My Journey toward creating healing landscapes
Over the thirty-three years that I have been a landscape designer, I have discovered that when I tune into the subtle energy of the land and familiarize myself with the feeling of a place at the beginning of the project, not only does the design process flow smoothly, but the design looks so perfectly suited to its environment, so simple, that anything else would have paled in comparison. I believe intuitive design can lift your spirit because it enables you to effortlessly attune to the beauty and harmony of your surrondings and in that process you become centred, appreciating wherever you are. In these changeable times, our parks and gardens have become increasingly important places of sanctuary and refuge, allowing our bodies and minds to relax and reset and to allowing our spirits to feel replenished and energized.
When you are in a harmonious natural environment, whether that is walking in the bushland or even in a consciously designed place such as a botanic garden – any place in fact, where nature is predominant and the energy is balanced – it is easy to tune into your surroundings. But in smaller, urban spaces it requires the skillful combination of interesting, well-chosen plants, imaginatively used materials and the clever configuration of spaces and levels to achieve this goal.
Every project begins with listening to the requirements and desires of each client and analyzing the constraints and potentials of the site within the broader landscape.
I like to take the process a step further and ask:
“What does the land want me to do ? “
It takes patience and humility to invite this powerful force into our design process, and I believe this is our journey in the twenty-first century to become co-creators with nature rather than exerting our dominion over it.
How does intuitive design work?
During my first visit to a park that I was designing in new residential area of Margaret River in WA., I was struck by the majestic beauty of the endemic trees. These were comprised of Marris – Red Gums (Corymbia calophylla); Jarrahs – Swan River Mahogany (Eucalyptus marginata); and Peppermints (Agonis flexousa). One particular Marri tree, pictured above, stood out from the rest because it had the remnants of a rustic ladder nailed to the trunk leading to a barely discernible engraving of a heart where the ladder stopped at the first large branch. This captured my imagination and together with the tree’s generous canopy of about thirty metres across and an approximate age of two hundred to two hundred and fifty years, I suggested that this one (at least) be retained and that the park be designed around the tree. My employer at the time, Bill James, readily agreed and encouraged the planners and engineers to redesign the roads and allotments at the entrance of the subdivision to facilitate this vision.
In my experience, the vast majority of trees are completely cleared to make way for developments and are seen as a liability rather than an asset, so it was heartening to see the shift of perception that occurred when we kept the large old Marri. It become the a focal point of the entrance to Rapid’s Landing and many some new residents said they bought in this area because of the tree! It always made sense to me to keep such a special Marri from a historical, environmental and aesthetic point of view, but as the project progressed and the residents became so enamoured with the tree, I saw how simple it can be when we allow nature to show us the way.
The philosophy of Feng Shui is based on centuries of observation and provides guidelines for living in accord with our surroundings. Encompassing the teaching of the Tao, it is a practice of living in which our inner self is in harmony with the universe. The five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water, are continuously balanced by the complimentary processes of creation and destruction and our understanding of how to work with these processes rather than against them, can enhance our daily lives and help us reach our potential for individual wisdom, peacefulness and happiness. It’s original application was grounded in common sense: to protect houses and their inhabitants from wind – feng and ensure proximity to life-sustaining water – shui. It’s aim is to improve the well being, prosperity and healthy relationships for people, in both their homes and their work environments.
It also takes into consideration the dynamic effect of time. Anyone who is familiar with the ‘I Ching’ or ‘Book of Changes’, can see this interesting interplay of time with the forces of nature. It also resonates very deeply with landscape design, because our work is so dependent on time; not only in a positive sense as is it vital for each project to reach its maturity, but time’s inexorable march can also mean the disappearance of our carefully considered and maintained spaces – this is especially true of smaller, residential gardens.
You could say feng-shui is an effective method of finding our individual balance in a constantly changing world. Although a fascinating subject it can be confusing to apply and one book that I’ve found to be very clear and practical is ‘Feng Shui for Australians’ by Gerry Heaton.
Dowsing, also known as water divining, is a very accurate way to locate water, minerals and underground pipes using a willow branch, steel rods or a pendulum. It’s has been invaluable tool for farmers over the years and because its success is easily proven by digging in a certain place and depth it has helped generations of dowsers hone their craft.
“Dowsing is an expansion of lucid awareness, in essence – familiarity in communication with the Universal Intelligence.” Dr Edith Jurka.
The Dowsers Society of NSW are a professional and inclusive group that meets monthly in Hunter’s Hill. They hold regular workshops to teach you how to dowse and monthly talks an a wide range of related topics. Their website is: http://www.dowsingaustralia.com/
Alanna Moore’s website is also very interesting: http://www.geomantica.com/
Ley-lines are well known and well documented energy lines of significance. They appear all over the globe and they have been clearly marked for thousands of years with enduring structures such as the Pyramids, Stonehenge and Notre Dame Cathedral, to name a few.
Feng shui, Dowsing and Leylines are all traditional methods of understanding and working with the subtle earth energies. They provide years of collected wisdom of how to enhance positive energy lines and improve or neutralize negative ones to improve our quality of life.
Our intuition gives us access to the most powerful and encompassing energies in the world and beyond by connecting to our source or what I like to call the ‘omni’s
Omnipotence- all powerful,
Omniscience – all knowing and,
Omnipresence – every where at once.
This dynamic trio of abilities are available to everyone, at any time through their intuition. This is the pure potential we can all aspire to over the long term and in the meantime, I recommend that we continue to attempts to tune in, interpret and express these energies to create more balanced environments and indeed to live a more joyful life.