I decided to write this posting when the camellias on the bushes outside my house just started shedding their blooms. They were still at what I call the “poetic stage”, meaning that the dying blooms on the grass looked both beautiful and tragic at the same time.
Looking at the camellias gave me a sense of enchantment, and regular followers may recall some of my past writings on the link between authenticity and enchantment . Following in that vein, this post looks at three sources of enchantment found in poetic landscapes -landscapes that combine beauty with a thread of tragedy.
1. Giardini di Ninfa, just outside Rome
I visited these secret gardens when visiting friends in Rome, and was lucky enough to see them in May when the roses had just peaked. The gardens are built on the ruins of an papal estate, which was itself taken over by the Caetani family in the 14th c. By the 16th c. its castle was no longer habitable; but a Caetani family member commissioned creation of a garden on site, which also fell into ruin, until 1921. At that time, another family descendant initiated garden restorations. The last living descendant, Leila Caetani died in the 1970s. Upon her death, the garden became an Italian National monument. For more information on this amazing spot, a New York Times article from 2002 fills in some wonderful details.
I love these gardens for their beauty, tranquility, and spirit of reinvention. Of course, there is something poetic for me about the various incarnations this garden has had -and the fact that it belonged to a powerful family whose direct descendants died out. Its relatively reclusive nature adds to the poetry. The garden is only accessible 2-3 times per month to the general public. More information on when and how to get there is available from turismoroma .
2.New York’s High Line Park
This park was created from an abandoned elevated rail corridor in the heart of downtown Manhattan, beginning in what was once the city’s meat packing district. While heavily gentrified now, and starting to be a bit of a tourist attraction, this park still brings me enchantment (I’ve visited twice).
So many wonderful intimate spaces along this park:
For me three things make this a poetic, enchanting landscape.First, its origin story, which was a highly engaged and activist-led approach that began as a very uphill battle to save the elevated structure (it had fallen into disrepair, and was seen by many as an eyesore). From my perspective- the languishing structure itself is what gives the park its element of tragedy. Fortunately, the new park into which it has evolved adds so much beauty, while honouring its origins. Second, I love the God’s Eye view that you get of the city when you walk above the streets for a stretch of this many blocks. Third, it always has some sort of surprise in store for you, and this brings out something new in everyone who walks along it- either for the first time, or as a regular park user.
3. Olsany Cemetary, Prague
This lovely historic cemetery got its start with the Plague, as a burial place in what was at the time the outer edges of town. Today it has become a large and yet beautiful burial site, accommodating the remains of many famous writers and politicians.
We visited in the Summer with friends, and found it beautiful and humbling to walk through. Perhaps the most tragic of the graves we saw belonged to Jan Palatch, who set himself on fire to protest the invasion of his country in 1968. Prague does cemeteries with just the right amount of poetry. There is also an amazing Jewish cemetery there (which we only viewed from a distance). For more information on the site and why you might want to visit, Wikipedia has a great overview.
Landscapes are a rich source of poetry and enchantment, and these three spots are just the tip of the iceberg. This topic is one that I could write scores of posts on (so be forewarned). And it’s always wonderful when other bloggers alert us to other examples of these authentic places.