Spring Unfolds

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. ~Rilke

Even though we have had light snow all day on this vernal equinox, the garden is unfolding into spring. Bloom started with the snowdrops at the end of January, followed by tommy crocus. Last week Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ added its deep purple notes to the pink and purple flowers of hellebores. Forsythia began blooming yesterday, along with the delicate golden flowers of Lindera benzoin, the host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterflies. Every day brings another bloom, spring is truly here.

Multiplicity

Multiplicity – a very large number (the simple definition) – from Merriam-Webster

A snowstorm quietly moved through western Pennsylvania earlier this week, sifting fine wet snow onto the garden and woods, snow that clung to every branch, leaf, and twig. An early morning foray outside revealed a magical wonderland, a multiplicity of shapes and forms delicately outlined in white.Lutyens bench in snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first inch of snow melted on pavement, outlining stepping stones.stonepathWP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An oak leaf on the driveway became a pillow of white against the black asphalt.oak leaf snow

 

Bronze leaves still clinging to branches held small tufts and caps of snow.bronze oak leaves

 

A loose hedge of forsythia was transformed into an ethereal cloud.Forsythia in snow

 

Ornamental grasses stood tall, capturing snow crystals in their curved inflorescences.grass gate snow

 

The straight lines of a bench echoed the bold trunks of trees.Monet bench in snow

 

The lower garden became a study in curves made up of a million tiny lines of black and white. I became lost in the looking, entranced by an endless multiplicity of growth and life stripped down to its skeletal beauty. Winter suddenly became as beautiful as any fair day in May.
February snow in the lower garden

 

What an amazing world we live in! A complex harmony of shape and form and line that changes from day to day, season to season, beautiful without measure.Snowy wood

All photos ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

 

An Artist’s Sketch

 

Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal,
so clearly etched against a cloud-filled sky ~from Winter by Lynn Emberg Purse

artsuppliesWPFor the past few years, I’ve been taking non-credit courses in subjects that interest me as a way to recharge and challenge my creative juices. This semester I’m taking a studio art class in drawing, something I haven’t done for many years. I was a bit nervous – could I still do this? – but as I began to haunt art stores and buy supplies, apprehension was replaced by growing excitement. I remember the gathering of artistic tools from my college days and the delight I felt in drawing and painting classes. Sketchpads, pencils, charcoal, erasers – a potential treasure trove!

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10th Grade Still Life

We are using Betty Edward’s classic book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, as a way of bypassing the logical linear part of the brain and getting to the visual side that supports the creative process. The process of shifting perception in order to see and record what is there is markedly different from creating symbolic shorthand, like a child’s drawing of a house or stick figures, to represent what we think is there. I remember discovering that perceptual shift  in my tenth grade art class while sketching this still life. I suddenly realized that if I looked at it in a certain way, I could reproduce it on my paper. I became obsessed with drawing and painting and continued to take classes in college; I only dropped the practice while traveling when photography became more practical.

There are lessons to be learned from this new challenge. I wasn’t sure if I could still draw but I realized as soon as I began the first exercise that I’ve never really stopped using my visual skills, whether in photography or gardening. According to Edwards “Learning to perceive is the basic skill that the students acquire, not drawing skill.”

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A color shot of the trees and sky

Ironically, we don’t work with color in this class until spring, about the same time that color returns to the natural world. As someone who feels that she is banished from colorful Oz every winter, I quietly laughed at the weird synchronicity of using pencil and charcoal in the season of brown and gray and white. Looking through bare trees into a gray sky, I feel as if I’m living in the monochromatic world of Dorothy’s Kansas. Yet, if I look closely enough, I find color in leaf and lichen and a few daring flower buds. I will content myself with reconnecting to a familiar and beloved art form, embrace the artist’s sketch, and look at the world with fresh eyes. Enjoy a few scenes from the winter garden – click on any photo to start the carousel. (All photos ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).

