The Gift

By: Dan Camenga

What is a good gift?

For me, a great gift is something that represents a feeling with a sense of optimism. Creating a public garden is *one* of the highest forms gift giving. There are literally countless examples of people giving gifts of their time, talent, and treasure to their community (specifically) and humanity (in general) through the context of public gardens. One example that comes to mind is Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas.

The gift of the Zilker Botanical Gardens (ZBG) is one of “thanksgiving” (not the holiday – but the feeling). The seed for this public garden began with a gift of $50 in 1946 and it continues right through today with a robust group of supporters who steward the multiple garden spaces and events. A timely example of a ZBG event is the “Zilker Garden Festival” this weekend that celebrates spring in Austin & Central Texas. Speaking of gifts…. This event celebrates the gift of spring throughout the ZBG gardens thanks to the gift of much effort from the ZBG team! For anyone who is able, the festival includes their annual flower show, live music, kid’s events, and a celebration of food.

For some, the paramount example of a “gift” hidden within ZBG is the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden. This is one of the many garden areas within ZBG. It is an exceptional example of how one person utilized strong personal feelings of appreciation to benefit millions of people. Interested in providing a gift to the City of Austin, Isamu Taniguchi labored for 18 months as a 70 year old volunteer in order to create this 3 acre Japanese Garden (which opened in 1969). He felt a deep sense of gratitude to Austin because of the education received there by his two sons. With over 300,000 people visiting ZBG each year, Mr. Taniguchi’s gift continues to be enjoyed long after his passing.

The next time you visit a public garden, I encourage you to consider the people that have created that space in collaboration with nature – along with the many people who continue to provide support and care. Let me leave you with words from Mr. Taniguchi as a reflection of his gift:

“When a man, with such pure appreciation in his peaceful mind, tries to compose with stones, grass, and water in order to create one unified beauty – the formation is called a ‘garden’. In this context, the garden is the embodiment of the peaceful coexistence of all the elements of nature.”

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