When I was visiting New York City earlier this year, I noticed a small book at the MOMA Bookstore called Go With Me: 50 Steps to Landscape Thinking. This book, written by a landscape architect named Thomas Oles, was "designed as a tool for students of landscape architecture and planning, and all those who share their curiosity about landscape." The title, go with me, is the literal translation of vademecum, which is latin for a handbook that is designed to be carried with someone as a reference; in this case, as a reference for landscapes.
Oles created 50 entries divided into five categories: sensing, reasoning, showing, changing and testing. Each entry was invitation to explore the landscape. During my recent trip to England, I asked the participants to do an exercise each day we visited a garden. At Stourhead, we followed the instruction to "look up" i.e. " to lift your eyes above the horizon. Look into the branches above, then to the sky beyond. Crane your neck, hold it there until you swoon. Plunge upward, add this to your knowing of the place." At Hidcote, an almost maze-like garden, I asked to group to "unpack the map." to wonder and explore the garden without trying to figure out exactly where they were. In another garden, we were asked to "draw; to leave time for drawing. Wrest it from other tasks if you must. Forget rules and conventions; draw incessantly, furiously, painstakingly. Choose an implement and make it your fifth limb. Let your arm and hand lead your mind." Another day we were asked "to transgress" but my favorite exercise was one we also did at Stourhead, was "breath deep" to "stop, close your eyes and mouth and inhale. Draw in the landscape, pass it over your olfactory receptors. Turn it over there. Exhale, take five steps forward, and do the same thing. Repeat endlessly. Learn once more to think with your nose."
I plan to bring this little book with me when I am visiting gardens, when I am hiking in the White Mountains and when I am doing eye mission work in Haiti. It will encourage me, as it did while I was in England, to take time, to be present, to observe and to explore the landscapes that I have opportunity to visit.