Tag Archives: nature

When Everything Is New

8 Feb

Moving away from your home, your state, your work, your friends, and your family isn’t easy.

Everything is new.

The excitement of change comes with a price: stress.

I am taking some lessons from the trees in this new climate.

In the first photograph you can see a skinny tree standing beside a house on the right. On the day I took these photographs I watched that skinny little tree — standing taller than the house — bear more and more snow as the day went on, gradually bowing under the increasing weight until the tip dragged on the ground. I thought the trunk might break. The homeowner soon tramped out and whip-lashed the flexible branches, freeing the snow and allowing the tree to spring back to its original posture. I noticed that the tree stayed upright after that, regardless of the continuing snowfall.

The first wet snow sticks and pulls everything down. If this initial weight is released, further snow slips off more easily.

I might need some help shaking off that first snow, but I will stand tall again.

Branching Out

3 Feb

A free table arrangement.

While walking on my block last week, I noticed some cut branches piled at the curb.

This not unusual.

In our city, yard waste is picked up from the street with a mechanical scoop, something like a forklift, but with a spoon instead of a fork.  The spoonlift deposits the leaves, sticks, and grass clippings into a larger second vehicle.  Some cities have bins and only one machine, which seems more efficient from my point of view, but I will admit that the spoonlift is fun to watch.

These particular branches caught my attention because they had buds on them.

I worked at a florist shop for several years, where we sometimes used branches in our arrangements.  Cuts of bright yellow Forsythia and flexible, curly willow would blossom or sprout leaves when left in water, adding structure and a touch of Spring to any arrangement.

I had found a free centerpiece, lying in the street!  It was my lucky day.

I had just passed by an hour before, and the branches had not been there, so I knew they were fresh.  I took the smaller branches home and cut them for use in a vase.  The remaining branches were soon collected from the street, and I counted the blessing of my good timing in finding some to take home before they were scooped away.

I have had the pleasure of seeing the branches bloom and sprout this week, and would like to share my pleasure with you.

Have you ever wondered how Navel Oranges got their name?

Day two. A cluster of buds.

The oranges came from our dwarf orange tree.  Our recent weeks of frost have made the fruit bitter, but they still look good in a bowl.

Day five. Blossoms are starting to show.

Day five. The same cluster of buds.

The buds started white, turned pink, and then whitened again as the flowers opened.  I suspect they are apple blossoms, or maybe pear.

Some people do not have the patience to wait for flowers to open slowly.  At the florist shop, we sometimes sent out budded Cymbidium orchid plants, staked with willow branches, tied with a ribbon and nestled in moss.

We received calls from irate gift senders, demanding to know why their money had paid for only “sticks in a pot”.

We might try in vain to explain that the orchid plant would hold its elegant blooms for three months, and that it would only take the flowers a few days to open, but the explanation usually didn’t satisfy them…even when we told them the plant was worth more than they had paid and they had gotten a deal.

Some customers would rather give older flowers, those that have already reached their peak and will soon be past it.  They want instant (short-lived) gratification.

Day six. Starting to open.

I have tried to educate friends and family about choosing flowers with an expectation of their future potential.

A bundle of small, green, stubby tulips will not remain so.  It will grow and change with each day, with stems lengthening, buds changing color, expanding, and twisting toward the nearest light source.

This process, to me, is infinitely more interesting than a bundle of fully colored, fully open tulips that will fade and drop their petals in a day or two.

I appreciate the surprise of not knowing for certain what the color of the blooms will be.

Day six. Afternoon, fully open.

The stages of growth in a flower are like the stages of growth in a child.  I am not attached to a single stage; I find them all intriguing.

The next time you purchase flowers, let them be a little bit green, a little bit tight.

Day seven. Spring has arrived.

When you look at the trees or shrubs in your yard, keep in mind that most clippings will look good in a vase, or even a jelly jar.

Any Fall leaves, Spring growth, flowering branches, and even dry twigs can be beautiful — especially mixed together in varied textures and colors.

Day eight. Gorgeous.

And you can’t beat the price:  free.

