VANCOUVER, BC — Yes, I know… how could the largest sporting event in the world have anything to do with gardening… Maybe in a city other than Vancouver it might not and maybe if I didn’t see everything through a gardening filter it might not… but hang with me for a paragraph or two. I have my reasons…
This is the official Olympic logo this year.
The logo represents INUKSUK – “thing that can act in the place of a human”. These indigenous totems, built with balancing rocks, are traditionally erected for multiple reasons:
- Hunting and navigational aids
- Message centers
- To show where food is stored
- To mark an entrance to a spiritual landscape
- To act as helpers in hunting caribou
Now, I know you’re most likely not going to be hunting caribou in your garden. But take a moment to ponder the other reasons… starting to make sense? If not, read on…
My friend Andrew and I got invited to attend the opening ceremonies dress rehearsal. We disembarked from our early (EARLY!) train from Seattle feeling very much like college students on our 48-hour trip to Vancouver to see the spectacle. (I can’t remember the last time I used a backpack.) As we were wandering around prior to the event, we encountered a 200 yard stretch of rocky beach next to the walking path. Something wasn’t right about the rocks… and we realized that a local artist had taken these rocks and this stretch of beach to express the INUKSUK…
Andrew and I walked back and forth many times marveling at these improbable sculptures. And I took many pictures (which he mocked me about). But it dawned on me that this type of artistic expression would be wonderful in a garden. Gardens and tradition go hand in hand.
That evening, we were staying with friends (I can’t remember the last time I slept on a hide-a-bed!) and one of our hosts who specializes in First Nation (indigenous) cultures was telling me that the Olympic games have really helped the country celebrate indigenous roots. He used to live with in a community strong with First Nation individuals and learned that building INUKSUK is a way to teach children patience, balance and tradition. Kind of like teaching children gardening…
So, maybe I’m loopy from lack of sleep, too much caffeine, a flash-back to college travel norms (Yes, I will be sleeping on the train tonight!) but I think this lovely, simple art form might not only beautify the places we love to garden but also remind us that simple is good. Local materials can be great mediums for art and that in Vancouver, and everywhere else, traditions are worth celebrating.
PS… we wandered over to Vancouver’s Chinatown (amazing) for lunch before the rehearsal… and discussed the sculptures. When I came back from the restroom, Andrew presented me with this: