A Garden of Inspiration – A Story of Leo Tolstoy

by Christine Sine

Leo Tolstoy via wikimedia

A young boy once lived in a house in a forest. He and his brothers played in the woods, ponds and fields that surrounded their home. One day an older brother told the child about a green stick that was buried near a ravine in the deepest part of the forest. If you find the stick, the brother said,  you will enjoy great happiness, and by the power of love bring happiness to all mankind.  At once the boy began hunting for the fabled stick. His search continued throughout the rest of his life.

The boy in this story is Leo Tolstoy, the home, Yasnaya Polyana and the green stick represented the inspiration he received in nature. In Tolstoy’s literature, landscapes and ornamental gardens signify the emotional state of the characters he created. Yasnaya Polyana was his realm of inspiration. He described it as his cathedral, his sanctuary, his muse. Today its more than 1,000 acres are still cloaked with inspiring forests of oak, ash, maple and birch. It has become a place of pilgrimage for all who love Tolstoy.

Tolstoy’s favourite resting spot – a birch log bench in a small clearing – has its back to a large open field of bright yellow mustard weed and faces directly into a thick grove of fir trees. Here Tolstoy would sit and meditate. From here he watched the subtle changes of nature like the thawing of the earth and the sounds of grass growing, two images that appear in Anna Karenina. 

Tolstoy’s garden of inspiration features a forest landscape, but a garden of inspiration can be composed of any elements that inspire us because of their special meanings. They are private sanctuaries created from a storehouse of happy associations where childhood memories, creative imagination and natural beauty are brought together in a way that can often feel like paradise on earth.

And to finish off a short video on Yasnaya Polyana. It is fairly amateurish but still worth a watch.

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