Tag Archives: wildflowers

How Flowers Changed the World

Spring is here again in the Sierra Foothills, and cannot be suppressed even by a sudden drop in temperature and snow dusting the hills for a few early morning hours yesterday. I long for Spring during all the other seasons, and as it bursts forth, I succumb to a huge “weed” burden on my foot paths and meadow edges around my house.

Weeds are just notions in our minds, after all, and I do hate to pluck to death those brave plants who want to live where I want to walk. Start anywhere, I tell myself, compost the weeds, invite them to be reborn into wildflowers.  I transplant the non-weeds—the poppies, the purple alyssum, the love-in-the-mist, the bush lupine seedlings, the rose campion (all derived by original plants and seeds given to me by Marion Gray in the late 1970’s), the sacred native white sage and the black sage, the mountain mahogany (I have four of these sprouted near my front door right now), tons of Spanish lavender, and purple violets, which have popped up in the path instead of the garden beds.

And when the weeding becomes just too much to bear, there is always photographing blossoms for future art works, and pressing flowers and leaves in old phone books for flower mandalas or swirled in handmade paper pulp.

Or, I  just sit, doing absolutely nothing, except sniffing the air for the first waft of the intoxicating scent of the ceonothus, wild native lilac (already one lilac bush is in bloom with its tiny white blossoms) at the meadow’s edge.

“Flowers changed the face of the planet. Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star. Intuitively he had sensed like a naturalist the enormous interlinked complexity of life. Today we know that the appearance of the flowers contained also the equally mystifying emergence of man.” from the essay by Loren Eiseley called “How Flowers Changed the World”.

photo by Elsah Cort

Redbud Garden Club is 60 years old…

Just finished making the little “yearbook” for our local garden club.
Here is the cover…it’s 5.5 inches by 4.25 inches.
The yearbook lists members, meeting dates and programs, resources.
[There are some member openings, in case you live near by
and love gardening, especially with native plants.]

Mandate for an artist…

The story of the art, its biography or “provenance” or evolution into form, is what brings meaning to the work.  Not that art has to have a stated meaning, but what is it showing up for anyway?  As actively creative persons (all of us are creative in our nature) artists have a special responsibility when our art is presented to the world or even hung on the walls of our homes.  People may notice it and wonder about it.

So, this mandala has hung in the same place on the wall at the foot of my spreading stairs for at least ten years.  I pass by it numerous times in the day.  I have not looked at it closely in a long, long time.  And, the other day, I had bed and breakfast guests, curious about what they saw in my studio and home, and one woman stood in front of this mandala asking:  is that made from real flowers?

She wanted to know the story.  And, I realized, so did I.

flowermandala flowermandaleframed

I don’t even remember when I actually made this, but it was at least over 20 years ago.  All flowers were gathered from around my house and pressed in telephone books.  The center, or bindu point, is small purple bicolor lupine which grow very close to the ground.  The stems, dividing the mandala into quadrants, are from the local endemic poppy.  30 years ago I learned to call this wildflower by the name of frying pan poppy, because its pale yellow petals are splayed out rather flat from its center, just they are in the mandala itself.  The inner circular ring is made from fringepod or lacepod seeds.  A splash of watercolor hues are in the base.

The story of the art is my love for these plants which show up year after year without planting or seeding by human hand.  And these flowers used to be all over this town, but are disappearing rapidly as people move here and make their new homes and yards in the foothills look like their old homes in the cities with green lawns and oleanders and plants they don’t call weeds, like the local plants are called now.

This mandala is the story of grief.  Grief that can only come with the knowing of beauty.  No way to avoid this if you are living a human life that sees wildflowers growing on their own, especially on the hill that plows into your kitchen window.

Mandate for the artist:  live the life….make the art….share the story….and let others know they can do it too.