The Unforgettable Mass Murder at Columbine High School and Its Inaccurate Cultural Mythology

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

blue and white columbine flowers against a sunlit sky

Truly powerful people are not concerned about their power, but about being in a position of being able to empower.

Nadja Swarovski

In our culture and many others, flowers often commemorate people and events. Since April 20, 1999 a common wildflower has taken on an additional meaning no American should forget. That indelible association refers to Columbine High School just outside Denver, Colorado. The community where it’s located took its name from the state flower. The blue sepals symbolize the sky, its white petals represent snow, and the bright yellow center reminds us of the gold that helped establish the state. Read more

Observe Thomas Jefferson’s Legacy by Spending Some Time in Nature

The front of a $2 bill showing Thomas Jefferson's portrait.
Since Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, today is an apt occasion to consider his legacy and follow his example.

White boards, cell phones, tablets, and computers are not the only things that assist and enable creativity. So does taking a break, particularly one outdoors!

Activity where we do something without needing to think about it very much actually shifts us into a different state of consciousness. Now there’s a term for this state of mind: “transient hypofrontality.” Long before this term was invented, however, the greatest minds of society had already figured it out.

When Thomas Jefferson wasn’t running the country or visiting France, he was usually working in his yard. When Beethoven wasn’t writing music or playing the piano, he often took walks in nature. When Emily Dickinson wasn’t baking or writing poems, she was often working in the garden or tending potted plants in the greenhouse. When Monet wasn’t painting . . . you get the idea. Read more

. . . So the Pink Hyacinth was a True Prophet, and I Went to Bed a Happy Millionaire . . .

two white hyacinths blooming against the foundation of a houseFrom the Journals of Louisa May Alcott, 1868, perhaps while she was finishing or proofreading Little Women, which would be published September 30. Note the reference to the Civil War: “all these years.” Also, these are forced hyacinths she is describing, in wintertime actually, so her thoughts ahead are prompted by the new year. These posts were written on different days over several weeks.

After last winter’s hard experience, we cannot be too grateful. To-day my first hyacinth bloomed, white and sweet, — a good omen, — a little flag of truce, perhaps, from the enemies whom we have been fighting all these years. Perhaps we are to win after all, and conquer poverty, neglect, pain, and debt, and march on with flags flying into the new world with the new year.

My second hyacinth bloomed pale blue, like a timid hope, and I took the omen for a good one, Read more

Flowers of the Forest by Jean Elliot

a woodland scene with bluebells carpeting the forest floor

There’s always a time appropriate for these verses, given the events in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the unchanging human condition. It is safe to predict the forests of humanity will always produce such flowers.

The best introduction to these timeless “flowers” comes from about 1,000 years ago: Read more

The Surprising History Behind, Well, April Showers and Wet Places

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

an oil painting shows scene of clouds in a green valley called April Showers, Napa Valley by Jules Tavernier, made around 1880
April Showers, Napa Valley (around 1880)
Jules Tavernier

As children we learn April showers bring May flowers. For all I know children today still learn it. Among young adults and young-at-heart there is one group dedicated to helping spread the moisture, primarily with silly merchandise such as stickers and shirts: MoistMyTown.

The basis for calling a place “moist” appears to have nothing to do with weather

Read more

Build Anticipation With an Allée

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but a few help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

A color photo showing a driveway lined with Callery pear trees loaded with white flowers.
Callery pear makes a statement out of a driveway.

Not everyone owns enough property to have an allée. Other people do but live in hilly places; uneven terrain is simply not suited to creating this kind of effect. But where it can be done, ooh la la, does it ever create a sense of anticipation and arrival!

As we’ll see, an allée does far more than define space by creating an axis aligned with the house. To begin with the obvious, it’s also practical and good for the Earth. Canopied pavement is the best sort because it heats up less in summer. If I could design all parking lots, believe me, they wouldn’t look the way they always do!

