Blossom by blossom

Blossom by blossom the spring begins. ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

While you read and look, I invite you to listen to Craig B. Dobbins’ Appalachian Lullaby recorded by my husband Bill Purse for an upcoming album.

This was a year when winter seemed longer and gloomier than usual. The soft browns and grays of the garden were lovely in their own quiet way but I longed for color, for signs of new life. foggygarden

The sky obliged with  color. MarchSunrise

And then the first signs of new life emerged. Along with the Tommy crocus and snow drops, the hellebores began blooming in pink and white and deep purple while the wine red stalks of peonies rose up from the ground. (Click on any photo in the mosaic to see a larger image)

 

For the first time in years, the forsythia bloomed profusely followed by the daffodils and mid-spring bulbs.

 

Gray clouds carrying rain became more welcome as they hurried along the greening of the woods and garden.

Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.  ~Charlotte Brontë

 

Along with the rain and green growth came the weeds. My niece Madison showed up to help me sort out the garden beds; what a pleasant talk we had in the spring sunshine. madison

As the rain and sunshine dance through the garden, it has exploded with color and scent. The shrubs and trees are blooming while a few tulips and daffodils linger.

 

Each morning, the intoxicating scent of lilies of the valley greet me as I step out my front door; the wild violets tucked in among them only increase their charm.

 

Now the garden is full to overflowing with lush textures and colors. Yesterday I heard the wood thrush singing and a pair of robins are nesting nearby where I can sometimes catch a glimpse of a tiny blue egg.

 

Angel and I walk the paths through the garden each day, reveling in every new blossom and scent.

angelMay

To understand the journey you have to do the walking. ~Bryant McGill

upstepsMay

Thank you for accompanying me on this journey around the garden and through the season. May you enjoy a spring rich with color and life.

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. ~John Burroughs

All images and text ©2019 by Lynn Emberg Purse except as noted.

Circles of Light

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness. ~Anne Frank

The early mornings are dark now, the light is late to arrive. It is the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere, the solstice that marks the turn to longer days of light. (The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”) Humans have long celebrated that moment as we turn from dark to light by lighting candles, burning logs, bringing evergreens into our homes, reminding ourselves that the days will grow longer. solsticesunset8

A few years ago, I took a class in creating mandalas, a circle that encloses the expression of our inner selves. The circle is an ancient symbol – the circle of life, the circle of a wedding ring, the circle of councils and celebrations. Some of the mandalas we created in that class were ephemeral, fashioned from found objects in nature. This one of ferns and moss reminds me of a Christmas wreath. intothemoss

At some point during the course, as I set the point of the drafting compass to paper, I suddenly realized that I had created my lower garden as a mandala without realizing it. I had found the center point of the garden plot and pounded a stake into it, tied a rope to it and let it guide me as I walked in concentric circles around it, creating planting beds and paths by dragging a hoe on the ground through the loose dirt.

mid-April

Circle Garden in mid-April

Walking these circular paths in the garden in any season is like tracing the steps of a labyrinth and always puts me in harmony with the natural world. cherryaftersnow

My favorite drawing on paper, however, expresses my love for the earth and my hope for peace and light for the world. Ironically, I discovered that when drawing the wings, the light was made more powerful by drawing shadows for contrast and depth. And so life goes, shadow and light, circles and seasons, sorrows and joys, through the great round of life. On this day and in this season, my wish for each of you  is that the light grows brighter both in your world and in your heart, from the inside to the outside and back again.

wings_tree_mandala copy

In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. ~ John Burroughs

All text and images ©2018 Lynn Emberg Purse except where noted.

Here’s a musical view of the winter solstice.

Earth Day, Watershed Edition

I remember the first Earth Day as a teenager – I loved the idea then and all of these years later, it still seems a special day to celebrate. As I grow with my garden, I realize that creating a healthy place for all flora and fauna to flourish is my first ideal and goal. Lately, my time has been caught up in finishing the school semester, guiding my ensemble through its spring concert and tending my garden. Bill, my husband and creative partner, has been editing and mixing the studio recording of Watershed for cello and orchestra that was premiered in late February. The CD containing the piece will be released in late fall on Three Oranges Recordings but we are far enough in the mixing process to share a few of the highlights here in this montage, thanks to Bill’s talents and generosity. (see an earlier Watershed post here).

Adam Liu, the cellist for whom the piece was written, turned in a stunning and passionate performance and our Duquesne University Orchestra, inspired by masterful conductor Daniel Meyer, was at their best. How lucky can a composer be when the artists that bring a piece to life give their creative all? Adam began his musical career playing the erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument, and suggested that he play the second movement, Sunrise on Still Water, on the erhu rather than the cello. I agreed and I love the sound – it shimmers with unearthly beauty. I hope you enjoy this short montage of highlights from the 20 minute piece.

