Beauty for a Day

Hemerocallis or daylily – from the Greek “hemera” (day) and “kalos” (beautiful) translated as “beauty for a day” –  a hardy perennial native to China, Japan, and Korea whose flowers last for only one day

Although I have been deep in multiple projects for the past two weeks, I found time the past few mornings to grab a few photos from the garden.  The intense heat has driven garden bloom from rose season into daylily season.

I love daylilies for their huge variety of color, shape, size and durability. If you are only familiar with the orange roadside dayilies, you may be surprised to find that there are literally thousands of modern hybrids to choose from, often with fanciful names and exotic shapes and patterns.  I love coordinating daylily bloom colors with other flowers and foliage. One of my favorite color beds in the garden is the “grape and lemonade” bed – cool lemons and deep purples, a color scheme inspired by daylily ‘Etched Eyes’ hybridized by Matthew Kaskel.

Here are a few portraits of the early season bloomers. For more information on the wonderful world of daylilies, visit the American Hemerocallis Society.

All images ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Breakfast in the Treetop Bistro

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.  ~John Gunther (American journalist & author)

This morning was a perfect moment – the air cool but not chilly, the sky a clear blue, and a light breeze bringing the fragrant scents of the garden up to the deck. I celebrated with a long lingering breakfast in the Treetop Bistro, the name for our upper deck.

The two decks along the back facing the woods were a big factor in choosing this house. The upper deck, reached by a spiral staircase, was where I originally planned the garden. The perfect place for morning coffee, it started out as a calm blue and cream place with wicker chairs, a birdbath, and some potted plants, and served its purpose well. 

But then two years ago, with a thunderous crash, a huge old oak fell on the house on a calm windless day, taking out the lower deck, part of the roof, part of the upper deck, and most of the furniture and pots.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the garden and decks were a construction zone all summer.

It seemed a good time to rethink the upper deck; I wanted to create a colorful hideaway for a cup of morning coffee or a glass of evening wine. Taking into account the dark brown house and the green wall of treetops, I settled on a mix of rose, coral, orange, gold, and dark red.

 The area rugs are actually woven vinyl, called Mad Mats, an inexpensive but attractive way to create the feel of an outdoor room, easy to hose down all summer and roll up to store for the winter. Brown outdoor paint pulled together a mish mash of furniture, a few pillows were added, and the “bistro” was born.

Not only did I want a certain color scheme that was warm and cheerful, I wanted the feel of a secluded bistro like so many I have visited in France, Italy, and Spain, tucked away in a side street and surrounded by old trees. Hayracks and pots holding flowers, herbs, lettuces, and tomatoes turned it into a lush kitchen garden as well.


The bench invites a quiet moment in the treetops.
Sometimes Angel Eyes takes a nap on the bench.
And breakfast? It was delicious!
Want to see what the plantings will look like by the end of summer?  See a slideshow from last September that includes some photos of the Treetop Bistro’s first season.
I had to delay the video deconstruction of “Breath” until a later date because of work on several projects; next week, I hope to premiere the second part of The Four Elements – “Light”.  Enjoy your weekend!

The Space Between

Breathe out, breathe in, Balanced in the space between.
Silence, stillness, Until the breath moves through again.
~ from “Breath” by Lynn Emberg Purse ©2012

A few weeks ago, in Breathe In, Breathe Out – I wrote about “Breath” – the piece I composed this spring as part of a larger piece The Four Elements. Deeply immersed in recording “Breath” this past week, I’ve also found the lyrics to this song moving from my head as an ongoing mantra to flooding my creative veins and taking over my life.  It’s not only about remembering to breathe, it is about finding balance in “the space between.”

So what is “the space between”? When I practice deep breathing, I often imagine the astonishing amount of open space in our atomic structure, the space between the photons and electrons and neutrons, the vast space between the cellular structure of our bodies.

But I also think of the idea of liminal space.

Threshold between gardens

The term “liminal space” comes from the Latin word līmen, which in part signifies the boundary between one space and another, meaning that “betwixt and between” space, the threshold of a door or the threshold between stages of life. This is not a new idea by any means – consider the practice of carrying a bride over the threshold, of the ceremonies involved in the rite of passage from one stage of life to another, the superstitions and ritual practices surrounding the opening and closing of doors, windows, and other passageways. In garden design, the liminal structures of gates, archways and paths become the defining elements of the garden and invite the visitor to move through the space rather than look at it from a distance.

