the place” trying to say? How can I help it be heard, rather than stifle its voice under my own song?
These images show just a few of the patterns that inspired our design. The first is the famous “Italian House” at Kuskova. We wanted to invoke this “allee” of trees and hedges framing the entry like a visual mandala setting the mind to a state of focus and attention – visual dharma. And the model was appropriate to the Itaianate design of our home, our climate, our neighborhood and our goal of promoting sustainable living through beauty.
The next is the model of the Jardin de Cure, a historic form of food forest garden. These were beautiful spaces for growing fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, and medicinal herbs while creating a healing, rejuvinating space.
These walking paths along fruiting hedges, with herbs were a natural pattern we could include in our design.
The third example is Highgrove Manor, also somewhat inspired by the jardin de cure. Prince Charles’ gardens at highgrove are a model for organic gardening applied to the beauty garden. Most of us do not have the space or resources to have a garden purely for pleasure, we have to integrate herbs, food, and social space into one landscape. But we can still find inspiration in places that work to make people feel GOOD.
Here we see those Jardin de Cure colors in our gardens, with an edible meadow inspired by Highgrove in the background.
More Highgrove colors at Lillie House.
And finally, the most important, inspiring and beautiful pattern we looked to was the “home garden” pattern found throughout the world in indigenous societies. It is the pattern of a just and sustainable society, and one known for its beautiful, life-enhancing environment.
Michael Hoag: Manager/teacher/gardener/author/designer/consultant.
Michael Hoag has spent over 20 years as a full-time worker in the army of Permaculture change-makers. He is founder of the Transformative Adventures Cooperative, managing director of Lillie House Permaculture, and a full-time Permaculture designer and consultant who has participated in over 300 projects. He has worked on farms of all sizes, worked with food justice organizations, colleges and universities, and environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, and PIRGIM. As a teacher trainer, he has worked as a pedagog in crafting university curricula, adult education curricula, and programs for environmental and ecological awareness, and Permaculture. He has worked at a farm credit bureau, a commodities exchange, and managed farmers markets. He has created businesses including market gardens, vermicomposting operations, and helped start and lead multiple community and non-profit organizations.
Michael has over 20 years experience teaching classes and facilitating group projects, including community garden and forest garden projects. He’s an enthusiastic researcher of traditional temperate forest garden systems and productive ecologies of the Great Lakes region. The culture, history and aesthetics of gardens and garden architecture are his great passions, and he believes beautiful, healthy landscapes grow beautiful, healthy people and cultures. He has taught and lectured for McHenry County College, Arora University, the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, the Chicago Adult Learning Resource Center, The Kalamazoo Nature Center, and gives presentations to community groups, organizations and churches. He helps organize Van-Kal Permaculture, the SoMi Permimixer, Michigan Safe Energy Future, CORE and the Kalamazoo Climate Change Coalition’s Food Group.
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