for Mandana, on her birthday, Sept. 25, 2003

If one could explain the heart of a country with an image, we would choose for Iran, a garden. If one looks at the miniatures, ceramics, paintings, tilings, ornamentations in mosques, furniture, and carpets of Iran always one finds intertwining vines, and a profusion of flowers. In a land where barren desert areas often surround the centers of life, the garden is the oasis: the cultivation of its intricacies and lush entrancing qualities make it central to the culture.

Thinking back now of our weeks in Tehran and Isfahan, there is an overwhelming memory of a people picnicing, flocking to their garden parks by the river in Isfahan, and in Tehran during the hot days, families climbing into the forested hills, for shade and cool refreshment. Late into the night, streams of people came to enjoy the natural beauty, to talk, to eat and to relax.

We have never seen anything anywhere like the 'Stone Garden of Jamshidieh' a huge garden climbing from the foothills in north Tehran, up high into the mountains. It began by transforming an old private orchard, in the foothills of the Alborz Mountains, with the aim of providing an immense public park for the residents of Tehran, visible and accessible from all parts of the city. It is both cultivated and wild, and the winding paths and boulder steps lead through mountain terrain in an intricatly calculated maze with exits into surprising unexpected havens for picnicing, performance, plantings, sculptures, and restaurants in the highest areas.

It features the characteristics of traditional Persian gardens. The paths weave wildly amidst trees in a dense and beautiful step garden. (See the excerpt from Kathy's journal below.)

Dark green local stone was used to pave the paths, and to build fountain basins, waterfalls, walls, and waterchannels, with unexpected areas for play and relaxation.

IPM made sure that we experienced this wonderful and unusual place, and our translator and hostess, Mandana, lead us through this world so dear to her heart. When we entered this stone garden, the air was different, a wooded silence fell and echoed amidst the stone pathways.

"This is my favorite place", Mandana, our translator told us. "I come here several times a week to feel the silence."

Shade and water are important to a Persian garden, because surrounded by a desert-like environment, the garden offers respite from the sun, and a place for cool rejuvenation.

There is a surprise around every corner.

Richard Brualdi, invited speaker from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, poses as part of a statue, near one of the paths.

Rick is still smiling as he poses as a rock climber. Well, actually, he is a rock climber. One has to be here...

Carsten Thomassen, invited speaker from the Technical University of Denmark, looks out over the Tehran and Mandana smiles knowingly.

On the higer levels of the park, there are six restaurants built into the boulders, arranged like rewards, each on glimmering beyond, to lure one higher. Each serves foods that are native to a different region in Iran.

We had dinner at a Kurdish restaurant, the fifth highest. This is the view from our outdoor table. Remember, we had climbed there, from the bottom of the mountain! There were about 15 of us, and the mood of our talks mirrored the heights and the excitement of the experience.

Under the full moon, sprinkled by watersprays over slippery step rocks, we climbed back down into the city. Kathy made this note in her book:

We will never forget the sight of the families including young children out at that time, energetically climbing into the garden for picnics at almost midnight. We were tired.

The next morning we saw our guest house garden with new eyes.

The picture below, taken from our bus window shows plantings even on Tehran city streets.

The IPM gardens were lush and inviting. (See the mountains through the mist overhead.)

You can see Mandana on the left, and Tania, the IPM photographer, who also became our friend, taking our picture from the IPM landscape above.

Often this was the scene of our lunch and evening banquets.

IPM blooms amidst the roses, and other beautiful flowers in its gardens.

Mandana always returned to her garden, a small one, she said, at the end of the day. Kathy's journal still holds these gifts from her garden:

Mandana gave us many gifts during our visit to Iran— she made us all feel comfortable, and cared for. Her sensitive intellect and love for nature gave us immediately the sense that we were at home with a close friend. Her poetry is her most precious gift. See below, her five-word poem (she wrote it into Kathy's notebook). Its shape and meaning elegantly point to where we stand in the garden of the world:

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