Cancer has silenced a gentle voice, that of Lee May, a man with a designer’s eye, a sense of place, and gifted words that conveyed his vision and awareness.
I only had a casual acquaintance with Lee through our shared love of gardening and writing, and our once-shared town. But a casual acquaintance is all one needed to appreciate Lee’s gifts. His words speak to a gardener’s soul in ways that reach those of us who must work our hands in soil, who paint nature using a pallet of plants and found materials. (I use the word speak in the present tense since, fortunately, Lee’s garden writings did not disappear with him. His blog, Lee May’s Gardening Life, remains.)
As a gardener, Lee created landscapes that were uniquely him … no lawn, lots of rock of all shapes and sizes, garden rooms, and unusual features that caught one’s attention.
His Big Momma’s Garden, on the Connecticut acreage he once oversaw, exuded Lee’s love of whimsy and his southern roots. Don’t just go by the photos below or those he shared in A Tribute to Big Momma’s Garden … read his words. His descriptions make his gardens so much richer.
Lee willingly toiled in his outdoor spaces, doing much by hand and sweat-equity. He understood that working in one’s garden brings a greater knowledge of the forces at play – light and shadow, wind and water, natures creatures, the seasons – and how each force works to create space. Lee studied his landscape while outside in it and from within his home so he could create views and venues that pleased his eye in all seasons. Yet, he recognized that gardeners are merely small designers; that Mother Nature always has the last say.
I cannot speak to other aspects of Lee’s personality though, through our few shared encounters, his warmth, love of his wife Lyn, his appreciation of living life fully, and his genuine attention to each human encounter, was more than evident. I can only speak to Lee’s passion for gardening. It was a passion that spoke to me, and it is this conversation that I will miss.