The “space between” – liminal space – also has deeply spiritual and metaphysical connotations. In Christian traditions, liminal space is the sacred space occupied by those seeking the presence of God, either as individuals or as a group gathered in worship. Like breathing in and out, one enters into a space of infinite possibilities, then leaves refreshed to engage in the world. For a thoughtful blog about this, see Rev. Jeff Johnson’s Liminal Space, especially his reflection on the day after Easter.

Fr. Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, had this to say about liminal space. “Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual. This is why much of the work of God is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential. It is the ultimate teachable space.. maybe the only one. Most spiritual giants try to live lives of “chronic liminality” in some sense. They know it is the only position that insures ongoing wisdom, broader perspective and ever-deeper compassion. The Jewish prophets… St. Francis, Gandhi, and John the Baptist come to mind.”

Window on the galaxy

As an artist and musician, I am always seeking the point of entry to liminal space which, for me, is the marker of creative engagement. Quantum physics suggests that all possibilities exist until observation or intention selects one possibility which then becomes “the” reality. As a composer, this is exactly the process through which I move. I start with an idea, I do research and entertain many possibilities, then I withdraw into that “space between” to let everything cook and stew while I seek to become quiet and receptive and balanced.  I stand on the threshold, poised but not ready to commit.  Stepping through the threshold, moving from possibility to a chosen act or decision, always seems the most difficult part – actually stepping through and be willing to choose “this” but not “that” becomes an act of creative courage.

A series of thresholds

Of course, that is only the first step; it is actually a series of decisions, reflections, and more decisions, an ongoing process of stepping into a threshold, a liminal space, then continuing on through the process, over and over again.  Singer/songwriter and artist Joni Mitchell once drew an analogy between painting and composing – when the painting was finished, it was finished, but the music demanded an ongoing commitment to bring it to life – this is probably true of all performing arts. (Photo courtesy of Joka2000 on Flickr)

The next time I post, I hope to have a piece of music to share. (You can now hear the music for Breath) For now, I stand poised on another threshold, seeking the silence and stillness between breaths that nourishes me, balances me and leads me to the next step, through the next doorway.

Reality is that place between the sea and the foam. Irish Proverb

March Showers, April Flowers

April showers bring May flowers.

For most of North America, spring is very early this year and the year is unfolding in rhythmic consonance but the downbeat is ten minutes before concert time. In spite of April’s alternating waves of warm days and frosty nights, the garden continues to bloom anew each day, bringing cascades of color from both blossom and leaf. Every morning, a walk through the garden is an adventure – “who bloomed today?” Music is percolating in my studio, soon to be revealed – in the meantime, I share this photo record of a beautiful world opening petal by petal, leaf by leaf outside of my door and window.

Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.  Rainer Maria Rilke

Lining the Path

 All paths are the same, leading nowhere. Therefore, pick a path with heart! Carlos Castaneda

Dusk is falling, I am determined to renew the mulch of my garden paths but the length of day challenges me.  The design of this part of the garden depends on the paths – they define and shape everything. Without them I cannot expect to stroll the garden nor photograph it. So each spring, I renew the garden paths.

As I work quietly, I begin to consider how frequently “the path” serves as a metaphor for life, for making choices, for encountering difficulties, for taking the easy way out, for pursuing an adventure. According to American psychologist James Hillman “Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path… this is what I must do, this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am.”  Italian psychologist and criminologist Cesare Lombroso wrote “Good sense travels on the well-worn paths; genius, never. And that is why the crowd, not altogether without reason, is so ready to treat great men as lunatics.” Thoreau exhorts us to “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence” but Spanish poet Antonio Machada states “Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.”  Personally, my favorite path saying is by Groucho Marx – “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”

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In the garden, a path is literal, practical, yet highly symbolic. Visually, it leads the eye and the foot, like a giant arrow pointing the way.  There may be unexpected twists and turns, creating places for plant treasures, ornaments, a bench. This particular part of my garden was designed to be seen from the decks above it, not unlike the Elizabethan knot gardens that were meant to be viewed from a high castle window. The garden beds are both defined and connected by the paths.

Before the dark drops so deeply into the garden that I must retreat, I look at the paths with a sense of satisfaction. Task finished for the year, the paths are clear and ready for use, and I walk them home.

One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect, the whole world looks like home for a time.  Hermann Hesse

All photos ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All rights reserved