The Meaning of Color

15 Nov

“The meaning of a word – to me – is not as exact as the meaning of a colour.  Colours and shapes make a more definite statement than words.”

~Georgia O’Keefe

Color is evocative.  It’s personal.  It brings memories.  It shapes our mood.

I started thinking about the significance of color this weekend, after I joined in helping my friends Zak and Lindsey** paint a room in their home.

Lindsey joked that the visit might inspire some blog posts for me, because with their house in the early stages of a radical fix-up, “There isn’t a clean surface anywhere in the house.” I didn’t think that was strictly true, but yes, in the end I was inspired to write .

For the record, with the new paint we applied to the walls and ceiling, there are now some lovely new clean surfaces in their house.

The paint color was carefully chosen by my friends to recreate the look of a specific place: the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Park.  I’ve forgotten the official name of the paint color now, but it doesn’t matter.  Like Georgia O’Keefe said, words are not exact.  If I tried to categorize the color, you would get the wrong idea.  Let’s just say it is a warm color, and it makes me think of Pottery Barn catalogs, and Italy — or at least my idea of Italy, I’ve never actually been there.  I haven’t been to the Ahwahnee either, but I guess I know what color the walls are.

As the paint slowly dried, in what will eventually be Zak and Lindsey’s master bedroom, something happened to the room.  We all noticed how the color affected the feel of the space.  It wasn’t just a fresh coat of paint, it was a transformation.  Never-mind the absence of a floor, the broken window, and the dangling wires — the room was suddenly established as inviting, cheerful, and warm… a place to be, instead of just a work in progress.

That kind of change is exciting.  If we had painted the room white, I can guarantee that the effect would not have been as dramatic; the room would only have looked cleaner…a clean surface, but not an inviting one.

Color is a gift.


~I have written before about color, and the powerful effect it can have on me (see Autumn Bliss, Rediscovered).

~The two poppy photographs above are among my favorite personal photos, and their color-match with this blog is just a happy coincidence.  They were taken on a walk during a vacation in Stinson Beach, California.

**  I normally don’t use friends’ names in my posts, out of respect for their privacy, but I recently (quite accidentally) discovered that Zak and Lindsey are already mentioned — and even shown in photographs — in a blog by one of their other friends.  So, that bridge has already been crossed.  See this friendly blog post from David Easson who knows Zak and Lindsey, and their dog Hoosier

Autumn Bliss, Rediscovered

3 Nov

Today, I noticed–for the first time–a red-orange tinge on the leaves of my neighbor’s Snowball Hydrangea tree, its branches spilling over the back fence, just within reach of my garden shears.

I often notice, and have sometimes cut, the round, greenish “snowballs”, slowly whitening, delicate, but thick in flower, weighing down the ends of the branches.  I have often seen the soft, bright green of the new leaves in their season, crowning the sharp edge of the fence, bringing much-needed shade to the yard.

The Autumn switch remained completely overlooked, somehow.

Leaves reddening like the juice of a blood orange–how did I miss it?

I cut some leaves from the lower branches and set them in small jars to brighten the kitchen.

They are a simple reminder of Autumn, and also of one of my boldest and most precious memories.

When I was young, sitting in our backyard tree swing, I once looked up over the roof to see a great mass of leaves in the sunlight, illuminated, glowing in a shade of yellow-gold I didn’t fully recognize, so impossibly bright I imagined at first that the tree might be on fire!

I realized it was our front yard tree, which had always been there, sturdy, tall, unremarkable, perhaps a little bit scruffy–even so, in that late afternoon light, the burning glow of it held me, motionless and weeping, unable to look away until the light shifted with the sunset, and all at once the fire was quenched…then the tree was simply a tree, as it had always been.

At no time in my life, before or since, have I been so stunned by color.

I did not catch another glimpse of it.  The tree, a large one, had to be cut down some years later, its heavy trunk splitting apart, a danger to the house and passers-by.   The fire of those golden leaves remains etched in my mind, as unforgettable as if I had seen the face of God.

Now I look at these “blood-orange” leaves, cut from my yard, and I wonder how they escaped my notice for four consecutive Autumns.  I wonder what else I may have missed…