A week ago I went with my sister to the Henry Ford Estate, to watch the documentary screening of Jens Jensen: The Living Green. We parked our car and to reach the house by foot, walked through a dense woodland area which was created by Jens Jenson, a Danish American landscape architect, known for his “prairie style” design work. He designed the gardens at the Henry Ford Estate and the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House.
I loved the character of this man, who considered himself an artist, not an architect. Jenson saw a connection between the performing arts and nature. He was called a Native Nature Poet. He summed up his philosophy by saying, “Every plant has fitness and must be placed in its proper surroundings so as to bring out tis full beauty. Therein lies the art of landscaping.” He believed that only when we leave the beauty of nature alone, as God created it, would we really have democracy.
At 75 years of age, Jensen, who wanted to create harmony between the hand of man and the hand of nature, established a school in 1935 called The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. It taught environmental citizenship and sought students Jenson thought would “study profoundly… do things worthwhile… not for oneself but for others.”
Jensen died in 1951, at the age of 91. But the school he founded is pretty alive. The Clearing offers year-long educational opportunities in three programs: the Summer program, the Workshop Program and the Winter Program. All programs offer a wide range of classes (which are taught in a relaxed and informal style), including painting, writing, quilting, birding, wood carving, poetry, rustic furniture making, photography, poetry, fine wood-working, music, weaving, philosophy, stained glass, metal work, nature study and paper arts.
Sounds like we have in our country more magical programs than Harry Potter ever did. The only thing is we need to discover them.