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.