“The power of landscape lies precisely in its dual role as a creation of culture and of nature… [so that it appears] that the cultural order in which the individual is embedded is a natural one and that the world is indeed in order, and as it should be.”
So writes James Duncan in “The house as symbol of social structure.”
We humans want to believe that our lives are natural and purposive. That we are rooted in yet grow out of nature the way Michelangelo’s sculptures emerge from the stone.
We want to believe it is our task, as sculptors of society, to discover and liberate the form of civilization lying within – and made from the very stuff of – the physical world
We know we cannot live in nature raw. Even Thoreau, who “… went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” built a small house with walls, roof, door, fireplace, table, bed and 3 chairs (“one for solitude, two for friendship and three for society”).
But if we cannot live in nature raw, we cannot live removed from nature either, all tucked into sterile buildings of bricks and steel and glass and air conditioning.
We need a mediator between the rawness of nature and the artifice of civilization, and landscaping, Duncan argues, is that mediator. Not just the decorative sort of landscaping – which has merits of its own – but the practical, utilitarian even edible sort.
Urban agriculture – which increasingly is being recognized as including fruit trees – is a piece of landscaping. Urban agriculture in general and urban fruit trees in particular are emergent expressions of making nature a part of civilization.
Creating communities sculpted by trees, especially fruit trees that offer food for our bodies as well as our souls, is a way toward the truth of: “The world has an order, and it is as it should be.”