Jan Johnsen’s “Spirit of Stone,” and an Art Challenge for Earth Day
Wow, it’s been more than a year since we started our backyard makeover! We began by replacing our thirsty lawn with drought tolerant, earth-friendly plants—envisioning, as we did, a haven for birds, bees and butterflies, and a sanctuary for us.
Salvia spires, cape fuchsia, lavender and roses…they’re sprawling across decomposed granite walkways now, perfuming the air as they reach for the skies.
Heaven must surely be a garden, or so they say. And by they, I mean me. Most of the time. Songbirds perch on the feeder, singing their little hearts out. Visual harmony, however, is still very much a work in progress.
In this next phase, I’ll expand my color palette—maybe add some splashes of yellow. I want also to rein in the random groupings, clustering whimsical pieces and grounding the airy (read: unruly) salvia with rocks.
How to accomplish all that? I hadn’t a clue.
That’s where Jan Johnsen’s latest book, THE SPIRIT OF STONE, comes into play. Have you read it? If not, go grab yourself a copy!
In seven, beautifully illustrated chapters, Johnsen offers new and/or freshly interpreted ways to incorporate stones into your outdoor living spaces. Quick confession: I’ve never really understood the notion of hoisting huge boulders into your yard, willy-nilly, or scattering white gravel around your succulents. It doesn’t look…well, natural. But after reading this book, I’ve come to realize that a few, well-chosen rocks will add dimension–maybe also a bit of sparkle–to my flowerbeds.
There are important design considerations, of course. Johnsen walks you through the options. Rock gardens, cairns, stairs, stacking stones, accent pieces and Zen sculptures… she details the possibilities, and then shows you how to bring your favorite ideas to fruition.
I appreciated that Johnsen braided practical advice and deeper knowledge, and that she explored the ‘spiritual’ significance of rocks. Some people attach meaning to their beautiful colors, shapes, and textures. We might also see them as talismans of strength and endurance. As metaphors, they speak to us in ways that flowers cannot. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, being within him the image of a cathedral.”
The Spirit of Stone is at once practical and spiritual, and it’s as beautiful as any coffee table book you’ll find. I’m keeping my copy handy, as I reimagine my garden landscape this spring.
Because it ties in so nicely…
The Art Challenge prompt for April is Earth Day, so apropos!
Let your imagination flow like water over rocks, inspired by this global celebration of Mother Nature (with an emphasis on conservation). The rules are simple: 1) Drop a note in the comments for this entry, to let me know you’re interested. 2) Sketch, paint, make photos, embroider, knit, write a musical score, record yourself dancing…. any creative interpretation is welcome! 3) Display your work on your own blog, over Earth Day weekend (April 21-23). 4) Link it here, in the “gallery of participants” I’ll provide in an updated post.