Young Kevin in New Zealand.
I was finishing up a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and about to leave for New Zealand to travel and study Landscape Architecture during the southern hemisphere school year. I was also struggling with the big, obvious questions at the time: what was I doing with my life, will I be happy, would I find her, will I make a difference, and how would I pay for any of it? Was I really able to spend another three penniless years studying Landscape Architecture in grad school when I returned to Oregon?
Back to Poe.
Book of short stories by EA Poe.
The Domain of Arnheim is about a man named Ellison who, upon turning 21, inherits a vast fortune. A brilliant man and artist, he desires to express "the true character, the august aims, the supreme majesty and dignity of the poetic sentiment." Ellison also contemplates how to make oneself happy. Upon much reflection, he chooses to pursue landscape garden design.
Edgar Allan Poe, 1849 "Annie" daguerreotype, Wikipedia.
Who knew that reading a largely unknown short story by the great E.A. Poe would offer the support I needed?
I recently bought the 40-minute audiobook and listened to it. Again, I had to listen to many passages repeatedly to properly understand the old-timey talk of his centuries-old messages. Poe is not afraid to use multiple run-on sentences, repeatedly, with tons of commas, some seemingly random, some not, to just partially express a thought. My kind of fellow.
A journey, Boston APLD conference garden tour, photo by KM.
"An anxious examination of (Ellison's) career has given me to understand that, in general, from the violation of a few simple laws of humanity, arises the wretchedness of mankind. That, as a species, we have in our possession as yet the unwrought elements of content. And that, even now, in the present darkness and madness of all thought on the great question of the social condition, it is not impossible that man, the individual, under certain unusual and highly fortuitous conditions, may be happy."
A portal, Bainbridge Island residence, photo by Lara Vyas.
I enjoy how Poe tells this tale. He spends the first third of the story setting up his argument for the health and happiness benefits, along with the unparalleled artistic merit, of performing landscape garden design. So good.
He spends the middle third of the story explaining what landscape design is and can be. I am astounded at the thoughtful research Poe must have done. The last part of the story describes Ellison's life's work; the creation of a garden tour of unparalleled beauty. I recall finding it truly inspiring to my young self, and it sold me on the value of the journey and the destination.
A destination, Windcliff APLD garden tour, photo by KM.
How fortuitous for a young, would-be landscape designer to stumble upon this story. I was offered some powerful validation that what I was pursuing was indeed exactly what I valued.
"Here, indeed, was the fairest field for the display of imagination in the endless combining of forms of novel beauty; the elements to enter into combination being, by a vast superiority, the most glorious which earth could afford."
The Domain of Arnheim by Dustin Haug
And this year I get to pass the story along to you. I hope you find the time to enjoy The Domain of Arnheim.
Happy Holidays my APLDWA peeps.
PS. I read an article online that suggested Poe was referring to a mental "domain" by using meditation to create an inner "landscape-garden". I like that but, due to my landscape designer bias, I read it differently. Poe is referring to the physical realm, but he is talking about embedding the landscape garden with meaning (care, excitement, journey, reveal, destination, etc.) to bring one closer to the spiritual world.