Landis Portraits: Janka Bialek and Pam Trickett

By Nolan Marciniec

If you have a gar­den and a library, you will want for noth­ing,” the Roman philoso­pher Cicero wrote to a friend sev­er­al cen­turies ago. Two vol­un­teers, Jan­ka Bialek and Pam Trick­ett, have found the best of those two worlds, the library and the gar­den, at the Arbore­tum. Both are long­time vol­un­teers at the Arboretum’s Book Shop.

Pam remem­bers dri­ving by, see­ing the Arbore­tum founder Fred Lape’s bon­sai spread out in front of the Farm­house many years ago. She took cours­es in botan­i­cal draw­ing and hiked the trails. After her hus­band passed, she felt the need for a place to give me back some­thing beau­ti­ful in my life,” and she found that at Lan­dis. And there were the peo­ple too. Pam said that she came for the flow­ers but found a community.”

For Pam, the Arbore­tum has become an inspi­ra­tional place.” She par­tic­i­pat­ed in Susan­nah Risley’s course in writ­ing from nature, held at Lan­dis. At the Arbore­tum, there was always some pock­et of beau­ty” which inspired her writ­ing. It’s a hid­den gem” though, unlike some oth­er gar­dens, not a movie set” but rather a place that invites explo­ration and cre­ative musings. 

Janka’s intro­duc­tion to the Arbore­tum was a stonework class in which she joined oth­ers to prac­tice on some of Lan­dis’ ven­er­a­ble stone walls. She remem­bers vis­it­ing the Arbore­tum dur­ing the pan­dem­ic and sit­ting on the porch at the Meet­ing House and, dur­ing this fright­en­ing time, expe­ri­enc­ing the absolute­ly most peace­ful, deep­est peace.”

Over the years, both Pam and Jan­ka grav­i­tat­ed toward the Book Shop. Jan­ka has a degree in library sci­ence and for many years was an employ­ee and man­ag­er of the Book House at Albany’s Stuyvesant Plaza. Pam taught high school Eng­lish in the Cobleskill-Rich­mondville School Dis­trict.

Both are avid read­ers of fic­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly lit­er­a­ture by con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can women. And both have orga­nized their book col­lec­tions at home. In Janka’s case: I love orga­niz­ing [books].” Her liv­ing room con­tains cof­fee table books; the hall­way, ref­er­ence vol­umes; the din­ing room, cook­ing, gar­den­ing, and gen­er­al fic­tion; anoth­er hall­way, gay and les­bian lit­er­a­ture; her partner’s study, the­ater; the bed­room, books they intend to read. In spite of their orga­ni­za­tion­al prowess, both Pam and Jan­ka admit to hav­ing what Pam called hap­haz­ard stacks” of books around the house.

Both are enthu­si­as­tic gar­den­ers.

Pam grew up in sub­ur­ban Chica­go, and she trea­sures mem­o­ries of the Garfield Park Con­ser­va­to­ry and oth­er pub­lic gar­dens in the Chica­go area. She moved into a new house sev­er­al years ago, and was pre­sent­ed with an acre of unde­vel­oped land: I couldn’t live with that,” Pam said, and pro­ceed­ed to fill that blank slate” with peren­ni­al gar­dens.

Jan­ka grew up in a tra­di­tion­al row house in urban Bal­ti­more, but one of her col­lege jobs was tend­ing a veg­etable gar­den, and she began her explo­ration of the art of gar­den­ing. Like Pam, she has recent­ly relo­cat­ed, hav­ing pur­chased 10 acres of unde­vel­oped land. She has plant­ed trees and cre­at­ed an expan­sive veg­etable gar­den in her front yard.

Both Pam and Jan­ka under­stand the pro­found­ly human con­nec­tion between books and plants. Pam sug­gest­ed that books and plants take over our lives” – and need culling, painful as that might be. She added that cer­tain plants in our gar­dens are mark­ers” in our lives, just as books are. We look at a plant and remem­ber a per­son, a time in our lives, just as we do when we reread a spe­cial book.

Jan­ka Bialek and Pam Trick­ett were drawn to the Arbore­tum and its Book Shop by their love of books and their love of nature. Cicero’s age-old adage rings true: those life­long gifts, read­ing and gar­den­ing, are alive and well at Landis.

Summer 2021

Volume 39 , Number 2

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