The painter draws with his eyes, not with his hands. Whatever he sees, if he sees it clearly, he can put it down . . . Seeing clear is the important thing. ~Maurice Grosser, The Painter’s Eye

The Time Between

Liminal: “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition” Merriam Webster.com

xmastrees_vertWPThe week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day has always been a special time for me. The everyday world seems to pause and recede, leaving time for inner reflection, time to consider the past year and the future to come.The Norwegians have a name for this season – Romjul. According to My Little Norway “the time from Boxing Day [day after Christmas] until New Years Eve is called Romjul (Christmas Space) which is the ‘space’ between Christmas and New Year’s.” Traditionally, this time is spent with family and out of doors.

XmasMoonriseWPI’ve often thought about liminal space (The Space Between) but until now, I hadn’t considered the idea of liminal time. Liminality, as the moment “betwixt and between” is the time for transitioning from one state to another, and that is exactly what this week serves. After the intense activity of the end-of-semester deadlines and the rush to prepare for Christmas, nothing is more welcome to me than to stay quietly at home for a week, reading books, meandering through the garden in any weather, and looking over photos from the year. Angel and I even spent several balmy nights entranced by the rising of the Christmas moon, its brilliant light a reminder of longer days to come..

New Year’s Eve is considered to be an important liminal time – the threshold between one year and the next. The many traditions associated with the holiday – midnight fireworks, kisses, and toasts, are ancient and worldwide practices associated with our need to pass safely from one state to another. And did you know that the oldest record of a New Year’s resolution is over 4000 years old from ancient Babylonia?

seedsWPAs I reflect on the year past and prepare for the year to come, the garden is on my mind. I hope to have my garden open to visitors this summer and have been busy preparing while the weather remains mild. The first packet of seeds came this week, along with a book on propagation techniques. More seeds are on their way, the light table in the basement is clean and ready, and visions of the coming garden season creep into my dreams.

Here is a slideshow of this past year’s highlights of the garden, from the snows of February to the autumn colors of November. Enjoy! (all images ©2015 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

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All blessings to you and yours in the new year!

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
~Deck the Halls

I’m Not Ready

It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready. ~Sarah Kay (American poet)

earlyduskWPI’m not ready. I’m not ready for Christmas, I’m not ready for winter, I’m not ready to wake each morning into the dark and cold world of late December. This morning, I awoke to snow and bitter temperatures under a dark gray sky and murmured to Angel “I’m not ready.” She sighed a doggy sigh and snuggled closer, ready to dream some more and pulling me in her wake.

MusicTreeDetailIt is no wonder that Christmas and many other traditions celebrate this time of the year with lights. In the northern hemisphere, the light of dawn comes late and the fading light of dusk comes early. With so few daylight hours and so many of them gray and dark, the bold and hopeful lighting of many lights is necessary to the human spirit and a reminder that the days will soon grow longer.

 

This year, our unusually mild weather icybranchesWPhas allowed me to work in the garden deep into what is usually a cold snowy month. I’ve accomplished garden chores that often get delayed until spring – the leaves gathered and shredded, the trees and shrubs pruned, the summer soil from the pots emptied into the woodland’s edge for building new beds. I’ve already planned next year’s garden – the seeds to start, the plants to order, the perennials to propagate. In fact, it is focusing on next year’s garden that has softened the sting of the coming of winter.

frostyspruceWPThe effects of El Niño are predicted to extend our weather into a long mild winter here in the mid-Atlantic states. It may be global warming, it may be a temporary weather pattern, but whatever it is, I admit that I will welcome a mild winter after the severe weather conditions that have prevailed for the past few years.

I’m cutting branches of pine and holly to decorate the house, I’ve strung many lights on the tree, and I’m planning the Christmas feast for our family, but in my heart, it is all about garden dreams – the return of nature’s light and warmth and new growth. Winter is about endurance of the cold and dark, spring is about the renewal of life. Today, I dream of sugarplums and spring flowers. Here’s to the return of light to the world and to your life- may you be ready for whatever comes.

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December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ~John Geddes