NC I came upon the Grace Garden in Durham accidentally
while out for an afternoon walk in early April (2003). It startled
me, coming upon this island of manicured formal beauty carved
out of a patch of woods in a warehouse district. It is named for
Grace Richardson, who worked at healthfood superstore,
Wellspring, in Durham. Loved by many in her community, Grace died
in an accident caused by a drunk-driver.
garden is her memorial. Every day since finding it, I go by to
thank Grace for her garden. Up front, a stone dedicates the garden
to Grace Richardson, 1949-1999. Another plaque on a short worn-brick
pillar says, "My garden is a school for my heart."
The lessons are written in the language of nature, flowers, grass,
woods, streams, bugs, and trees. The Grace Garden lies across
from several warehouses in unfinished Durham Central Park. Located
off West Corporation Street, this is the heart of Durham's recently
refurbished tobacco warehouse neighborhood.
and brush surround the Grace Garden. Brick steps rise up a steep
hill toward a parking lot. On the other side, thick woods wind
down through a carpet of periwinkle and brush to a stream.
FOR MY HEART
a Zen garden, formal but rough. Something new blooms every day
in spring. Spashes of banana yellow, dark maroon, and wildflower
purples dot its shapely edges. Shades of green from faded teal
to deep forest dominate.
worn-brick walk encloses the garden proper in a figure eight,
and a man-sized, rust-colored metal tube sculpture reflects the
shape of the garden. The overall harmony is part of the nature
of a Japanese contemplative garden: every element, each dot of
color, every shape, enhances the harmony.
forest pansy redbud tree anchors one circle of the figure eight,
and a delicate, small Japanese maple the other, each perfectly
sculpted in the Japanese bonsai style that mimics nature yet clearly
shows man's shaping hand. Large flat gray rocks share space with
delicate flowers in radiant colors that give back some of the
sun's bounty in their vibrant, shimmering colors.
symphony of greens strains my vocabulary. A wide Auruba gold dust
shrub, its waxy green leaves flecked with yellow, sits in front
of the redbud tree with its soft canopy of heart-shaped maroon
leaves. A variety of grasses and ornamental shrubs, including
azalea, edge the garden and terrace the hill leading to the parking
lot above. The shrubs flower seasonally.
PART OF THE
I watched a swirling corkscrew of tiny flies hovering in the middle
of the first figure eight circle. I wondered what kept that airborne
ball of bugs whirling in that tornado of their own making, thinking
that some creatures live their whole lives like that, whirling
in tornadoes of their own making. I think we forget sometimes
that nature's beauty comes with bugs.
garden is a school for my heart. When I'm there, I am part of
the garden, part of its harmony. Green, earthy, breathing the
rhythms of life, I hear the music of the birds and whispers of
the wind. Resting on the short brick terrace wall, I hear a dozen
birdcalls, the quiet murmur of the stream, the occasional rattling
of a squirrel or rabbit in the brush. I take deep breaths of the
woods-scented air. I watch the swirling bugs.
heart takes notes to review when life is not so calm. Life includes
the bugs. My garden is a school for my heart.
visit the Grace Garden mentally even when I'm embroiled in toil
and trouble. I traverse its brick walk in my mind, conjuring up
its contours and colors and scents.
what do I find? Amazing Grace. Thank you, Grace, for your garden.
Grace Garden is located in unfinished Durham Central Park.
It's about half a block from the historic Triple A ballpark where
Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner filmed the movie
here to visit the Durham Central Park website. It
lists all the events in the park plus gives details about the
progress of the ongoing contruction of Grace Garden.