Spring is tentatively here, with mild days alternating with snowy winter days. The weeping cherry tree is in full bloom, but ironically its cultivar name ‘Snow Fountain’ became a reality when an overnight storm coated the blossoms with white snow.

The daffodils are coming into season, even as the early small bulbs continue to bloom.

The hellebores have shrugged off the snow and cold and continue to bloom in soft pastel shades.

Wherever you are, I hope spring is coming your way and your world is filled with color and beauty. And may every day become “earth day” in our hearts and minds.

Composer in the studio

Winter is here, snow making the garden lovely in a new way. This is the season of lines and shapes, the bones of the garden.

snowygate

The seeds and plants have been ordered while watching garden videos, the antidote to the bitter cold keeping me indoors. Zelda is sound asleep for the winter, adorned by a milky snow mustache. zeldasnow

Angel has been enjoying the snow in spite of the cold, running through the woods . . . angelsnowrun

alert to the sounds of birds and squirrels in the quiet days . . . angelsnowgarden

and trying to puzzle out why the snow is only on the south side of the trees. angelsnowtree

There have been days where my feet have not crossed the threshold into winter, as I have been in my music studio instead of the garden. The cello concerto is almost ready for rehearsals but so many details to complete! Someone asked me recently where I composed and on what instrument (thank you, Linda!), so perhaps many of you will find this of interest.

Composing begins for me with an idea that will work within the structure of the piece. I think about it for a long time, do extensive research and write many pages of notes. Often, I begin this process in what is perhaps my favorite room in the house, piano_rooma room lined with a wall of windows facing south where I can see the woods in all seasons. It is the closest I can be to nature and my garden while still being inside the house and is especially appreciated in winter when the light streams in and I can light a fire in the fireplace. Once the piece takes shape in my mind, I move from the cozy chairs to the piano. One of the great treasures of my life,  the piano is a Lindeman from the 1930’s and belonged to my Aunt June, who was a marvelous pianist. I spend evenings searching for the “soul” of the piece while improvising at the keys, finally sketching out musical themes and ideas with paper and pencil.

Armed with those notes, I move into my studio. A partially finished “bonus room” over the garage when we moved here, we eventually tricked out the room with a heating/cooling unit, added skylights and carpet and furnished it as my creative retreat to compose, to work on multimedia projects, and to just think. The music work station takes center stage and this is where I go to bring pieces to completion. Reference books on technology and orchestration line the bookshelves. Angel, ever my muse, sleeps next to me on the blanket on the floor or under the table.lynnstudio

Once I complete a section or movement, I retreat to my little sofa to listen to playback, marking rough drafts, taking notes. What works? What sounds unbalanced or incomplete? Putting some distance between me and the computer allows me to regain perspective from the minutia of putting notes to page and also encourages me to relax my back and neck from the inevitable computer strain. My first oil painting hangs on the wall and artwork of all kinds fill the space. lynnstudio2

In a few days, the score and parts will be complete and uploaded to the music librarian; rehearsals begin soon. I will share more about Watershed in my next post. In the meantime, stay warm and enjoy the stark beauty of the season.

 

The garden is singing

Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No. Just as one can never learn how to paint. ~Picasso

The garden of circles is in its most colorful garb of the year and changes its appearance throughout the day as the light shifts and turns. downstepsjuly

Morning light brings an inner glow to new blooms, a luminescence seen at no other time of day and ephemeral in its passing. sweetcharlotte

Evening lights up the hillside and creates shadows around the arbor gateway. upsteps

People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and its ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses. ~ Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

I’ve been experimenting with color themes for all of my years as a gardener, laying one color against another to create a gentle moment or a raucous party.  July is the month of daylily bloom and the endless choice of flower color, patterns and shapes of the hemerocallis clan provides an opportunity to make visual music in the garden.

Sometimes the colors between two flowers are tender and lyrical, creating an evocative melody. (click on any image in the mosaic to see a full size photo)

Sometimes the darker tones rule, dramatic, mysterioso. “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” ~Claude Monet

I drink purple in the morning and read on lime green.  I sleep in smoky blues beneath burnt orange, and I eat in a yellow afterglow. My home is filled with the conversations of color. . .  ~Ketzel Levine

What happens when purple meets yellow? Zing! or perhaps Sing! The grape and lemonade bed is in full chorus.

Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.  ~Kahlil Gibran

peachblue

The peach and blue bed

Peach has always seemed to me as sweet as pink but with a little more attitude. Combine it with blue for even more pizazz, a romantic pas de deux.

The new rock walls on the hillside are filling in nicely. hillsidefromdeck

Plants displaced during its construction have settled in and are making lovely warm color combinations that subtly change each morning as the daylily blooms reconfigure themselves.

Each evening, Angel and I tour the garden, then go up the steps to the house for one more look. angelonsteps

The view from the upper deck reveals the theme of circles in the garden, a visual rondo.

May your summer sing with the sounds and sights of joyful color.

Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul. ~Kandinsky