Every bit of the sculptural, creative work around Ron’s house is in a state of fermenting, disintegrating decay. Amid all of the carefully tended constructions of various color, texture, and aesthetic tone, Ron’s great gallery is a riot of decomposition.
He likes it that way. You probably would, too, if you visited. Here’s why: Ron is a master gardener.
Moss and loam blanket the floor of the wooded southeast corner in Ron’s large backyard. Rot and decay writ in mottled, brunette piles neatly separate compost zones from nurseries for flowers. The heavy air beneath sweeping branches of the sheltering trees whispers prayers about seasonal time. The wind hums notes about rebirth and growth. Even as Ron burnishes one part of his canvas, the other side begins to fall out of order. Cut the grass today and the weeds on the edges of the lawn get a day’s growth ahead of you. Trim the weeds tomorrow and the flowers in their loamy beds across the way begin to droop. Weed the flower beds and grassy cousins try to get a toehold along the sylvan paths, silently closing them down. Tree limbs threaten to choke the walking paths with encroaching branches, while muddy gullies infiltrate the carefully manicured borders between the house and the thickening world all around.
This is neither metaphor for the sake of metaphor, nor inflated description to justify his efforts. There’s just no other way to put it: Ron spends time coaxing the growing world into a pursuit of something sublime. He doesn’t paint; he doesn’t play the cello. Ron works in his garden and dreams big. With shovel and trowel and rake and hoe, his efforts make deep, resonant sense to him.
His are not flower beds and topiaries that will show in Architectural Digest. That’s simply not his style. His efforts are plainer, calmer, less showy than dressier expressions of manicured Earth work. His is not an art form that ports easily to a museum. His is not an art form that most other people would even recognize. But his work is a unique expression of his personality and passion. More to the point, his efforts precisely describe a creative process, an honest pursuit. What he does in his backyard is precisely what he intends to do. He does not dream about it – he does it. There are paths and there are gables. There are areas where composted leaves are turning themselves into soil that will be transported across the yard in wheelbarrows a couple of years from now to push up spectacular flowers. His is a slow-motion art project, from seed to stem, and it thrives on integrity, sweat, and regular rain.
There’s never a way to know where you’ll find the creative process. People find ways to express it all the time, and sometimes it appears where you least expect it. Many people aren’t even consciously in touch with what motivates them to exercise their creative spirits. It simply emerges like flowers from the ground. In more easily identified, “traditional” artistic disciplines the trait is easier to spot; we recognize paintings and sculptures more easily than smart marigold beds.
Ron’s work doesn’t turn a profit and the total number of visitors to his “gallery” barely number in the hundreds over the many decades he’s been digging in the dirt. Those are not his goals. He invents and experiments and cultivates because there are endless ideas to explore, questions to peruse, constructions to consider. In Ron’s garden the work of coaxing growth from chaos is an authentic expression rather than a mandate to conform to expectations. You wouldn’t know it to pass by the front of his house in your car. Walk along his garden paths on a quiet afternoon, however, and this easily overlooked plot of land suddenly shimmers. You see things differently there surrounded by growing things. You see things differently because Ron has seen things differently, and then, without fanfare, organized a small piece of the universe to try and reflect what his vision looks like.