The earth laughs in flowers.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is something so delightfully enchanting about treating yourself to fresh flowers. They are not “useful” in a utilitarian sense, but they feed the soul’s desire for beauty and bounty. The unfolding of a rose is a miracle, a living reminder that the life force unfolds from within. Lilies are fragrant, filling the room with sensuous sweetness. Sunflowers are the symbols of high summer and phototropic joy, like sunny smiling faces. Dogwood white against forest brown, deep blue dwarf larkspur, and tiny pink and yellow spring wildflowers make the earth new again as the season of growth begins after a long cold winter. The fierce red “I AM” of a tulip, the tender petal pink of a rosebud, or clouds of white crabapple blossoms at their peak of perfection remind me that life is ever new, every lovely, and ever surprising.
One way to give yourself the gift of a lasting bouquet is to take pictures. Petals fall and seasons change, but the beauty lives on long after the flower has gone to compost. I love to take pictures of flowers, capturing a moment as they bask in the light. A spray of plum blossoms caught in setting sun and reflecting the light as if they are living lamps, or the shadowed petals of an unfolding rose that creates a geometry of grace—every photo is a different expression of floral grace. I prefer capturing the blossoms in natural light, and have learned to look for nature’s “spotlight” for each scene.
Much depends on the camera as well as the lighting. It doesn’t take fancy equipment to capture a bit of lasting beauty. I still use my old Kodak EasyShare point-and-shoot camera, and because I have used it for so many years, I have learned its ways more deeply. I have learned more of the ways of flowers from it. One day soon I will be investing in cameras with more bells and whistles, but something tells me that I will want to keep my old camera available, even if it is held together with masking tape (actually, it IS held together with masking tape, as the battery compartment no longer stays closed on its own, thanks to the camera being dropped once or twice). That old camera is a friend, another eye that helps me see what I would otherwise miss. Almost every photo on my website has been taken on my trusty little digital camera. I revel in the bouquets the camera and I create together.
Timing is a big factor. Capturing the peak of the blossom or the perfect lighting is an essential part of the magic. I have a sunset view and at certain times of year the light of the lowering sun comes through the kitchen door and creates a space of light on my counter. I provide a background with a few simple props and place the opening rose in front of the complementary backdrop. Then I just chase the light as the sunset evolves. At other times of year my den skylight sends light down from on high, and my flowers bask in its spotlight for a few minutes of staged beauty.
Best of all is chasing the light and beauty outdoors. I go to local parks, botanical gardens, or a favorite lake in blossom time, and the magic unfolds under the ever-changing weather conditions. It’s such a joy to capture the perfection of spring blossom. I have learned to love the light as it dances with the flowers, caressing them with passing splendor. Light makes love with the earth, bathing it in beauty, coaxing the plants and flowers into being. The clouds and shadows reveal and hide; the early morning or waning afternoon casts a subtle glow that full noon is too harsh to reveal. Sunlight through the petals reveal secrets of the flower, offering a sense of another world more luminous and whole, more perfect in its glowing beauty than earth can fully bear.
Spring comes and goes fast in the South, as a warm day can open everything so quickly, and send it past its peak even more swiftly. Pacific Northwest spring blossoms linger in the grey coolness, but the southern sun can shorten the bloom time with a few days of unexpected heat. If I come upon a scene of peak blossom and glorious light, I take as many pictures as I can. I must capture the moment because it will not come again. Every year it’s different: same tree, same location, same spring blossom—yet never the same, and the photos are always different, day-to-day, season to season, moment by moment. Just like life: you can never repeat the moment, so keep your eyes wide open and your heart ready to receive. One day the cherry blossom is white. Two days later, it has deepened to pink. One day the crabapple buds are pink and red with promise, two days later they are a blanket of open white blossoms covering the tree. Two more days and they are petals falling and gone, swept away by the wind as a thunderstorm rushes in with a cleansing cold front.
The most artfully luminous photos become icons for me. One or two photos from a session will stand out because of a bit of light and form captured in random perfection. They represent something more than just the flower itself. It is as if there are more dimensions reflected in their beauty. As I have grown in my artistry, I have found certain ways of looking at the composition of flower and light to create something much more than a mere snapshot of something pretty. The photo itself is like a flower opening my eyes to another layer of beauty and meaning. For me, contemplating flowers has become a way of contemplating the mystery of life.
Whether I take a series of rose photos in afternoon’s fading light or go hunting at my favorite spring haunts for blossoms in the peak of their perfection, I go with an open heart as well as an open eye. Give yourself the gift of fragrant blossom and allow it to remind you of the inner dimension of the soul. A digital work of photo art, a painting that expresses your creative response to beauty, or just a lovely flower to scent your day and bringing beauty to your home; all of these remind you that eternity is calling to you through the lattices and windows of time and space. A big bouquet, a single rose, or wildflowers gathered from the side of the road—say it with flowers and take joy in nature’s sweet pleasures.
• Stop at a flower stand and pick your favorite bouquet. Now buy it and take it home and enjoy it. Or take your digital camera and go for a ramble in fields, forest, or garden. Take delight in the floral bounty that is always blooming for you.
Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peacocks and lilies, for instance.
Once or twice I have been asked what the peacock is “good for”—a question which gets no answer from me because it deserves none.
The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
Beauty is reality seen with the eyes of love.
I like to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
George Washington Carver
Spring—an experience in immortality.
Henry David Thoreau
Every spring is the only spring—a perpetual astonishment.
Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light.
The glory and freshness of a dream.
In the garden mystery glows
the secret is hidden in the rose.
Farid ud-Din Attar
We cannot discover ourselves without first discovering the universe, the earth, and the imperatives of our own being. Each of these has a creative power and a vision far beyond any rational thought or cultural creation of which we are capable.
We all move on the fringes of eternity and are sometimes granted vistas through the fabric of illusion.
Setting aside my worldly affairs,
On the cherry-bloom I will gaze,
Every day till it withers; for
The flowers will last so few days.
Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. The buds swell imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as though the short spring days were an eternity. Why, then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the least deed.
Henry David Thoreau
March 19, 2013 11:21 AM CDT
A friend wrote me a card with wise words encouraging me not to stay tight in the bud but to risk blossoming (Anais Nin) and serendipitously I find your book, The Art of Simplicity, leading me to your blog and all these beautiful blossoms. I am inspired, thank you so much, Candy.
- beth hunt