Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

In defense of Phoenix as a garden, not a farm


I like gardens, I like trees, I like flowers. All of my life I've sought these things out because of their beauty, because they sooth me. And it all folds into my interest in art, design, aesthetics, and beauty. It just seems perfectly natural to me to invest time and money into this, and expect no other reward than seeing a flower blooming, or to stand under the dappled shade of a tree. And I tend to resist things that I call "utilitarian" - like wider roads, more parking, more buildings, and the things that, well, people need to live, basics of life, like farms.

I grew up in the Midwest and I've seen farms. A lot of farms. And while many people consider them scenic, that's probably because they've only seen them from a distance, or they probably don't know many people who earn their living farming. Their main purpose isn't scenery, it's function. And that function is to use the ground in the most efficient way possible to grow things that can be sold. Whether it's a giant "mega-farm" or a little "mom and pop farm", the goal is to create income. Farmers aren't getting up at 4 am just to make an area more scenic - they're investing, and expect a return on their investment, or at the very least not to have all of their effort lose money.
Now please don't get me wrong, I'm very glad that people do this. I like to eat as much as the next person, and I understand the vital importance of farms. I also understand the vital importance of roads, of parking, and all of things that are done by the vast majority of people who keep the world I live in running, so I can sit back and plant a flower.

But I like gardens, I like art. When someone begins an argument with me about whether something is useful or not, I know that I've lost. Of what use is a rose? You can't eat it. Why would someone invest in something simply to sit back and look at it? What's its function?

And I really have no comeback for that. I can't explain why I feel that the world needs entirely useless things like art, and music. If I look into your eyes and see dollar signs, I'll let it go. I may try to get you to stop and see beauty for its own sake, but you'll need to see it for yourself.

Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds.
You and your arithmetic,
You'll probably go far.

Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds.
Seems to me you'd stop and see
How beautiful they are.

Image at the top of this post: the rose gardens at Sahuaro Ranch, 59th Avenue between Olive and Peoria, Glendale, Arizona. Its days as a working ranch, and farm, are over and it's now a garden, purely for enjoyment. Open to the public.

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