Centuries ago, a tree-lined drive became a traditional treatment for the entrance to an estate. In the United States, I think most examples were in the southeast. Most of these are gone, but a few are still around. Shall we have a little look? Read more

Sound of the Season: A Morning in Spring

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

The oil painting Bluebells (1899) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema shows two women, one sitting on the ground, one standing by a tree, in a refreshing woodland scene loaded with bluebells in flower.
Bluebells (1899)
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In the late 1990s, I had a recording of this piece, D’un matin de printemps, for more than a year before I listened to it one day on accident. Boy was I ever surprised! I had certain expectations about a piece titled From a Morning in Spring written by a French woman, so I had avoided it on purpose until then. The reality was nothing like I thought. What the music presented is a conception of spring I still find difficult to explain. Read more

In a Persian Garden by Liza Lehmann

Note: the timing of this post is meant to tie in with both Women’s History Month and the Persian New Year known as Nowruz or Norooz.

Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

a 17th Century Persian panel of tiles in shades of blue and yellow showing people enjoying themselves outside in a setting of blooming plants and trees
Fritware wall panel now in the Louvre, 1500s-1600s, showing entertainment in a garden
(similar to this one at the Victoria and Albert Museum)

The word “paradise” comes from an old Persian word that means “a walled garden.” The intent of that walled garden, however, was indeed to create an earthly paradise. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Genesis 2 mentions four rivers in the Garden of Eden, so these spaces were traditionally divided into quadrants, known as chahar bagh. In addition, so was the country.

oil painting showing inner courtyard and garden at the Palacio del Generalife and Patio de la Acequia near the Alhambra in Granada, Spain painted in 1848 by Wilhelm MeyerThat design sounds formal, and often these areas were courtyards with pavilions and elaborate tile work. You might wonder: what did Persians plant there? Most had rows of trees such as cypresses, sycamores, or date palms, possibly low boxwood hedges, and perhaps sycamores, beeches, lindens, palms, or other trees such as mimosa or redbud at intersecting points or just planted around for shade. But despite its formal tendencies, Read more

The Shocking History Behind Two Brides of Spring by Edmonia Lewis

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead. Also, this writeup is long and strays from the topic of gardening. Initially all I wanted to do was share a lovely sculpture pertaining to the season and raise awareness of a little-known artist. As you’ll see from the background I uncovered, how could I not tell you about this?

 

“There is nothing so beautiful as the free forest. To catch a fish when you are hungry, cut the boughs of a tree, make a fire to roast it, and eat it in the open air, is the greatest of all luxuries. I would not stay a week pent up in cities if it were not for my passion for Art.”

letter from 1864

a statue of a draped figure of spring carved by 19th Century sculptress Edmonia LewisAt the end of the 1870s, while living in Rome, American sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis appears to have made two personifications of Spring evoking the Roman goddess Flora. Both figures are veiled and pose identically, but one statue, decked with beautiful garlands, is more elaborate. There is a fine essay by Theresa Leininger-Miller describing that piece. The simpler second one, exhibited in Boston in 1881, is shown here courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

A veiled figure was very challenging to portray convincingly in stone, so one was always undertaken to demonstrate mastery. Part of the inspiration for a veiled figure may have been Read more

Remember 19th Century Botanist and Pioneering Photographer Anna Atkins

a cyanotype of a fern taken in the 1840s by Anna AtkinsAlthough Anna Atkins was commemorated in a Google Doodle on her birthday in 2015, raising awareness of her work continues. She was born this day 218 years ago. During the 1840s and 1850s, working with botanist Anne Dixon, she documented most of the ferns and algae in Britain; this research was published in many volumes with some of the first photographs taken by women. Both Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon had learned most of what they knew on their own, not from attending institutions or through formal study, but that was somewhat typical of the time. As a result, it might be a mistake for us to assume that they felt marginalized or alone. As Rachel Carson later put it,

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Read more

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons