Connecting to the earth is a kind of therapy for many gardeners and in some cases serves as inspiration outside the garden.
"I love to garden," says singer Weba Garretson of her Echo Park backyard. "It gives me sanity to be in the yard."
As a performer Garretson has covered everything from punk rock to Kurt Weill. Recently Garretson began writing daily poems about what was happening in her yard, home to several vegetable gardens, skunks, possums, hawks, cats, tortoises and hummingbirds. "The poems are about what's thriving, and what's not," she said. "One could be about our cats fetching hummingbirds."
Garretson's songwriting partner, Ralph Gorodestky, has set her garden poems to music, and the pair are performing the multimedia song cycle "What Must the Hummingbird See?" on Friday through Sunday at Automata in Chinatown. "The music is what you would create if you love Hank Williams and Stravinsky," Garretson said with a laugh.
The song cycle is divided into three parts, or seasons, and will be accompanied by film footage of the garden, edited by Susan Mogul, at different times of the day and year. "We're going to use the footage like wallpaper," Garretson said. "It will be immersive and projected on all the walls so it's like you are in the garden."
Adding to the garden feel, Garretson's niece Frances Garreston has collected objects from the backyard (seed pods, bones and dead insects), which will be transformed into shadow puppets during the performance.
Ultimately, however, the performance is intended to be about more than just one garden. Garreston describes "What Must the Hummingbird See?" as an ode to what her Echo Park neighborhood once was, and still is -- "a place filled with big beautiful trees and places for animals to exist."
"What Must the Hummingbird See?" 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Tickets: $18 general admission; $15 members, students and seniors. Automata, 504 Chung King Court, Chinatown.