Sometimes it takes only a moment, or image, sound, or smell to remind you of a dream you had long forgotten. For me, it took last night’s crazy dreams to remind me of the garden I had at one time hoped to create. Sometimes it takes people under curses, tiny monkeys, 17th century ghosts and defending yourself with pointy rubberized action figures to shock you out of the humdrum of everyday existence. Whatever it takes, there are moments at which our fondest dreams rush back to us all at once with a familiar sigh.
For me, one of these dreams has been a garden, artistic in form and intent, that would be truly accessible for all. I do not yet have a name for this place, a name for what this garden might be, but occasionally flashes of it come back to me. I hear the sound of windchimes – metallic, shell and wood. I smell the distinct notes of flowers, each exuding its aura from a different direction, mingling gently with the prevailing breeze. I am led not only by paths beneath my feet, but by waves of color, the softness of a particular type of grass, the desire to touch the spiky hairs of some unknown moss. An though many of the logistical issues remain unanswered (how to make roses touchable to the blind? how to make walkways texturally interesting for the feet, but not difficult for the wheelchair? how to include more tactile experience without compromising safety or legal regulations? How to include taste?), it is these questions in particular which lead me to re-envision this dream.
It’s not exactly a new idea. Gardens for the visually impaired have been around since at least the 70s and probably longer. A touch and smell garden opened in India in 2001 and another in Augusta in 2005. A ‘Garden of Five Senses’ was begun in 2003, also in India. Yet all of these seem to leave something wanting. Do these gardens for the visually impaired truly address the needs of those without hearing? Does a garden of the five senses draw in those who don’t have the use of their legs in the same way it draws in those who do? Can it? Hopefully someday I’ll have the master plan for one that does, and be able to implement it.