Dash Memorial Brings Laughs, Tears, and Poetry

Carlos Hernandez read a poem in honor of Robert Dash, his mentor and fellow gardener at Madoo. Durell Godfrey, photos

     Robert Dash, a painter, gardener, poet and Star columnist for many years, once said all gardens are autobiographical.  It is not likely he was referring to the bond forged between him and Carlos Hernandez, his gardener of the last 20 years of his life.  But this bond may be one of Dash’s most profound legacies.

     At Sunday evening's memorial for Dash, who died in September, hearts were filled to overflowing and probably a tear or two was shed as Mr. Hernandez read a poem in the center of the gardens at Madoo.  It was a testament to the intertwined lives of two gardeners.

     There were chuckles of recognition when Mr. Hernandez admitted there were bumps along the way.  Dash was not the easiest person.  And tensions certainly arise, probably among the gentlest of souls, when two people cultivate the same patch of soil.

     Garden-making by hands-in-the-dirt gardeners is usually a subconscious exercise and difficult to articulate.  Dash was experimental and if something didn’t work, he would try something else.  He loved growing from seed and playing with small trees and shrubs in a corner of the vegetable garden until they had developed some character and he knew where they should go. 

     His column "Notes from Madoo," published bi-monthly in the Star and his work with Mr. Hernandez were sounding boards for developing his garden vision.  As Alejandro Saralegui, director of Madoo, expressed it, to this day Mr. Hernandez channels Dash in the garden. 

Following is Mr. Hernandez's poem for Dash that he read on Sunday at the celebration of his life.

"Bob You Are Not Gone"

No, no, you are not gone
The wind whistling songs, and voices
Bringing life and more life in the new mornings
The sun full of light,
Penetrates its radiant, warm rays,
Allowing to admire, the whole range of heavenly colors

No, no, you are not gone
The birds in swift flight, in front of your windows
Offering the most beautiful performances
The flowers interwoven magical figures
Giving all their charms, and fragrances
In the most free, delicate, and harmonious movements
That making possible to holding you, and keeping you

No, no, you are not gone
The soil in the uncountable gardens
Are ready for one more fecundation
The seeds and plants, once again need your warming hands, and heart
That protect them, in the gestation, and all future scenes

No, no, you are not gone
The Madoo grown, heart of his heart
It is in constant levitation, full complement of his magic, and dialectic transformation
The Madoo grown, continues holding firmly your brushes

Indispensable tools of your creation
The Madoo grown, continues full of the invisible glasses,
Offering the most delicious and celestial nectar of the grapes
The Madoo grown continues full of smiles
Running children, and the immaculate ecstasies from friends, and visitors
Offering you thanks, and the most profound recognition.

Thank you, my friend
You are not gone.

--Carlos Hernandez


Jane Iselin with Dash's dog Barnsley before the service on Sunday. Ms. Iselin adopted the dog after Dash died last year.Durell Godfrey
Alejandro Saralegui spoke at the front of an arbor, designed by Dash for the Madoo gardens. To the left was a portrait of him by Fairfield Porter.Durell Godfrey
A closer view of the portraitDurell Godfrey
Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, remembered Dash on Sunday.Durell Godfrey
Tina Raver was also a speaker.Durell Godfrey
Clams and Bloody Marys were served in honor of Dash, who was known for serving them at events.Durell Godfrey