enclosures

Speaking of this, and the small greenhouse, and the touch of anthroposophical claustrophobia. Diana wrote: ‘The flowers are lovely, but the “close” feeling is sort of unbreathable. In some ways to me this does characterize Waldorf aesthetics, there is not enough sky and light and always a touch of claustrophobia.’ Naturally, the BD people didn’t plant the forest (well, it’s not a forest, more like group of trees) behind the small greenhouse. But in the garden, the ‘close’ feeling is — it seems — quite intentional. There are, for example, many high hedges, dividing up space in small compartments. There are various enclosures, natural and created, artificial ones. I guess this isn’t unique to anthroposophical or anthro-inspired gardens. What sort of is interesting though is that the feeling Diana describes — that of being closed in, there being not enough sky and light, no breathing space — and which, in those pictures, was (partly? wholly?) caused by a natural enclosure by trees (and possibly augmented by the contrast between lightness and darkness), has been intentionally created in other places in the garden. I made a quick dig in the archives, and found pictures of one of several café areas. These pictures were taken late one evening in June — around the summer solstice, actually.

In the background, one of the larger greenhouses. In this older post, there are several photos showing semi-enclosed spaces in the garden. I’m personally quite fond of this; these spaces provide perfect opportunities for photography. They filter out too some light, often create an interesting interplay between light and dark, and usually provides the perfect uncluttered background. And I was always quite attached to enclosed gardens — they have a mysterious hold on me. I’d like to have one of my own. Preferably one with real walls around, though. Overgrown with roses. Well, I’m not likely to ever own a garden like that.

8 thoughts on “enclosures

  1. Actually, this may be a stretch (debate me if you will …), but I think the “close” feeling, the slight claustrophobia, is deliberate, and reflects the anthroposophical discomfort with nature. “Man” is above nature (or at least, most of nature) in anthroposophy. Particularly with small children, Waldorf pedagogy is firmly against letting anyone run free, interact freely with nature etc. The inside/outside dichotomy is very important (reflected, for example, in all the constant changing of shoes). Marking the threshold is very important; keeping the two worlds apart. I think this is reflected in the penchant for gardens that are not very “natural” but are constricted in space and feel. The anthroposophical aesthetic in gardens seems to be for flowers in tidy boxes much more than for open spaces, broad vistas or wilderness.

    At least, that is anthroposophical dogma. I should add that I once visited a Waldorf kindergarten where this was very much not the case and the children were seemingly freely interacting with nature much of the time. So it depends on how orthodox the anthroposophists in charge.

  2. Highly fascinating! For one thing because what I like the anthro garden for is the (seeming) anarchy in the flower beds. There’s another garden we sometimes walk in, and it’s so neatly organized, so lacking in wildness. Tulips of one colour in one compartment, another colour in another compartment, etc… the floor, the earth, kept free of any intruding elements… boring, dirt-coloured. Tidy! Boring, boring! But it’s true that there aren’t open vistas, and fewer open spaces, in the anthro garden compared to the other one. This makes me quite intrigued to see photos of Rosendal before it was taken over by the anthros in the 80s. (They don’t own the land, btw.) It was decaying for many years, but the garden is old. Some trees in the orchard are very old. There’s a small castle — used by kings in older times 17th/18th centuries) when they were out hunting or whatever they did as pastimes — very close-by, and these gardens used to belong to the castle. Well, they still do, in a way.

    ‘Particularly with small children, Waldorf pedagogy is firmly against letting anyone run free, interact freely with nature etc.’

    I don’t remember this, but then I was perhaps too inhibited to run free anyway.

    As for shoes, yes, we did change shoes. It never occurred to me as particular to waldorf though — I think this is the case in most kindergartens and early grades, because of our climate. Maybe it’s done in Germany too — my brother, who ended up attending the German school in Stockholm, had to change shoes in the early grades too! (I know this because he told my mother and me that the most embarrassing moment for him was when mum bought him eurythmy shoes — she thought they were perfect, simple, light, shoes to change into. Haha. She had to buy him ordinary gym shoes instead.)

