Look up the word “numinous” and you’re well on the way to understanding what you can gain by unleashing your creativity. Landscape architect W. Gary Smith opened his recent lecture at the Toronto Botanical Garden with a detail photo of a raked gravel garden at Philadelphia’s Chanticleer. He described a magical moment when cherry blossoms fluttered to the ground, filling the patterned grooves with their gossamer white petals. As he stepped into the centre of the gravel bed, the wind whipped around him, and more blossoms swirled about, creating the magical feeling of being in the middle of a snow globe. No setting, no occasion, no moment can be numinous by design. All we can hope to achieve, Smith says, is to set up the place where these moments can take place.
From that powerful opening image, Smith proceeded to describe how, by using eight universal patterns created by various natural or human processes, we can unleash our creativity to design landscapes that are ready for their numinous moments. If I tell you what those eight universal patterns are, this post would sound like a text book, but believe me, when Smith reveals these patterns and how he uses them to inform his designs, nothing could be less like rote learning. If you can’t attend one of his lectures, then buy his award-winning book From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design, and if it’s sold out, visit his Stooks and Punes installation this spring at the Toronto Botanical Garden, and if you can’t make it to the garden, then visit his website – but be careful; he just might unleash your creativity.