Bejeweled

It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it. ~John Burroughs

I have become reacquainted with my garden this winter. Several times a day, Pixie and I wander out into the snow and ice – she romps in the snow as I stand and study the details of the garden in a new way.

I have no real love of winter – I find it cold, uncomfortable, and devoid of color – and yet I can always find beauty when I take the time to look.
One of my favorite fairy tales is the story of the twelve dancing princesses. They would escape their room each night, traveling through forests of gold, of silver, and of glass, to dance with their twelve princes. Last week’s ice storm brought total quiet to our neighborhood – no one stirred on the dangerous roads and everyone stayed inside, safe and warm. Yet outside stood the forest of glass, a fairy tale vision of frozen crystals coating each branch, each leaf, each faded blossom. (click on any photo to see the full-size image)

A brief snowfall coated the branches, allowing the ice and snow to sparkle through the woods and the garden, nature bejeweled and magical.

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thanks to my intrepid lively Pixie, I left my warm fireplace to venture into the cold crystal beauty of the garden, and for that I am ever grateful. Each moment in the glass forest and garden felt magical, an echo of fairy tale romance. May each of you, my friends, wear out your dancing shoes as you follow an adventure into nature’s beauty, perhaps in your own backyard.

 . . . what you look out on is not the snow of Narnia but the snow of home, which is no less shimmering and white as it falls. The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep that you can hear its silence. ~Frederick Buechner

All photos and text ©2022 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved, except as noted.

For the Love of Layers

Moravian Star

Moravian Star

As I decorate the Christmas tree in the family room, I am suddenly struck by the process.  Coming off of a semester that was a roller coaster ride of depths and heights, accompanied by occasional screams of fear and exhilaration, I finally have time to return to quiet moments and friendly celebrations. A little weary, but still smiling, I turn to welcome the rituals of the season.

As if I were doing this for the first time, I had to ask myself how to dress the tree – where to start? how to proceed? Oh, of course, start with the lights. Take time to test each strand and then drape it through the tree boughs. As I was tying in the strings of tiny white lights, they reminded me of pattering percussion – suddenly I realized that decorating a Christmas tree was really about the art of layering. And the art of layering has been an aesthetic pursuit in my garden, my music, and my everyday life.

The coffee table held the treasures, shiny and dull, textured and glossy, a cornucopia of collected bits and pieces that state a theme, a color palette, and my own take on how they fit together. I have thought more than once that my deep affection for Christmas and the decorations that go with it are really the deep need of the gardener deprived of her living palette, finding winter surcease in filling the house with faint echoes of summer’s bounty.

This particular tree has a woodland theme, all green and brown and copper. The tree itself is a firm structure with a defined shape, a good starting place from which to build. The lights spread throughout it to form the first layer, carefully distributed throughout the green branches. The next layer is the shiny reflective surfaces of simple round balls, hung deep inside the branches to reflect the light without drawing undue attention to themselves.

Now the stars come on stage – those collected whimsies of fuzzy bears and raccoons, glass owls and foxes, ceramic and feathered birds, copper birdhouses, and benevolent woodland Santas. They get first pick on advantageous branches that showcase their unique appearance. The supporting cast comes next, dark metal dragonflies, hammered stars, dried mushrooms and pinecones, to fill in the open places like the lower brass of the orchestra with their deep hum and supporting presence. The final layers spiral around the tree in the winding lengths of feather and glitter garlands, topped in the end by a metal Moravian star, perched like the cherry on a sundae. I step back, seeing each layer contribute to the whole, a panoply of rich muted color, texture, and shine – a gestalt of glitter and gladness.

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I think of how often I create music and gardens in much the same way – starting with the permanent anchors that give structure, painting soft washes of color around them, then playing and experimenting with shifting points of colors, texture, and sparkle, layering  combinations that spiral into a larger whole. It evolves into a creation that is bigger than the sum of its parts but which is still composed of all those little parts nonetheless.

As I begin to celebrate the season, I reflect that this is just one more lesson to learn, one more construct to understand. I step back and look on the tree, now fully dressed in its finery, and realize that it is an expression of a love of layers and the magical way in which they hide and reveal themselves when seen from various points of view. Perhaps the crowded and seemingly chaotic past few months in my life will reveal this same spiral of layers, hiding and unveiling new beauty and new insights if I can step back far enough to see the whole structure.  For today, I am simply inspired by a tree of lights and color and content to enjoy the coming weeks of joy and celebration. Peace.