“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.