Monday, September 17, 2012
There is a walkway in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens. It's not a specific destination, it would be hard to direct someone to its exact spot. I usually come upon it by accident, hurrying from one one place to another. But when you walk in, the temperature changes. The breeze floats through the open windows, carrying the fragrance of water lilies. Mingling with the fresh scent of ferns and blossoms, overflowing their baskets, time suddenly slows. Every slow motion step, I find myself thinking, "I wish I could take a picture of the way this place feels."
My favorite backyard in Southern Virginia is full of sky scraping Virginia Pines and Loblollies, bright lantanas, fragrant gardenias and views of the brackish Lynnhaven River--try as I might to capture its peaceful magic, I can't freeze that moment with my iphone or my Canon point and shoot. It's the sensation of being there. The calm of the present. A Night Heron may swoop in or a White Egret might catch a fish.
Sometimes there is not a thing--not a song, not a dance, not even a compelling movie montage that can capture or express, the feeling of being in a moment.
As creative thinkers in gardens, museums and in schools, we are being tasked with finding interactive on-line ways of interpretive, dynamic learning. But no matter what, if it's online, it's still virtual reality, not reality. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it has yet to eclipse the necessity of human interaction. There is a magic in the ebb and flow of teacher student relationships that remains unmatched by our daily interactions with Google. What we really need to do is to challenge ourselves, our children and our students to live fully. Experience the things that we cannot describe. What does it feel like to be inside listening to the rain? Can you describe the moment before an embrace, the split second of jumping off the high dive? Imagine climbing the steep hills of San Francisco. What does snow taste like? How does it feel to stand at the foot of the Giza Pyramids with your feet in the Saharan sand?
You can't take a photo of these moments, you can't truly describe them. They don't add value to anyone's life when they are announced on facebook in the tawdry tone that has become common place---these moments only matter--when you live them.