Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Other People's Gardens: Chanticleer's Ruins

Viet loves all things skull and crossbones.

Socks, belts, bags, tie-clips, and ties: these evidence his fascination for a symbol from which many people shirk.

So when Lauren and I happened upon the Ruin Garden at Chanticleer, and in particular one feature of the garden, I whispered to myself, "Viet would love this."

Adolf Rosengarten, Jr., lived in Minder House, built in 1925, on the Chanticleer estate just down the hill from his parents' mansion. In 1999, an idea possessed him: every great garden estate needs a ruin.

And so he razed his house and constructed a ruin on Minder House's foundations. The things rich people do...

The effect, while a bit kitschy, can be visually dramatic.

A giant sarcophagus-fountain greets the visitor upon entering the ruined house, flanked at one end by a fireplace that withstood the calamity that the visitor is supposed to think brought down a great house.

Schist walls hemorrhage plants.

Trees emerge from deserted floors, yearning to be free, like the banyans growing up and out from the famed Khmer temple, Angkor Wat.

Nature reclaims her territory. She must.

In the "library," books litter the floor. Titles satisfy the visitor's thirst for kitsch.

And a fire of ferns beckons the visitor to sit and read for a while.

But one section of the great house, the "Pool Room," captured my imagination, only because Viet would delight.

At first, the "billiard" table doesn't look like much, having been transformed into a fountain.

But on closer inspection, one finds the ghosts of inhabitants past gazing up past the visitor towards an image of a home in which they once resided.

And I thought, "Death be not proud."

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.

--John Donne, the 10th sonnet of his Holy Sonnets

1 comment:

  1. the things rich people do...
    and on a lighter note, what I remember most clearly from my visit to Chanticleer some years ago is the stone "remote" resting on the arm of the stone "sofa." Nancy