Buds on a bloomstalk are like being at home with siblings. You’re either the one who steps out with all the love, beauty and attention, or the wallflower who sits in the background, waiting a turn to be noticed. And you might even be the one to die prematurely on the vine. Fairness does not apply, nor does permanency.
The solution is to enjoy beauty wherever it’s found, to bring it into you. The best ways are to appreciate nature, to think beautiful thoughts, to be grateful for every stage of life, to recognize when it’s your turn to shine, or when it’s time to appreciate another’s moment in the limelight. If you live from the ego, you will be impossibly challenged by these practices, but if you live from the spirit, beauty is always yours..
In the land of greens and blues, where every inch is damp with life,
It’s the reds that weep and sing.
The reddest reds I’ve ever seen, as alive as blood or water.
Reds living amongst deities and denizens, scooters and trucks, temples and topknots,
And serious whimsy, offerings twice a day.
The dream of Bali changed how I see.
(First phto only by Dave Van Rooy/Pong Yoopin, the rest by me.)
I was in Bali and now Bali’s in me, the place where every home’s compound has a temple. Their doorways are an invitation to the sacred, as well as protection from negative forces. Flowers, whole blossoms and petals alike are a big part of the offerings along with rice and a curly grass held in banana leaf bowls that are placed twice a day in front of entrances of stores and homes. I want to go back to learn the symbolism and the beliefs that govern every waking moment of their days. Yet here I am at home again, writing for #10 of Marissa Bridge’s orchid series, reminding me that this practice is a ritual too, a commitment to embracing the cycles of life.
The first time the concept of sacrifing one life for another really penetrated my brain, was in the late sixties. I was married to an artist and we were living the hippie life of little work, less money, no meat in our diet. Both, thin as rails, huge heads of hair, only enough covering to keep us publicly decent, we rode bikes all over New York. One afternoon we ended up in Union Square on a park bench next to an old man. He was open and curious, and wanted nothing more than to talk. We, on the other hand, were scared reclusive children, needing validation for our choices. Somehow, we got on the subject of what we ate, probably because it defined us. We were proud and vain to not eat animals. And the old man said, ‘What’s the difference between killing a stalk of broccoli and taking the life of an animal? Lives are sacrified for the betterment of others all the time. That’s what it takes to thrive.’
In #8, as one bud opens, another is plainly losing its juice and the sooner it falls off, the more energy the other two will have. If this sounds cavalier, please understand from a horticulturist’s experience that plants, like people, are born, they live, or not, and some go sooner than others.
In 1985, I left Missouri, along with a thriving horticulture business, for good. Confident about what I knew, it was time to leave, to change, or die on the vine. I yearned to learn, and was certain New York would teach, even though I didn’t know what knowledge to seek, what sacrifices would have to be made. “What about nature?’ my friends asked when they heard I was leaving. ‘How can you, of all people, live in a city so devoid of it?’ My pat answer was that the kind of nature New York has is of the human variety.
What I’ve learned in that department has included my own nature, some of it wild, some wise, parts of me are fearful, and I’m as courageous as one needs be to keep going in full vitality. Throughout this living education, the passion for horticulture has remained at my side. In addition to extic travels in the most becautiful places on the planet, my apartment windows face south and are full of blooming orchids and plump succulents, And Marissa and I are doing this tribute to the cycles of life through her orched paintings, with more projects involving nature in mind. Life naturally gets richer.
More flesh than flora, the dancing whimsey of #6 morphs into a firm tongue in painting #7, reminding me of a carnal episode years ago. I was at the St. Louis Botanical Garden when an alarming creaking began to echo through the tropical house of the Buckminister Fuller geodesic dome. The noise was from a majestic date palm towering above me: its woody husk that held the fruit was prying open. As a piece of the covering tore away and the fallout landed at my feet, I backed up and others began running in a mild panic. I watched as the pod’s cord of connected dates sprung from its confines. More husk broke loose, a spurt of white foam sprayed through the air and floated slowly to the ground. As if after an explosion, the newborn date stem waved in the silent aftermath.