Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sacred Spaces

In March, Shea Zwerver, The Charles S. Holman Rose and Flower Intern, gave her internship project presentation to a captive audience.  Her project was called the Sacred Sites Survey of the Morris Arboretum and aimed at identifying the "sacred spaces" of the Arboretum.  Sacred spaces in the context of this project are areas within the Arboretum that are special to visitors (including members, volunteers and staff) and their experience at the Arboretum.

Shea gives her internship project presentation to a full house

Reviewing the Sacred Spaces visuals.

Sacred Spaces layers

Throughout the months before her presentation, Shea distributed a paper survey to members, visitors and staff  and asked them to identify the spaces, views, garden feature, etc. with which they felt a particular connection.  Because visitor's experiences and valued areas can be so varied, Shea constructed most of the survey to be open-ended to collect qualitative and subjective information.  Shea also collected some basic demographic information.  The most useful information from the survey came from two sources: the places respondent circled "sacred spaces" and an open-ended "notes" section.

Shea analyzed and presented the results in order to begin a conversation between the Arboretum and its constituents about the sacred spaces at the Arboretum.  Below is a graphic representation of the sacred spaces that were identified (look for the stars) on top of geographic layers of the garden, including hydrology, shady areas, traffic patterns and benches.  Her findings will help inform the master planning process in the years to come.

Sacred Spaces with layers overlay

The open-ended notes section also produced some enlightening details about respondent’s attitudes about the garden and why they enjoy certain parts of the Arboretum.  Below are a few of the quotes:

"Sometimes I come to the Arboretum for a walk and enjoy the peacefulness. Our family feels so lucky that the Morris Aboretum is so close for us to enjoy. Each time I visit I always seem to find something new to enjoy!"

"I enjoyed the anticipation of things to come-All the buds ready to burst open"

"I enjoy the free standing green house (fernery) Clean smell, green colors, life everywhere. So peaceful"

"The most memorable parts for me were smelling the witchhazel in the breeze"     

"The witchhazel area reminds me that life goes on even in the snow and ice"

"The hill overlooking the entrance is the spot where my husband and I had our wedding ceremony, driving by car of walking through takes me back to that day."

The step fountain--"This is my other sacred space because it feels small and secret and still has water"

"Having pulled weeds, raked, mulched and planted over so much of the Arboretum, my greatest pleasure is to sit and look into the distance-spring, summer, fall, and winter"

"I like the Japanese Overlook Garden because it is very peaceful and hidden behind the trees"

"When I was little, my favorite activity at the Arboretum was walking and playing among the rocks behind the canopy tree."

"When the late morning sun in the Spring and Summer ignites the Japanese maples in the center of the garden, it always stop me in my tracks"--Japanese Overlook Garden

"The log cabin is special to me. I tell the grandchildren it is cinderella's house and ask them to run up and see if she is home. She must be very busy since we have not found her at home."

"I came here once in the evening during a thunderstorm and it was truly magical" --Stone bridge that looks at the metasequoias

"I used to come to the Rose Garden, center fountain, to recuperate in the late 1950s-The fountain was dry, and I could sit there, sheltered from the wind in winter cold. Virtually no-one came to the Arboretum in those days so I had the entire place to myself.  My recuperation was for Post Traumatic Stress and I desperately needed solitude."

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