Barbara Steinberg Remembers Alan Chadwick
Barbara Steinberg was a shy young woman who found her way into the Santa Cruz garden in the fall of 1970. Her encounters with Alan Chadwick were memorable, and she describes them with a particular poignancy. She was clearly one of those sensitive people who everyone respected and treated gently. Being an artist, she looked deeply into the world, and she felt profoundly many of those subtle currents of life that the rest of us often miss. Her descriptions of her experiences with Alan and his garden ring true in the ears of those of us who shared that eventful time and place.
Barbara Steinberg in 1970
Memories of Alan Chadwick and the Santa Cruz Garden
I was a shy child.
My father had 1400 acres in the Coachella Valley where he grew six varieties of table grapes, dates, grapefruits, tangelos, and tangerines. Just before coming to study at UCSC, in the spring of my senior year of college, I was in a major car accident.
I found my way to the Garden in the fall of 1970 while living in the dorms at Cowell College. Being that I am a farmer’s daughter, loving the earth and growing food is in my blood. I fit in well. Following my accident, the Garden was a healing place to go to heal my spirit and body.
I just did whatever was needed. I remember
- Weeding beds
- Planting seedlings that had been raised in the glasshouse
- Cutting flowers in the early mornings as instructed by Greg Hudson, who became my friend, and by Steve Kaffka whom I knew.
- Removing dead flowers from the plants
- Sowing beets
- Cultivating beds with a hoe
- Cooking in the Chalet a lot, as did everyone else who wanted to do so.
I spent at least two years volunteering almost every day during 1970, 1971, and into 1972. After I moved off campus, I came less frequently but still stayed close. The garden was always a very important part of my college years.
My first impressions of the Garden were that of a beautiful place that just drew me in. Nature profusely blooming in the middle of Redwoods, with doves cooing when you walk by. Plants grown masterfully, welcoming you with a call to pitch in and help. The smells of rich earth and beautiful flowers. The sight of so many industrious garden workers meant a lot to me.
I have special memories of my personal interactions with Alan Chadwick. My first encounters with him were magical and we got along well. He was gentler and kinder with me as I was shy. He treated me well as he knew the respect I had for him and for his sacred garden that spoke so eloquently in its quietness.
Sometimes I brought 25 lb. crates of grapes from my father’s farm to share with the people working in the garden. Alan personally ate them and loved them.
I remember attending his public lecture series at UCSC. Another time I went with him to walk the land where the future Farm Project would be located, accompanied by a group of staff and volunteers. We gathered buckets of mushrooms on the way back, which we later cooked in the Chalet.
He treated men and women equally, but if anyone disturbed his sacred garden he would scold them severely. Cut flowers were always given away freely, but when one man wanted to carry off the hanging flower baskets as well, which were profusely blooming with lovely fuchsias, Alan was indignant and responded with a curse and an emphatic NO!
Barbara Steinberg in the garden of her house in Santa Cruz
I often painted watercolors in the open air. Once I remember painting a scene of the garden from the chalet deck at dusk with Alan Chadwick himself watching me over my shoulder. For me it was magical, and I felt that it was very special relationship we had.
I loved Alan Chadwick.
Inspired by Alan, I began teaching gardening to children at a local Santa Cruz elementary school. Through that experience I realized that I had a vocation as a teacher, and for thirty years I have continued teaching art classes to children and adults.
The way I have lived my life has been very much inspired by Alan Chadwick as, for example, to love and appreciate excellent organic fruits and vegetables. He also touched my heart in a way that has allowed me to see the beauty of a Dahlia and other gorgeous flowers, so that after college I began to specialize in painting flowers. He also greatly influenced the way I look at the world. Listening to him speak about the Garden, and about individual plants, such as Angelica archangelica, I could see that he felt the spirit within each plant. I see nature in a more profound way because of Alan’s Shakespearean way of speaking about the Garden.
Later in life, I took adult training courses at the Haleakela Waldorf School in Maui, and began to teach Waldorf-style painting in the public schools. In fact, I almost became a Waldorf teacher, since I really liked teaching art using those methods and approaches. But I had studied painting in many parts of the world, and those many influences ultimately solidified into my own unique style and technique. But I continued, as a volunteer, to help in the classes at the Waldorf School, and to offer after-school art classes to the students.
I felt a close friendship with Nancy Lingemann, whom I had met in the Garden in Santa Cruz. Once, after I came home from a particularly difficult surgery, my boyfriend bought me a large bouquet of her flowers, which I drew from sight using a graphite pencil. Once Nancy, Eric Smith, and I went to hear the weekly series of lectures that Alan Chadwick delivered in Saratoga.
Drawing by Barbara Steinberg of a bouquet of flowers grown by Nancy Lingemann
During the period when I was studying art in London, every Sunday I visited English gardens, especially Kew Gardens, which I had remembered Alan speaking about. I also visited many other gardens with beautiful herbaceous borders and flowers.
Greg Hudson and I remained friends, and in the last few years regularly exchanged emails.
-- Barbara Steinberg
Barbara Steinberg with her brother