  3. Ha! Well, I told you it was a dubious theory … I guess it can’t be generalized.

    That is quite interesting about the shoes … I thought it was a strange Waldorf fetish, apparently it is done because of the climate!! So it is another case of “We must do everything the same even when there is no reason for it.” I assure you, where we live, no one has “indoor and outdoor” shoes (except in the dead of winter, obviously, one changes from shoes to snow boots and vice versa), but we most definitely don’t wear “indoor and outdoor” shoes in, say, June. I’m sure our director told me some anthroposophical justification for this (having to do with “rhythm,” “inbreathing” and “outbreathing”); perhaps she herself simply did not realize it was a northern European thing (as you know, she was Swedish).

  4. Also there are those Danish kindergartens that are basically all-outdoors all the time, right? I had a book about them at one point, don’t know where it’s gone. And you’ve said you take it for granted to spend a great deal of time outdoors even in (what we in our much more temperate clime would consider) extreme weather. So maybe there are many more cultural layers to this than we normally realize.

  5. ‘we most definitely don’t wear “indoor and outdoor” shoes in, say, June.’

    When I was a kid, waldorf kindergarten ended around june 10th and began again around august 20th. Just like Swedish schools. I think they have to offer something during summer nowadays — they receive public funding, so I guess there are requirements coming with it. Anyway — during the period when you wouldn’t have to change shoes, school’s off. But september/october is too muddy, as is april. From november to march there may (or may not) be snow, and if there’s no snow, it’s, well, muddy.

    The same goes for hot weather. Sure, temperatures may be really high at the end of august, the first weeks of school were sometimes unpleasant. But then came autumn. So it was a short period. We get do get high temperatures from time to time — it’s the proximity to Russia, where summers can be incredibly hot, and these high pressure zones keep the fronts from the atlantic at bay.

    ‘perhaps she herself simply did not realize it was a northern European thing (as you know, she was Swedish).’

    Swedes, and northern europeans, differ a lot from southern europeans in this. I think it’s old habits. Most of the year the weather is such that removing shoes is necessary, unless you want to live in a mudpit (or constantly clean the floors)… and it may be that we just continue with it during summers too. I take off my sandals and leave them in the hall. But I usually don’t take off my shoes if I’ve forgot something in the apartment. Not if they’re clean. But many swedes would view this with suspicion — walking in with shoes on!! Of course, this makes swedes appear peculiar when they are abroad and visit non-swedes. What a weird habit — people taking their shoes off and walking around in their socks!? But, yes, it’s what we are used to. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this habit is something the teacher brought with her from Sweden. It’s almost wired into the brains of swedes — it’s what you learn after you’ve learnt to walk… take the muddy shoes off!

    ‘Also there are those Danish kindergartens that are basically all-outdoors all the time, right?’

    Swedish too. They even have nap-time outdoors. It’s a bit extreme, in this climate. Especially as the last couple of winters have been very cold. But even normal nurseries/kindergartens spend a lot of time outdoors, also when it’s very cold.

    I was thinking about another thing, re the (not) letting run free. Could it be that this has gone to the extreme in the US, because of the liability? And that, strange as it sounds, waldorf is more worried about it there, as compared to here, having been influenced by a general culture towards (sometimes excessive) precaution? I remember the discussions about tree climbing, and such activities, on critics.

  6. ‘Then again, I bet you would not send children outside to play in our hot weather :)’

    Actually, in June to August, I wouldn’t take mr D outside walking/playing before the evening. It’s too hot. Both for me and him. Whether it’s worse outdoors or indoors is an other matter, of course, but outdoors you have to be on the move, and you’d easily go crazy and over-heated.

    I’m not sure about children though. They may be less affected by the weather than I am, lol! Since air condition is not so common here, the kids may be better off outdoors in the shadow.

    My apartment is a sauna so I’m suffering ;-) Using the balcony is out of the question — I’d die out there. South-west and no shadow from other buildings or trees. This summer has been relatively good though. I think about average.

    I guess that our summers are shorter than your summers though.

  7. But then… I think about last winter. Cold cold cold cold. For months. Unusually cold for unusually long. I find these transitions between (extreme) dark and cold on one hand and on the other relatively hot and extreme light… difficult. The difference is too big. There’s always getting adjusted to change. And once you’ve adjusted, oops, season over — time to adjust again. The adjustment is not so easy even though in march you certainly long for winter to be over — it’s just dreadful in march. You’re just fed up.

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