A Year of Mondays

The power of a single view and a creative meditation on that view isn’t new, but that idea has been tossing around in my head for months.   I thought I wanted to explore gardens and the possibility of  design influence using  Ando Hiroshige’s 100 views of Edo.  Several of  my favorites are included here.

View 57
View 57

I have long known that gardening intensifies the power of observation–just as learning how to draw does.  So what could a sustained observation and the recording of one finite area yield creatively?   If I just observed what’s right outside my window–a place that I have gardened in for more than 10 years–what would I learn?

View 75
View 75

For me, it’s an intriguing idea, that a small garden area that I believe I know intimately still has something more to teach me–not so much about gardening, but about creativity and how to see.


So next Monday and every Monday for the next year after that that I am able (I do travel a bit)  I will record and post an observation (view) of  my side garden which is much less expansive or exotic than Edo–or is it?

View 10
View 10

My garden is only 11 feet wide  an approximately 45 feet long–and it is my favorite and often most neglected of my outdoor spaces.  It is south facing and is bordered by my house on one side and my neighbor’s unruly and unkempt yard on the other.  At each narrow end is a vaguely Moorish iron arbor–both left over from a flower show garden and there is a central path of slate recycled from a neighbor.  It is, as all of  my gardens seem to be, a hodge podge of  leftovers and survivors.

View 47
View 47

I realize that this might be extremely uninteresting to anyone else, but the posting of the observations will insure that I follow through for a year and that I don’t get distracted by the next shiny thing as is often the case.  Since this is the 21st century, I will include some images made by looking through a screen, but the observations will also include words and drawings or maybe even something else I haven’t even thought about yet–I really want to see where this leads me creatively so my only rules are those that I’ve stated–and I’m open to those morphing into something else and taking me down a new path–in fact, I hope they will.

20 thoughts on “A Year of Mondays

  1. Great idea, Susan, and thanks for giving me a new Monday morning inspiration, that of reading your weekly posts. Can’t wait. All the best. Lynn

    Thanks Lynn–I look forward to your comments…it’s going to be an interesting year for sure!–S

  2. Very interesting project Susan, and quite an undertaking. I look forward to taking this trip through your garden with you. Scott

    A year doesn’t seem as long now as it did when I was younger. Markers like holidays come around again at lightening speed. On the other hand I am easily distracted so this should also test my self discipline.–S

  3. What a lovely, reflective way to spend a Monday morning Susan. I look forward to following your journey.

    I think I’ve sped up so much that I need to now slow down — especially creatively. I need to spend more time on one thing instead of dividing my time so frantically and this is a way of doing that…or maybe not. –S

  4. I love it. There are certain ways in which I feel like most designers customarily go about observing that I’ve never related well too, so I’m always interested in hearing new ways to see as a designer.

    I know that I don’t view the world as others do, I never have. I don’t know if this experiment will translate to anyone else, I hope it will reveal some insight into my own process that I don’t know yet. Does that make sense to you?–S

  5. What a great idea! I look forward to your pictures and the changes that you will make.

    Thanks Eleanor! It should be an evolutionary process for sure. I’m trying to go into it with no expectations, but that’s kind of hard.–S

  6. One spring, I became obsessed with photographing the same patch of six Tulipa ‘West Point’ — not having much choice, as my garden is so small. It was my first year as the owner of a digital SLR camera. Catching them at different times of day, as foreground, as background, in macro, from the top, from beneath, backlit, in silhouette, gave me sharper eyes all round when looking at flowers.

    Sometimes our constraints can be a boost to creativity. For me, it certainly was a boost to observation. Have fun! I imagine the hardest part would be the discipline of doing it every Monday for a whole year.

    Isn’t observation through our own unique filters what feeds our creativity? I hope so. I really did have to think about the year-long commitment. I’m still in the new obsession every 3 months phase!–S

  7. Ohhhhh goodieeeee…. not only will we get to see your process but how your garden will transform. I am so looking forward to this…and happy for you to be getting the end result!

