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.

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.

 

Anticipation

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size. ~Gertrude S. Wister

Winter comes and goes these days. February has embraced all of the seasons in a few short weeks, from bitter winter to balmy summer. Earlier in the month, January’s snow melted into the ground and a thick fog rose overnight, transforming the woodland into a mysterious world of gray and black.  forestfog

Later, the sun appeared and burned away the blanket of fog, revealing the bold architecture of oak trees stark against a bright blue sky. (Click on any photo to enlarge)

Temperatures continued to warm last week until many early flowers burst into full bloom while shrubs and trees began to swell with buds and leaves. The black and white and gray of winter was suddenly sparked with color.

More hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) flowers open each day, a few weeks earlier than usual. Many have self-seeded and spread under trees and shrubs; a few are named varieties. A favorite is the almost black double flowered ‘Onyx Odyssey’. The unusual green flowers and uniquely patterned foliage of the fetid hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) punctuate the edge of the woodlands.

The temperatures have plunged once again and gardeners can only hope that the early growth won’t be damaged by the return of winter. But the anticipation of spring has begun. (Click on any photo for a full size version; all photos ©2017 Lynn Emberg Purse)

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. ~ Barbara Winkler

The Light Returns

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. ~Terri Guillemets

solsticesunsetgateThe winter solstice has arrived – every day from now on will be a little longer and a little brighter as the light returns. It is no wonder that we turn to celebrations of light at this time of year in the northern hemisphere with candles, yule logs, and lights on our Christmas trees.treelights

Mother Nature celebrated the earth’s return towards the light in her own way. The early sunset of the winter solstice lit up the sky with colors ranging from tints of pink, yellow, and blue to fiery corals and golds blazing into the deepening night. It seemed fitting that the shortest day of the year provided the loveliest light. May your days be merry and bright in this season and the next.

The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

You can find some of my winter and Christmas music in the Christmas tab at the top of the page – happy solstice and Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Winter Wonderland

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again. ~ Lewis Carroll

patternoflightThis week, winter arrived. An all day snow turned the world into a festive snowy wonderland that I could barely see during a slow drive home from work in the dark. Morning brought blue skies and golden sun and revealed the white fairytale forest around me. You might enjoy listening to the unusual arrangement of Winter Wonderland by Pentatonix (below) while you look at the snow photos – click on any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image. (All still images ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse)

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~ J.B. Priestley