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

Are there Furry Creatures that Give You Fury?

Modern painting Leap of Rabbit from 1911 by Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso shows a rabbit leaping in a garden.
Leap of Rabbit (1911)
Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso

“I Have Elephants in MY Garden so What’s YOUR Problem?” One of the best titles for a garden talk I’ve seen comes from Marie Butler, the now-retired coordinator of landscape for the Virginia Zoological Park in Norfolk.

You have to admit that however impossible to win your back yard battles may seem, 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

Experience Nature’s Radiant Beauty Through An April Sonnet

white anemones blooming in a woodland setting, with leaves just starting to come out on the trees and shrubsNo days such honored days as these! While yet
Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide
For some fair thing which should forever bide
On earth, her beauteous memory to set
In fitting frame that no age could forget,
Her name in lovely April’s name did hide,
And leave it there, eternally allied
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget. 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

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom by Lucy Walker

An early 20th Century copy of Japanese woodcut The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖波裏), from 36 Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

Think back a few years and you probably remember the immense, destructive waves that hit Japan. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake off the coast of the largest island, Honshu, triggered tsunamis over 100 feet high that traveled more than a mile inland once they reached the coast. Thousands of people were injured or died, and in the days that followed, aftershocks woke survivors in the night and brought disturbing reminders of the whelming force of nature during the day.

British documentary filmmaker Lucy WalkerFor obvious reasons, foreigners who could were leaving, but British filmmaker Lucy Walker went to Japan just after one of the greatest natural disasters in its history. Read more

“If That Isn’t Enough, Then What Is?” Vincent van Gogh’s Passionate Letter to His Brother From London

a watercolor of an Indiana wildflower called Dentaria painted around 1915 by Hannah Overbeck
Dentaria laciniata (around 1915)
Hannah Overbeck

In January 1874, Vincent van Gogh would write from London to his brother Theo,

How I’d like to talk to you about art again, but now we can only write to each other about it often; find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.

. . .

Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see. Read more

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