    Glad to see you here Chloe! I am excited to see what this yields creatively.–S

  8. Love it! For me, watching the subtle changes in my garden closest to my kitchen window is a most rewarding part of having a garden. By documenting it, you’ll be creating something meaningful to your readers, and perhaps, to you.

    Truth be known I hope some of what I re-capture is that sense of discovery and wonder that I first had when I started to be a serious gardener. Time will tell. Thanks for the support.–S

  9. I think your choice of one week intervals is perfect for this project, Susan. Frequent enough not to miss too much during seasonal changes, but with enough time between for your eyes to re-register the view and see it “fresh” again.
    I recently spent a very happy afternoon paging through a friend’s new beautiful large format book of Hiiroshige’s 100 View’s of Edo. I think his use of line in creating strong compositions is brilliant!

    It will be an interesting experiment. I’ve never attempted anything so disciplined over such a lengthy period of time. As time seems to speed up, I want to slow it down and peel back some of the layers of expectation that have obscured what I observe. I hope this will do that. –S

  10. Diggin’ the intention!

    Struck particularly by: “just observe what’s right outside my window–a place that I have gardened in for more than 10 years” and “not distracted by next shinny thing”. Sewing these together, I can’t help but wonder if revelation will be that that garden is most meaningful, more consistent shinny thing.

    From the “restorative (healing) garden” lens, curiosity is pique for what will happen to your brain chemistry, your “emotionality”, your creative quotient as you brain is “positively distracted” by this particular view…

    Please do share what your contemplative “noticing” opens in your mind’s (soul’s) eye.

    As I said to you via Twitter, I’m hoping this gives me a creative kick in the butt–and that includes my brain chemistry…Thanks for reading.–S

  11. Hi, Susan — The Edo aesthetic is exquisite. I found the second image so compelling, I set it as my wallpaper. Good luck on your year of Mondays. I admit this description also resonated with me: “a hodge podge of leftovers and survivors.” Yep. Describes my garden, too! Debra

    Debra, Thanks for stopping by. The woodcuts were made in the 1850s and to my eye look extremely contemporary. I first discovered them years ago while writing a college paper on Mary Cassatt who was greatly influence by Japanese prints. Glad you enjoyed them and thanks for the good luck wishes! –S

  12. Observation. Meditation. Discovery. Often, photography teachers will instruct students to go outside and spend an hour photographing an area about 10 ft by 10 ft. This assignment is given to get students to look beyond the obvious, dig deeper, learn something. No doubt, you will come away with more information than only that about the plants that reside in your 11 x 45 foot space. I look forward to your thoughts and the creative way you will share them with us.

  13. This is a brilliant idea. How many of us do actually observe our gardens that closely over a period of time, to learn & see all the changes. To see it’s character & all the different animals & insects that visit it. I will look forward to reading your posts & I will try to get time to observe what is outside my own window!

  14. Very interesting, indeed! I very much look forward to seeing the progress of your garden, and reading your thoughts!

    I really have no idea where this will really lead. I do know that I’m going to have to get over seeing the flaws first.

  15. Susan,

    Re Ando Edos love the shapes, but not the colours. Well you don’t win them all! For me the great thing of web is all these images we can see to inspire. Look forward to following your record. There’s brave!
    Best Wishes

    The ability to see the shapes and record and interpret them is what is astounding to me. The color varies wildly in the series from subtle to garish. Glad you’re going to follow along!

  16. Your idea reminded me of a botanical illustration class I took. I spent a few hours every day working on a drawing of a chocolate cymbidium. I was absolutely seduced by all the subtle colors.

    I wonder what you’ll discover about your little garden. it’ll be fun to read about what you see.

    Part of the reason I chose such a small space is that I’m such a big picture kind of girl.

  17. Susan
    At times I’ve been consumed by the beauty of ukiyo-e – is Ando of the generation to follow Utagawa? Or perhaps re: wikipedia, one and the same artist?
    At any rate, your musings are compelling, and as always, draw me in to your designer’s perspective.
    btw Are you familiar w/ the sublime Ukiyo-e images that are of a distinctly sexual persuasion? The only so-called p.rno..raphic works that I find to be high art.

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