A Rocky Garden

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By Barbara Tam

It is very difficult to stay inside these days.  Everyone from chipmunks to farmers are scurrying to get everything done outside and everything needed inside before the cold.  But some days lately, the air feels more like late summer and there are mountains beckoning a climb and lakes still inviting a paddle.  Today the autumn colors are muted, and I sit for just a moment, hot coffee steaming, not quite anymore languishing in the Adirondack chair under the twin-Maple.

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I watch one of the many chipmunks who occupy their popular apartment complex in the stone wall.  One stands upright now on an overturned flowerpot at the edge of the garden.  Stands there, head-up, facing away from me and towards the distant tree-line, motionless, and for a very long time.  I watch his back and he is watching........what?  His posture seems common to mine when I am standing on a mountain ledge just looking out in awe at the sky, clouds, and rocky peaks.  Does this chipmunk know that profound feeling of life’s pleasure and just breathing it all in?   His aspect and elevation on the flowerpot is a bit more in keeping with his tiny stature, but his stance suggests contentment and a quiet wonder - exactly what I am experiencing at this moment from my chair.  

And from my chair....... I see that through this first year, we may now have truly come to become CRAIGARDAN.  A rocky garden of creative and hopeful activity.  Apple and oak trees, farm fields, pottery and kilns, chickens, trails, gardens, kitchens, gallery and farm store.  And people.  An evolving community on a former sheep farm, but in this place now, in this time now.  And constantly in motion, with arriving, learning, participating, sharing, and departing.  And sometimes, we may find we pause a moment, not unlike the little chipmunk from his perch, to savor the place, the time, the experience.  It seems a strangely old-world notion to pause and really see and feel, and be grateful.  

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I ask myself what we might be doing if not making pots, farming, watching mountains and chipmunks.  I really have no idea.  I tend to look at the larger world these days with a skeptical eye.  What is it to love place, care about land and about one another, seek a better world and try to build that world?  From my chair today, I see promise, beauty,  and hope.  And I think about the future of this ancient landscape, about small farms and good food, sturdy pots and creative people.  We can craft our future.  Chipmunks included.


Barbara Tam has taught visual arts to students from kindergarten through high school in both private and public schools for more than 35 years.  She loves being with young artists dreaming big about their creative ideas and working to make those ideas real.  

The natural world and its mysteries and intrigues is the focus of Barbara’s own explorative work, primarily in clay, paper, and fiber.  She is the co-founder and board chair of Craigardan.