Beauty is a word seldom used in our vocabulary these days. The present mood of our American age is to sell equality. If something is deemed beautiful, it stands to reason something therefore has to be less beautiful, that is, unbeautiful or even ugly and therefore unequal.

Someone might be made to feel bad…..Oh, my!

I was director of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society for nearly 14 years when our offices were housed at the Department of Horticulture on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Previous to holding this office I spent two years working on a masters degree at that campus in Horticulture. The word ‘beauty’ within this world of horticultural studies was never used…..not once.

Landscape gardening was considered a trade, not an art form. That was nearly 40 years ago.

Nothing has changed, for the university, any university is a killer of art and artistic creativity. Such bureaucracies freeze art whether it’s music, literature, or landscape gardening……And, they control the teaching of teachers, a population which may have an interest in an art form, but no abilities of value to perform since lecturing isn’t exactly the experience necessary to create beauty.

There may be another problem…..the more up-to-date American of nearly any background disdains, or is taught to disdain, the existence of ‘soul’ in our modern population, especially the university-going crowd.

Feeling beauty, imagining beauty, honoring beauty, creating beauty requires “SOUL”. Our culture at present is essentially soul-less.

Landscaping is one of the few art forms which is forced upon the general public whether to see bad art whether they want to or not. One has to buy a ticket to see a bad play, a bad concert, a lousy show, and ugly contemporary paintings at the typical modern art gallery, or buy a book to read the profain, boring, or ludicrous.

Photographing Nature usually still tweaks a bit of ‘soul’, but such volumes don’t sell well.

About 60 years ago Americans discovered suburbs. Although many of the first such settlements there were laid out in rectangles 45′ by 90′, similar to residential neighborhoods of the center cities, those fartherer out offered plats with remarkable variability of size and shape, ups and downs, ins and outs.

With some very rare exceptions most of these properties were landscaped as if the homes were still in the center city built on rectangular lots with no thought whatsoever, that beauty of the grounds might be a consideration, a possibility, much less a reality.

City leaders feared the anarchy of homeowners, their tastelessness, the laziness or whatever, of a population, especially one without soul or thought regarding beauty, and so established restrictions….lining up major trees along the boulevard, and encouraging the planting of huge shade trees for the general good health of the city or suburb whether beneficial to anything or not.

Politicians felt good about shading the cities and suburbs, whether the trees were good for anything or not.

I believe the art of landscape gardening is the easiest of all art forms for a public to learn AND express well…However, it requires knowledge and discipline……and at least a bit of soul.

Have you ever listened to Beethoven’s Spring Sonata? It is a magnificent test for the ear, mind, and soul, in my opinion, to feel and understand true beauty….for people who seek ‘soul’ at least…..which eliminates most every American in public life these days.

Listen carefully to its slow movement…the adagio, perhaps twenty to thirty times…..or until you become drugged with emotion. Then, and most importantly, in simple language with ordinary common adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, explain why something so simple is so incredibly beautiful…….and begins its command over you.

Beethoven’s art is for the ear what the beautiful landscape should be for the eye.

The best thing about this discovery, this recognition of incredible human made beauty, is the possibility of ‘soul’ returning to your human existence so that you might want to learn its demands, rules, ‘tricks’ of the artistic trade to capture beauty…After all, human made beauty is a discipline.

Start your trek to discover beauty by studying Beethoven’s adagio to the Spring Sonata. All you have to do is listen and begin to think and then with ordinary everyday words explain why it is so beautiful.