Ducknapping!

My friend Sarah has just informed me that one of the baby ducks from Nancy Schön’s sculpture in the Boston Public Garden, Make Way for Ducklings, has been stolen. A ducknapping, how awful!! (More on the theft in this article).

Visiting these ducks was one of the highlights of our recent visit to Boston. I hope that Pack the duckling finds his way back to the rest of his family soon!

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Greenscapes 2009 — Call for Papers


Greenscapes ~ Sense and Meaning:
Fields of Dreams (Landscapes of Myth and Imagination)
October 1-3, 2009, Brock University

Our landscapes have long been the unconscious repository of cultural hopes, fears and desires. From the Garden of Eden to Aboriginal Dreamtime, societies have perceived their surrounding natural environment to express cultural values reflected in their myths, legends, sacred texts and belief systems. The occupation, transition, or representation of landscape constitutes an imaginative exercise for both subject and object. Yet imagination is not a consciously controllable process, and dreams can be unsettling portents as well as expressions of wish-fulfillment. We welcome papers that explore landscapes of myth and imagination in real and virtual sites, literary texts, images, and installations and invite proposals on the following topics:

• Landscapes of allusion (texts, myths, folktales, legends)
• Sacred and Secular Utopias
• Profane imagination: ruin, decay and social transgression
• Gardens of the ‘first time’: origin myths and social legends
• Dream landscapes: fear, desire, and exploring the unconscious

Please send abstracts (up to 250 words) and a brief biography to greenscapes@brocku.ca by January 5, 2009.

The conference will take place at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario. Giles Blunt, author of Forty Words for Sorrow, The Delicate Storm, and Black Fly Season, will deliver the opening keynote on the subject of landscape and fiction.

Conference organizers: Keri Cronin (Visual Arts, Brock University), David Galbraith (Royal Botanical Gardens), Sharilyn J. Ingram (School of Fine and Performing Arts, Brock University), Leah Knight (English Language and Literature, Brock University), Katharine T. von Stackelberg (Classics, Brock University).

We acknowledge with gratitude the support of the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University.

For more information, please visit www.brocku.ca/greenscapes

Greenscapes Blogging

After months of planning, our Greenscapes conference kicked off at Brock last night. Our opening keynote speaker, Lorraine Johnson, kicked things off with a wonderful talk entitled “Tending the Earth.” Lorraine’s talk introduced a number of topics that I’m sure will come up again and again at this conference, so it was a really good introduction to what will unfold over the next couple of days.

One of the key themes of this talk was the idea that personal gardening practices are very much a public act. Johnson’s remarks asked us to stop and think about the various ways that the act of gardening has an impact on our community and our environment. For instance, Johnson talked about how, in recent years, people like Sandy Bell and Douglas Counter have fought for the right to depart from dominant gardening practices in their own yards (click here for a recent article discussing these cases). The idea of having to engage in a legal battle in order to plant something other than a standard, close-cropped lawn is so ridiculous, but it continues to happen. Why do neighbours and communities get so up in arms when someone decides to plant native plants or drought-resistant species or (gasp!!) vegetables in their front yard!?!

Johnson also talked about gardening that goes on outside of private homes and yards, and brought in numerous examples of urban garden projects that, I hope, can serve as examples of how we should be thinking about our relationship to plants in cities. She discussed, for instance, the Green Streets Program in Vancouver, the Alex Wilson Community Garden (Alex Wilson, incidentally, was the author of one of my all-time favourite books, The Culture of Nature), and the rooftop garden on top of city hall in Chicago. These examples, of course, all go beyond the individual gardens we have in our yards, and I think this is an especially exciting point. Why should gardening be confined to the home? As these examples show, there are tremendous community, social and environmental benefits from expanding our notion of what a garden is and where a garden can be.

Call for Submissions

The Brock Review is seeking scholarly essays and creative works for a special issue dedicated to the theme, “The Garden in the City.” In order to be considered for this issue, manuscripts and creative pieces must be submitted by the 15th of November, 2007. Submission procedures and guidelines for contributors can be found on the journal website. The Brock Review is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published by the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University.

Home again!

We’re back from our little jaunt over to Montreal, Ottawa and Kingston. The main purpose of the trip was to see some of the gardens that I’m writing about while they are in full August bloom. I also got to do two things that I have been wanting to do for a long time: 1)attend International Flora Montréal and 2)see one of Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibitions. We also managed to work in a little kayaking while we were in Kingston. It was quite the week and I’ve got no shortage of things I want to write about, but today is all about getting unpacked and doing laundry.

In the meantime, I wanted to post the link to Digital Arts & Humanities, a very neat resource exploring ideas, issues and applications in the world of Digital Humanities. I’ve spent most of the evening checking it out and following the various links.

Linnaeus was here

We made our way to the Chelsea Physic Garden yesterday. This so-called ‘secret garden’ was founded in 1673, and is one of the oldest and most interesting gardens in the UK. They recently opened up a section dedicated to the work and life of Linnaeus. Apparently ol’Linnaeus was once a visitor to the gardens and this is marked with a big, red sign that says “Linnaeus was here.” The sign even has an arrow pointing to the ground, indicating the spot where he might have stood. For some reason this totally cracked me up!

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And in other celebrity place-related news, the Chelsea Physic Garden is right around the corner from Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. For some reason I love Gordon Ramsay — he comes across as rather gruff in his shows, he has nothing good to say about vegetarians and just this week he made the news in the UK for telling a television presenter that she had bad breath on air, yet still I still like the guy. So, I took a tourist snapshot of the front of his restaurant. I didn’t immediately realize the connections between this image and the “Linnaeus was here” sign, but I think these two photographs fit quite perfectly together!

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We also went to the Tate yesterday and saw the most amazing photography exhibit called “How We Are: Photographing Britain“. That makes one more exhibition catalogue I have to find room for in my suitcase…