Why is Honest Abe in Our Garden?
Some people keep a Buddha statue in their garden. Others have St. Francis. For us, it’s Abraham Lincoln. Not a Lincoln statue, actually, just half of a bookend set I found online.
I’ve been impressed by some of my fellow bloggers who add non-botanical elements in order to deepen a garden’s sense of personal connection and meaning. Most notable is Pat Webster of the blog Site and Insight. I’m trying to follow their example, in my own way, of course.
This is not the place for a thumbnail biography of Lincoln, but I will say that the man had qualities made even more notable by their total absence in the current White House occupant. Lincoln had a powerful intellect and a deep devotion to the public good. He endured great personal loss and for most of his presidency was widely reviled (North and South) in the most degrading terms imaginable. Somehow he maintained a sense of humor and of humanity.
I’ll let Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist leader (and a key figure in American history unknown to the current President), insert a few last words here about Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln (was) one of the greatest and best men ever produced by this country, if not ever produced by the world at large… He was a man so broad in his sympathy, so noble in his character, so just in his action, so free from narrow prejudice… To know him as I knew him I regard as one of the grandest privileges experienced by me during a considerable lifetime.
So I have my Lincoln bookend sitting in a concrete planter that used to be part of a birdbath. He is surrounded by Sweet Alyssum. Later I added a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
There are some other reasons why I wanted Abe in the garden. Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, after all. Also, he makes an indirect reference to a horticultural hero of mine, Jens Jensen. One of the few Jensen-designed gardens that still remains is the Lincoln Memorial Garden in Springfield, Illinois.
But this may seem rather misplaced and overly serious to some of you. A garden should be a sanctuary from the world’s madness, should it not? For me, though, my little Lincoln bookend is a calming talisman, a comforting reminder that it is possible to be so much better than we appear to be at the moment.