Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Heart and Life Abloom

Rose Mallow, Wegerzyn Gardens, Dayton, Ohio.

 Flowers have always held me in a state of inspired fascination. It is much more than just a surface admiration for their beauty and charm. With me it runs deeper still, it's a spiritual connection if you will. Flowers and representations of flowers have been at the fore front of my life; early childhood memories spent in the garden with both Grandfathers and my Mom; thirty plus years as a professional floral designer; even to the beaded Native American medicine bag that came into my hands years ago. Flowers have become a personal symbol and extended expression of my journey.

Rose Mallows, Wegerzyn Gardens, Dayton, Ohio.

My Swedish Grandfather was three kinds of an engineer, an inventor, an artist, a blacksmith, and an avid gardener and gentleman farmer. The family farm was in upstate Massachusetts and it was where he artfully designed and planted his four acres of gardens and orchards. White picket fences acted as backdrops to his flowers and white benches were strategically placed for maximum viewing and enjoyment. An expanse of green lawn further highlighted the colorful flower gardens and led one to the fruit orchards and vegetable plots. It had flow. Each area had its own magic; the apple and pear trees that snowed white blossoms in the late spring; the cool and feathery asparagus patch where as a child I could hide beneath the towering stalks; stately old trees that dumped mountains of leaves which we grand kids jumped in merrily every Autumn; even descending into the root cellar was an adventure. It lay beneath the kitchen and one entered through a wooden door from the outside. I remember the smell of earth, potatoes and dill in particular. Grandmother put up shelf after shelf full of canning jars that held the fruits and vegetables gleaned from their land.

Grandfather's flowers though were his labor of love; bright orange Oriental Poppies, stately Gladioli, showy Dahlias and Peonies, but the showstoppers were his Bearded Iris. I was four years old when I experienced my first flower that captivated my heart. It was a deep purple and heavily ruffled iris. I couldn't take me eyes away from it as I absorbed every detail, every ruffle and flounce. Grandpa told me the story of Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow and how her chariot would fly across the sky leaving a trail of bright colors in its wake and how the flowers grew where the rainbow colors touched the earth. The name Iris meant "Eye of Heaven". It was magic to me.

Black Iris.

My Dad's father was a machinist all of his life until he retired and went to work in a garden nursery. It was his bliss and in his blood as he had come from a long line of New England farmers. Every Spring and Summer he brought flat after flat of annuals to my mother for her garden. Dusky blue Ageratum, sweet smelling Alyssum; Petunias and Marigolds, Pansies and Johnny-Jump-Ups. Her special treat was Martha Washington Geraniums, her favorites. We'd all get down on our knees and get our hands in the soil together. We were encouraged to be creative, plant where we liked, create  pleasing designs. Being in nature, always surrounded by flowers and my family made for a happy childhood.

Swallowtail Butterfly.

As a teenager, who never seemed to fit, nature was my go-to place. I always had a special affinity towards Lilacs. I'll never forget one particular home (we were transferred a lot) that had a wall of old lilac bushes that ran the entire length of the property. White, light lavender and dark purple drifts of blooms sent wafts of alluring fragrance throughout the house every time the wind blew. It always drew me outside and I would go and crawl underneath into the cool caves that formed beneath the bushes. I'd lie there on my back looking up through the branches, perhaps bring a book and read and it always made me feel better. Lilacs have a peaceful aura. 

Funny how things work out...my first job, after school, was working for a large grocery chain. My first month was spent bagging groceries, stocking, and learning the cash register. One afternoon though I was told to go help out in the floral department. I happily spent my time watering plants, changing the water in the flower buckets and loved every minute. I apparently made a good impression and was moved there permanently much to my delight. My teachers were the older florists and I learned how to make corsages and boutonniere's by sheer repetition. I took to design like a duck to water. Who was to know that my after school job would lead me to a thirty year career as a florist. To be creative and be surrounded by flowers was perfect.

I remember, many years ago, listening to an interview with a Native American totem pole carver and he said that he would spend time with the tree and listen to the wood and then release the figures within, and his approach resonated within me. I design this way, I listen to how the flowers want to express themselves. I am merely taking direction from them.

Medicine Bag with flower bead work.

As I have always been drawn to flowers so too have I been drawn to Native American culture. Years ago, while living in Texas, I was spending an afternoon walking around a large antique mall when my eye caught sight of a medicine bag partially concealed on a shelf within a cabinet. I figured it would be too expensive for my purse so I kept walking but something kept drawing me back. Upon finding the dealer in his booth I asked to see it and my heart skipped a beat when he placed it in my hands. The front of the bag had a white beaded flower on a turquoise field surrounded by rings of blue, red and yellow. It had distinctive beaded flaps with tassels that I had never seen before. It spoke to me. I asked what he wanted for it. When I heard his answer I figured that he either had no value for it himself or he was giving me a break. It was all I could do to not cart wheel down the aisle as I went to pay the $15.00 price! I have been told that it is brain tanned and was a probably a personal piece, not one made to sell. I have treasured it all these years and feel that it is a woman's piece, the energy is feminine. I consider it a gift from Spirit. How apropos that it should have a flower design?

In sacred geometry the Flower of Life is a divine pattern. From a geometric standpoint all of the building blocks of creation are found within this pattern and make up the whole thus it symbolizes that everything within the Universe is connected. It is a pattern replicated both in nature and in the art of many different cultures. The image below was found in India. Others have been found in Turkey,
Egypt, in the temple of Osiris; Japan and China; and various parts of the Middle East from Israel, to Morocco, to Syria. Other examples have been found in Scandinavia, Greece and Italy, Albania, Austria and Scotland and the list goes on.
 It has been used as a symbol by alchemists, Masons and the Knights Templar. Even Leonardo da Vinci studied the Flower of Life.  
Flower of Life pattern from India.
 To me it is a symbol of life in its entirety, a spinning wheel of movement and growth that radiates outward in continuous circles. I believe that it is the key to the theory of Lumen Naturae, the light hidden within; it is our spiritual mission to release our own light, our inspired Self. To do this we must discover that which makes us 'shine' and 'radiate' with love and share it outwards. We each can be a bloom within the beautiful garden that is this Earth.