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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2008 Issue

Places from Away: Archetypal Landscapes
Letting kids play in their own neighborhoods scares today’s parents. Can children’s gardens like this one at the Morton Arboretum make up for kids’ nature deficits?

By Julie Moir Messervy, Affiliate ASLA

Places from Away: Archetypal Landscapes Photo from Outside the Not So Big House,by Julie Moir Messervy and Sarah Susanka, C/O Taunton Press, Photographer Grey Crawford

In this series of photographs from Outside the Not So Big House, coauthored with Sarah Susanka, Julie Moir Messervy takes us on a journey through the archetypal landscapes she first described in The Inward Garden.

We each carry personal memories of beloved places from our past. These emotional landscapes often become cherished symbols, influencing our vision of beauty and meaning in a garden.

It was not until I became a mother, watching my own children explore the meaning and magic of space, that I came to understand that there is a developmental process of spatial exploration—seven distinct archetypal vantage points from which we experience the joyfulness of space at a very early age. These developmental stages can be likened to natural images: the sea, the cave, the harbor, the promontory, the island, the mountain, and the sky.

The Sea

Our earliest memory of a contemplative place may be the “sea” inside a warm womb, where, as tiny embryos, we felt immersed, surrounded by softness and peaceful solitude.

When we swim in a pool, immerse ourselves in a spring shower or a sauna, or find ourselves surrounded by the soft boughs of a pine forest, we remember the feeling of the first sea of our lives.

These contemplative places celebrate the senses: scent, color, texture, light, shadow, and sound. A beautiful landscape brings us back to ourselves.

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