The gloaming comes, the day is spent,
The sun goes out of sight.
And painted is the Occident
With purple sanguine bright.
We’re in the gloaming of this series, ‘tween light and night, when physical prime meets spiritual wisdom, and fire fades into moon. It’s the joy of aliveness and the grief in loss. It’s twilight.
So, let us gather our orchids while we may, paint every chapter as if it’s first stroke in an inspired exploration. ‘Tis another season and all are full of beauty.
Although it took me a lot of livin’ to embrace the concept of beauty at every stage, artists have depicted it since the beginning of time. In this series, Marissa Bridge takes on the subject through the life cycle of petals, stamens, pistils, and we are privy to their rise and fall, sans vanity. The orchid begins to age and loveliness abounds.
With many artists and photographers in my orbit, years ago I fancied myself a model. It was an instant identity and an edifying chapter. I was asked by a painter to sit for him, and my world was shaken the first and only time I was in his studio. He said, “I’d rather paint you in your fifties, with more lines in your face.”
If life is like being swallowed by quicksand, I lived as if youth were the offered rescue twig. But this artist was looking for experience, not even lines: etched emotions that inform bone and muscular structure as the years accumulate. With no real history or choices, I sat there without nobility or tragedy, countenance or shame, nothing of my humanity to reveal.
I came back from Venice yesterday, and while trying to catch up, I am high from a renewed way of looking at what is before me. Since there is little time for writing this post, I’d like to suggest that my dear readers take a moment to compare this painting and the one before, #25: Art and Orchids. Notice they were made in the same period of time from opposite directions and te backsides are as just lovely as the face-on flowers. Talk about clever: without going thousands of miles, both Marissa and the grand designer of the world remind us to open our eyes. The beauty is here, there, and everywhere.
Blossoms are about pollination, and sometimes that’s a tricky business. Through color and design, orchids can imitate insects or bees. Fooled into thinking they’re mating with their own ilk instead of a flower, unsuspecting feet and bodies pick up the dusty pollen. In the process of seeking satiation with other recipients of their attraction, after the death of an individual flower, and without much thought, the critters manage to insure new life.
Because dystopia is part of our present reality, I seek reminders of the miraculous nature of life, and find them in, among other things, art and orchids.
Orchids produce millions of dust-fine seeds and they can live a hundred years. The idea that they might be around as long as an exceptionally aged person insures their position as substantial life form. Their flowers last for an extended periods of time compared to most plants, they generally bloom during the peak of winter, and fade by summer. But there is still one miraculous holdout on my window sill: the late, long bloomer.
Imagining myself the same way, late to bloom and capable of holding on to an extended hurrah, the other day in Woodstock with my newish beau, I was silently thinking of our life’s seasons. Even though we’re experiencing childlike joy, we are not young. There is no mystery to where we are headed.
In my reverie, I cuddled against him. Instead of expressing the fear of loss I was feeling, all I could get out was, “You know, one of us is going to die.”
And he said, “Well, from the latest evidence, I’m pretty sure we both are.”
Last year I was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, loved ones, agencies of care. Today, long out of recovery from broken bones, I have heard that while suspended in ten weeks of non weight bearing life, I didn’t complain once. It’s true. Thanks to everyone, I had what I needed, and feeling sorry for myself would have only served to make a bad situation worse.
Plus, next to the bed, all my potted orchids were in bloom, an elegant line of different sizes, colors, and scents. Arriving both seasonally and spiritually in the dead of winter, their presence was like a band of goodwill ambassadors. Without fuss or worry, every day their confidence wordlessly spoke, ‘This is life and it really does go on.’
I once gave a very large Amaryllis bulb from Holland to a friend who placed it on the corner of her desk facing west and the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights. With pedestrians close by, horns blasting from ships on the river, cars below hitting potholes on the Belt Parkway, and the Brooklyn Bridge vibrating above, it was not the quietest setting. But it was the brightest light in her apartment and the best view on her outside world.
The bulb quickly sprouted. On the third day, from morning until evening, not only did she measure six inches of stalk growth, she noticed a constant sound, like shshshshshsh. Home alone and familiar with the whir of her refrigerator, the heater, the noise from her upstairs neighbors, to no avail, she sluethed around from room to toom and faucet to faucet trying to identify the sound. This went on for hours, until she put her ear to the Amaryllis. The source of the mystery: a rapidly growing bulb.
Scientists recognize trees that communicate through chemicals released by roots. There is a relatively young study of auditory impressions from plants, but the researchers have not proven their findings in an acceptable scientific model. Farmers believe they hear their fields of corn growing, and there is folklore around plants responding to the vibrations of music, voices, even thoughts.
It’s just a matter of time before beliefs turn into respectable data, because there definitely exists a traceable phenomenon: the one that caused my friend to place her ear next to the shoot of the Amaryllis. Water hydraulically pumped through roots, stems and leaves is a dynamic that produces sounds according to rate, pressure, the design of a specimen, and the ability to hear. I believe I can see a difference from one day to the next in the size of a fast growing leaf. But to have the ability to detect the quiet choir of my very active apartment orchids would be an ultimate for a plant lover like me. Shshshshshsh