Recognize Earth Day with the Breathtaking and Epic Nature Symphony by Siegmund von Hausegger

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.

a dramatically-lit image of the Earth from outer space showing the sun just beginning to rise over a crisp blue arc of the atmosphere against a black starry skyNature has inspired humanity for as long as stars have shone in the night sky and the orbit of the earth has caused the seasons. Long before Linnaeus assigned official names and categories to all the living things, many other people gave organisms names and wondered about their relatedness. Millennia before we understood the structure and implications of DNA or first saw our own planet from space, people pondered the vastness of a universe they could only imagine and the complexity of life they undoubtedly knew they could only begin to grasp.

Although nature can be daunting, erratic, and bogglingly complex to analyze, this same recondite, awesome nature has inspired portrayals in many forms of art. One of those, written by Goethe, would enable Siegmund von Hausegger a century later to complete this symphony harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. 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

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

Sound of the Season: Johan Wagenaar’s Power of 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.

“Spring arrived – a beautiful, kind-hearted spring, without spring’s usual promises and deceptions, and one of those rare springs which plants, animals, and people rejoice in together.”

Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina

berries of leatherleaf Mahonia, commonly known as grape hollySince spring is a season associated with planting more than harvest, I thought these berries of grape holly–that just developed–could remind us what a rich source of inspiration it’s been to artists over the centuries and that we can (nearly always) enjoy that harvest whenever we want. Read more

Get Affirmative and Transformational Results When You Consider the Social and Psychological Side of Gardening

a tray of seedlings showing sprouts just about an inch high

Here are two stories about fitting in, standing out, and being yourself, one from Scotland and one from Wales. Both stories align with this adage from Bernard Baruch that I hope you know already:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Then there’s this query from author and speaker Ian Wallace:

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Coming from Scotland, Tom Smart makes some really fine points about gardening and the pleasure of being outdoors. He describes a recent conversation with a person who complained about cutting his lawn 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

Sound of the Season: Claude Debussy’s Enchanting Music for 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.

painting The River Epte by Claude Monet (1885)
The River Epte (1885)
by Claude Monet

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

George Santayana

a portrait of Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet (1884)
portrait of Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet (1884)

As a young adult, when the French pianist-composer Claude Debussy was living in Rome as a laureate of the Rome Prize, he was expected to send works back to Paris indicating his artistic progress. One of them was supposed to be a symphony or a piece of similar scope for orchestra. In fact, he hardly completed anything because he was trying to write music “that is supple and concentrated enough to adapt itself to the lyrical movements of the soul and the whims of reverie.” It also helps to acknowledge he was a meticulous craftsman and re-writer who held himself to an exceedingly high standard and an innovator who wasn’t content to write music the way it had been before.

One of the few things he did complete and send was a piano duet called Spring, and he added that the full score for orchestra, piano, and chorus had been lost Read more

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