Sunday, November 11, 2012

Olmstead's Voice

As we rose from the French Broad River toward the Vanderbilt chateau, I fell gradually behind, lost in the trees.  The strong quiet voice of Frederick Law Olmstead slowed my steps.  He had choreographed trunks and branches into a dance which sang to me as I walked through it, and as the sun passed over it, draping shadows on the grass.  Though the individual trees have grown up in unpredictable ways, as dancers' cannot erase the breathtaking differences in their bodies and movements, the placement of the trees was clearly the vision of a single spirit.  Through that vision, the landscape and the trees transcended the ordinary to become art.

Groups of younger trees nearer to the house remain ordinary.  It's not the age of the trees - I clearly sensed that the older trees would have sung the same Olmstead words, danced the same steps, when they were saplings.  The voice has deepened with the age of the oaks, but it's the placement and relationships which carry his voice, not the grandeur of the individual trees.  

Nor can film carry his voice.  I took dozens of photographs, and every one is empty and mute.  But I remember the feeling of a white dance as my daughter and others performed it last night - a dance similar to a pastoral landscape.  And I remember the movement and voice as I walked through Olmstead's landscape this morning.


L'Adelaide said...

Hello.. this is stunning! take care.

susan said...

I've just been looking at some pictures of the Biltmore in hopes of seeing more of the Olmstead forest. Unfortunately, what's available seems to be all chateau and formal gardens. Did you get to stay there? It's a very beautiful place indeed but I can well understand your preference for the natural (and planned) surrounding. I was immediately reminded of the landscape artist, Capability Brown and his acceptance that his work wouldn't mature until long after his own lifetime.

Your daughter's class looks beautiful in their dance.