I have wanted to write a post about our experience at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden (Near Weed, CA on Hwy. 97) since we returned from our California trip in November of last year. When I had missed Veterans’ Day, I shelved my notes thinking it would be best to wait until next year. Then I realized that today is Memorial Day in the US.
So, here I am, seizing the moment to share a moving experience of a phenomenal place on a day that has considerable significance for my neighbours to the south.
The garden, founded in 1988 by a group of Siskiyou County veterans, rests in the shadow of stunning Mt. Shasta, which acts as a natural backdrop for the ten monumental sculptures. The site is also home to 58,000 pine trees planted as a living memorial to the Americans lost in Vietnam.
The artist, Dennis Smith, is a Vietnam vet who works in metal. “Each sculpture has personal meaning for me in terms of life experience and personal incidents.” Smith sees his art as a means of peacefully considering violence, a process whereby we can ask essential questions.
It is, “A place to remember – a place to mend.” Our visit occurred on a clear, bright morning. The sun warmed the area as we strolled along, completely alone in this peaceful garden. Today, I will share four of the sculptures with you.
The Why Group
Situated as the centerpiece of the ten sculptures, on the ground a man rushes along to help a fallen comrade. High above, the central figure arches his back and stretches his arm to the sky. Why? Why war? Why this fallen man? Why any of it?
I stood by this sculpture until tears spilled from my eyes. What do these men and women feel, coming home to a world where nothing has changed, when their whole world has been rocked to the core? The embrace is intimate, yet fragile in some indescribable way.
The Flute Player
For the artist, the flute symbolizes peace and tranquility. The brochure says that if the right breeze is blowing you can almost hear the flute. It’s true. Being there in the early morning, with the garden utterly deserted, the birds rustling in the nearby trees, I heard a noise, gentle at first and growing louder as I stood in silent contemplation. It could have been a flute.
Those Left Behind
What could ever compensate for the loss of the life? The final gesture, the giving of the flag, is a stunning blend of patriotism and pathos. As I stood near this massive sculpture, the morning continued bright and sunny, yet I felt a shiver run through me. Perhaps a faint touch from those who have gone, reminding me to appreciate and understand all the mothers and fathers, wives and children who look to the flag to give meaning to what they have lost.
I didn’t know about this sculpture garden, and appreciate your sharing of this experience with us. And I really love that 58,000 pine trees have been planted nearby, as well. That eases my soul more than just about anything. Amazing pieces.
Thanks, Susan. If I close my eyes, I can still feel exactly what it was like to stand in that amazing garden among those sculptures.
These sculptures are stunning – especially with the backdrop! I love the flute player and the coming home ones especially, so beautifully symbolic. Thank you for sharing with us!
You’re welcome, Gemma. I’ve wanted to do this post for ages and have enough material for a 2nd piece at some point. Sometimes you just come upon something that is so special – this sculpture garden is one of those places.
molto interessante, grazie è bello sapere e conoscere nuove cose
I love your post, Francis, and feel honoured to have been allowed to share your experience. The statues are the epitomy of strength within their fragility, if that makes sense. The creator has captured the spirit of remembrance, in all its multiples. If I have the chance I will visit.
Janet Scrivens, and “Thank you.”
Thank you for these very kind words, Janet. Strength and fragility – it is these dichotomies that perfectly fit with the experience – war and peace, vulnerability and strength, the warrior and the wounded. I could go on and on. Please do visit this place if you ever have a chance.
Thanks for sharing these photos – the sculptures are wonderful – all the better for their location and a beautiful memorial to all those who are touched by war.
I’m glad you enjoyed this post. The place is eerie in a special and good way. We need to really think about all sides of situations as complicated as armed conflicts. These sculptures open up an internal and hopefully an external dialogue.
This is absolutely amazing, thanks so much for sharing it! I did not know about this place – what a beautiful way to honor and commemorate.