L.H. Bailey appears in, The Native Landscape Reader

December 28, 2012 at 11:54 am

When it comes to school allegiances, the green colored gridiron may always cast The University of Michigan and Michigan State University as the eternal warring opposites. When it comes to the cultivated patch of green, acrimony is passe as witnessed in U of M’s Robert E. Grese’s inclusion of MSU alum, Liberty Hyde Bailey in his volume, The Native Landscape Reader (Critical Perspectives in the History of Environmental Design) .
Robert E. Grese, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Michigan, describes Bailey as, “one of the seminal figures in American Horticulture, plant science, landscape gardening, and conservation in the twentieth century.” This volume features selections from Bailey’s, The Outlook to Naturealong with Grese’s trove of luminaries culled from his research including Frederick Law Olmsted, Jens Jensen, Andrew Jackson Downing, Horace William Shaler Cleveland, and O.C. Simonds.
This gives us a good excuse to revisit a selection from Bailey’s gem of a book. As Bailey explained, “The outlookto nature is the outlook to optimism, for nature is our governing condition.” Enjoy!_______________

The out-of-doors.

By nature, I mean the natural out-of-doors, — the snow and the rain, the sky, the plants, the animals, the garden and the orchard, the running brooks, and every landscape that is easy of access and undefiled.
Every person desires these things in greater or lesser degree: this is indicated by the rapidly spreading suburban movement, by the vacationing in the country, and by the astonishing multiplication of books about nature. Yet there are comparatively very few persons who have any intimate contact with nature, or any concrete enjoyment from it, because they lack the information that enables them to understand the objects and phenomena.

The youthful life.

Our eager civilization prematurely makes us mentally old. It may be true that the span of man’s life is increasing, but at twenty we have the knowledge and the perplexities that our grandfathers had only at forty. Our children may now be older when they are graduatedfrom school, but the high-school course of today is more complex than was the college course of fifty years ago. All this has a tendency to lessen the years of free and joyous youth.
You have only to see the faces of boys and girls on your city streets, to discover how old the young have grown to be. In home and school our methods have been largely those of repression: this is why the natural buoyant outburst that I described for a city thoroughfare challenged such instant attention and surprise. We need to emphasize the youthful life; and a man or woman may have a youthful mind in an old body.

The near-at-hand.
Therefore, I preach the things that we ourselves did not make; for we are all idolaters, — the things of our hands we worship. I preach the near-at-hand, however plain and ordinary, — the cloud and the sunshine; the green pastures; the bird on its nest and the nest on its bough; the rough bark of trees; the frost on bare thintwigs; the mouse skittering to its burrow; the insect seeking its crevice; the smell of the ground; the sweet wind; the silent stars; the leaf that clings to its twig or that falls when its work is done.
Wisdom flows from these as it can never flow from libraries and laboratories. “There be four things,” say the Proverbs, “which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:

“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;
“The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
“The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
“The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.”

 
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