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  • Shana Rae

What is the Garden of (Your) Delights?

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

Your garden of delights is the place where you plant and nurture the things that feed your soul, mind, and body. It’s the sanctuary of activities where you recharge when everyday life depletes you. It’s what fuels your creativity and your individuality.


Creativity requires knowledge across many different areas and the ability to make connections among those areas to develop new insights and ideas, new perspectives. Pursuing knowledge across several disciplines can allow your mind to pull information and frameworks from each, combining them in new creative ways. A good approach to feeding our creativity with balanced spiritual and intellectual nutrition is to use the framework of the liberal arts.


The Garden of My Delights is inspired by the Hortus Deliciarum, a medieval illuminated encyclopedia which may be the first ever written by a woman. The author, Herrad of Landsberg, was the abbess of Hohenburg Abbey in Alsace, later known as Mont Sainte-Odile, and she compiled the encyclopedia as a teaching tool for novices at the convent. The Hortus Deliciarum was completed around 1185 and was one of the most famous manuscripts of the era, largely due to its 336 illustrations. One of those illustrations is titled Philosophia et septem artes liberales, or Philosophy and the Seven Liberal Arts.


The liberal arts were first introduced in Plato’s Republic as the essential skills and fields of knowledge a free person needed to take part in activities of civic life such as public debate or defending oneself in court. The Romans adapted Plato’s initial three subjects, rhetoric, grammar, and logic, into the Trivium and added four others known as the Quadrivium, astronomy, mathematics/arithmetic, geometry, and music. The Trivium are also known as the arts of the word while the Quadrivium are known as the arts of numbers. These fields create a foundation for continual learning throughout one’s life, and in modern times a liberal (arts) education is meant to prepare an individual to adapt to a changing economy, in that a person should be able to reason their way into any field. While many of us choose a “career” when we decide on a major in college, most of us change jobs and fields numerous times throughout our lives. Having exposure to numerous disciplines can facilitate those changes.


I grew up in rural area with little access to cultural sites or events, but the library was my favorite place, my sanctuary. Throughout school I was the girl who always had a book with her. That was the way I learned about the outside world, reading through the Newbery Award poster on the door of our tiny elementary school library and then the lists of “classics” and “important literature” in high school. In high school I played clarinet and oboe in band, and I discovered Shakespeare and the theater. My interests largely centered on the arts, although I still did well in my other classes, and I believed I needed to find more stable career than the arts offered. I attended a liberal arts college, majoring in international studies, and found the broad exposure across multiple fields to be useful preparation for my work life but also a great expansion of my intellectual life.


I had the opportunity to study abroad in France and Spain, and those experiences widened my view of the world and further developed my love for the arts. While competent in the sciences, I didn’t independently study those fields until my work led me down that path. To my surprise, I was not only interested in science and technology, but I was good at it. I was able to marry my understanding of history and global affairs with my newfound interest in science, and my intellectual world grew exponentially.


Creativity increases with serendipitous changes in direction, but it can also be cultivated through intentional exploration of new areas of study and new hobbies. To be inspired we need to put ourselves in the way of ideas, perspectives, places, and people that become points that we connect to existing information. Those new connections open the door to creativity.


Just as in a vegetable garden planted for bodily food, there are many possibilities. What I have in my garden will not necessarily feed your soul. You need to discover what inspires you. For many of us, finding those things that feed our souls and minds means rediscovering cherished hobbies and interests from childhood or our young adult years. Maybe it’s playing a musical instrument you haven’t touched in years or dusting off the volume of Shakespeare sitting on your shelf. Maybe it’s simply allowing yourself to take time to go to a concert or an art gallery, or to visit a flower garden.


If you’re not sure where to turn for inspiration or how to turn that inspiration into creativity, I can help. The Garden of My Delights helps you discover, identify, and appreciate what inspires you so that you can create inspiration for others, whether you’re a writer, musician, scientist, or policymaker. Come learn to plant your Garden and grow food for your soul.


For more on Philosophia et septem artes liberales, see http://www.plosin.com/work/HortusDetails.html


Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hortus_Deliciarum,_Die_Philosophie_mit_den_sieben_freien_K%C3%BCnsten.JPG

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