Of flowers and light

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” ~Theodore Roethke

As earth spirals towards the summer solstice, each day begins earlier and seems filled with more light. The growing crescendo of flowers opening in the garden somehow capture and reflect that light even more.

Allium 'Everest' against beauty bush

Each day brings new change as buds become flowers . . .

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and garden scenes shift their colors as new blooms open and others begin to fade.

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When I first began to study photography, I was deeply influenced by a line from the book The Art of Seeing – “Only light, not things, strike the retina.”  The objects we think we see are in reality spectrums of light reflected back to us. That realization changed the way I saw the world and the way that I tried to capture it with my camera. In the garden, light is everything. Plants respond to it, live by it, reach for it, and reflect it.

What we see as color is actually the reflection of a particular wavelength of light. Happily, color in nature is never just one shade or tone, but instead a complex reflection that challenges and seduces our eyes with both boldness and nuance.

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The garden unfolds in the growing light, rich and full of promise, and extends an invitation to step over the threshold and wander the paths.

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. ~William Wordsworth

hrbMayvert

Enjoy the loveliness of May and may you treasure the light that grows each day.

“I knew, of course, that trees and plants had roots, stems, bark, branches and foliage that reached up toward the light. But I was coming to realize that the real magician was light itself.” ~Edward Steichen, photographer

Composing about light: The Four Elements: Light

Dreaming of Oz

Dorothy singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

Dorothy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

I was eighteen years old before I realized that the classic 1939 Wizard of Oz movie was not filmed entirely in black and white. I had watched it every year of my childhood on our sturdy black and white television, enchanted every time by the magic of the Land of Oz and Dorothy’s adventures there. When I returned home for Easter vacation from my first year at college, I settled in front of our new luxury item, a color television, to watch my favorite movie. Of course, the movie starts in sepia tone, close enough to black and white for me not to notice the difference, and I dreamed along with Dorothy as she sang of a land “somewhere over the rainbow.” Imagine my shock and surprise that matched her own when she opens the door of her wind blown house and stands breathless before the colorful landscape of a new world.

Dorothy looking into Oz

Dorothy looking into Oz

Like Dorothy, I feel as if I am standing on the threshold of a new landscape, though I must pass through the long storms of winter before I can step into it.  The Christmas decorations are put away and the house has lost its festive air. The romance and beauty of fresh snow fall has degenerated into rough trampled paths through the woods punctuated by dark bare trees and a leaden gray sky. It is the black and white and sepia tone world of every day life. But the seeds to this year’s garden have arrived and I feel very much like Dorothy, standing in her monotone world while peering into the vibrantly colored Land of Oz.

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It may be a long passage of winter months before I can cross that threshold into the rainbow land of my garden, but the seeds I hold in my hand become a magic carpet in my imagination that will eventually carry me there.

Video clip of Dorothy opening the door to Oz

Video clip of Dorothy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Related posts:
Planting a Seed
The Space Between

Shadow and Light

Chiaroscuro – Italian for the play of shadow and light, most often referring to tonal relationships in visual art (Wikipedia)

Walking through a garden or a forest is a much different experience than looking at it from afar. When seen from a vantage point, no matter how beautiful a view, only your eyes see the beauty before you and you are separated from it – it and you.  But walking in it and through it, that is a different experience altogether.  You and it become a “we” – fused together by a play of shadow and light, transient shifts of color and tone that enfold you as a part of nature’s spectral ballet.

Chiaroscuro is a term that painters used to describe the use of shadow and light to create the illusion of three dimensionality on a two dimensional plane.  Photographers embraced it  as a reminder that they were photographing light, not things. As I walked through the garden this week, each step became an experience of shadow and light. Every plant and flower took on a golden glow, filtered through the autumn leaves above. Standing below a fiery maple tree became a transcendent experience of standing in liquid gold; the deep umber and burgundy hues of light traveling through oak leaves captivated me for long moments.  The beauty of autumn is transitory, all the more treasured for that short period of time when we look upward at a canopy of color that is unmatched in any other season.

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Here is French singer Juliette Greco singing  Les Fuielles Morte (Autumn Leaves) in French in a live concert in Berlin (1967) in a simple arrangement of voice and guitar.  Sartre said of her that she had “. . . millions of poems in her voice.” (Wikipedia)

Where there is much light, the shadow is deep.  ~ Geothe

For a translation of the original French lyrics (by Jacques Prevert) to Les Feuilles mortes/Autumn Leaves (not the Johnny Mercer English lyrics) – see this translation by Coby Lubliner.

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!

Deep Purple

It was a beautiful day here in Western PA – skipper and black swallowtail butterflies flitted around the garden and dark rich colors blossomed everywhere.  Here are a few photos of deep purple flowers.  Next week, some new music!

All photos ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved