We witnessed two unexpected events at the Garden this past August, yet both were typical of the predictable ebb and surprising flow of our lives within nature. Mid-month, near the Robins Visitors Center, our Emmenopterys henryi flowered, flashing rare and delicate blooms on a lovely tree that originated in China. Two weeks later, after another of the many evening rain showers so common this past summer, horticulturists in the Grace Arents Garden discovered a large, heavy-laden branch of the historic Ginkgo broken off ten feet from the trunk, and laid across a lower branch like a broom leaning in a corner of the kitchen.
For those of us privileged to visit gardens as well as work in them, memorable moments over the course of a year, both pleasant and sad, are woven together with green shoots and dormant trees, burgeoning vegetables and turning leaves. We are allowed to bathe in the tempo of the seasons in deep and moving ways.
This year we have been taking time to celebrate our natural love affair with the wondrous world represented in this beautiful garden. Just like our relations with the earth, memorable moments in our lives with each other—with those we love and those we live near—slip easily into our hands with the seasons, like familiar tools in April or smooth buckeyes come September. One volunteer meets another with the touching phrase, “What is your volunteer home?” Another volunteer spends an afternoon transforming unyielding rebar and balky light strings into magical fairy flowers and asks, “When do we get to come back?” The hiccupping laugh of a butterfly-chasing toddler is punctuated by his older sister’s stamping foot as she asks her parents the very same question, “When do we get to come back?”
Our love affair with nature is the theme at the heart of this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights, and it is the ever-present theme of all our days as sun follows moon, season follows season. The nights grow longer now, and we move closer to one another, drawing warmth in fellowship as the winter sun arcs lower across the sky. In this season, where is the community that draws you? Where is your home? We hope in part, that it is here. If so, is there a sweeter question, with equal parts joy and longing, than, “When do we get to come back?”