Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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We can make whatever we dream up

“Get ready to leave the land of Martha Stewart and enter the realm of Conan the Barbarian,” said Dan Krebill as we strolled past his colonial brick home in Chapel Hill and through the gate to his most “Uncommon Garden.”

I was invited for a special peek at the Uncommon Garden by DA parent Elizabeth May, who read my blog post on gratitude last year and realized that she felt most grateful for the education of her boys (7th grader Carl and 4th grader Alden) and for the explosive imagination of Dan’s backyard garden.

Neither words nor photographs do justice to the experience of Dan’s creation. Sun, shade and water combine with rock, plant, and art to create a unique multisensory treat.

Surprises abound: pictograms from South America and Asia. A gargantuan metal Bansai tree. Waterfalls, caverns, fountains, a pond and decking that snakes among bamboo shoots, Japanese maples, loblolly pines, Concord grapes and a variety of decorative mosses. Then there’s the 70-foot stone dragon that throws flame and steam into the air. I am not making this up.

But Dan is.

The Uncommon Garden is the dream-come-true of a retired Army Colonel whose body is bound to a wheelchair but his spirit unrestrained by the conventional limits of landscaping and engineering – or philosophy, geography and religion, for that matter.

After growing up in Iowa and graduating from West Point, Dan Krebill lived in Germany, South Korea, Italy, Virginia, California, and Rhode Island. Dan’s varied soldiering and teaching assignments, a range of travel adventures, a sticky memory, an engineer’s brain and a seeker’s curiosity are all evident in his back yard – where Gaudi or Tolkien would be as comfortable as an Audubon Society member or a Buddhist monk.

Dan opens his garden to the public once each year – to raise money for the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. At Elizabeth’s urging, he has donated an intimate guided garden tour for Durham Academy’s Emerald City silent auction. Click here to bid on the tour. Or click here for more information about Dan’s creation and the ArtsCenter Gala

Among the memories that will stick with me after the privilege of touring the Uncommon Garden: Dan’s comments about the need to write our own stories as we create our own spaces. “We ought to spin our own myths. We can make whatever we dream up.” 

Images from a larger collection by David Poulos at camerart.com (scroll down to 2013: The Uncommon Garden).

Posted by mulkus on Saturday April, 4, 2015


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