It is possible, I suppose that sometime we will learn everything there is to learn: what the world is, for example, and what it means. —Mary Oliver
I share Mary Oliver’s delight in exploring the unknown. Today, for example, I’m reveling in all there is to learn about this plump, juicy pineapple guava–an exotic fruit that I just now tasted for the very first time. Wow, is it ever good! It’s similar to a kiwi in size and texture, and it tastes like a tropical smoothie. A sweet indulgence, born of curiosity and mindfulness.
I planted this sapling in my backyard garden two years ago, during the autumnal equinox…
It was a miracle, really, to watch these beautiful flowers bloom in springtime, and then transform themselves into edible fruit.
…and if I’m lucky, it’ll produce more fruit every year to share and savor.
I’m settled into my backyard glider, watching the hummingbirds sip nectar from native wildflowers and then zip across the sky.
Earth Day is tomorrow, I just remembered, and I’m hosting our Art Challenge on this blog.
But first, I will watch the sun slant through the palm trees, and listen to the sparrow’s lullaby. I am a child again, sitting in my Nana’s porch swing and blowing dandelion wishes into a rainbow-sherbet sky.
We’re so easily distracted, all of us. We lose sight of what’s important, ignore our inner longings. Hence, these monthly Art Challenges!
I like best that they invite me outdoors–playful spirit at the ready, all senses engaged.
Like tiny seedlings, our prompts are rooted in the things that matter most. Our environment, for instance, and the beautiful creatures with whom we co-exist.
We’re a diverse group, amateurs and pros who express ourselves in different ways. Using a monthly prompt as our muse, we come together in the name of “art.”
These challenges aren’t a competition, by any means. Participation is our goal, not perfection. It’s all about capturing a fleeting memory, exploring our passions, renewing our childlike sense of wonder, and yes! making a joyful noise.
It’s about storytelling, in words and pictures–being transported to another time and place, or finding our way home.
For this art challenge, we’re showcasing our beautiful home, in all its glory.
Let’s get this party started, shall we? Some artists will lag behind, but no worries: That’s what comes of being members of a global community. Take the tour when you’re able, and then return for another visit!
Gallery of Artists (with links to their Earth Day entries):
Wow, it’s been more than a year since we started our backyard makeover! We began by replacing our thirsty lawn with drought tolerant, earth-friendly plants—envisioning, as we did, a haven for birds, bees and butterflies, and a sanctuary for us.
Salvia spires, cape fuchsia, lavender and roses…they’re sprawling across decomposed granite walkways now, perfuming the air as they reach for the skies.
Heaven must surely be a garden, or so they say. And by they, I mean me. Most of the time. Songbirds perch on the feeder, singing their little hearts out. Visual harmony, however, is still very much a work in progress.
In this next phase, I’ll expand my color palette—maybe add some splashes of yellow. I want also to rein in the random groupings, clustering whimsical pieces and grounding the airy (read: unruly) salvia with rocks.
How to accomplish all that? I hadn’t a clue.
That’s where Jan Johnsen’s latest book, THE SPIRIT OF STONE, comes into play. Have you read it? If not, go grab yourself a copy!
In seven, beautifully illustrated chapters, Johnsen offers new and/or freshly interpreted ways to incorporate stones into your outdoor living spaces. Quick confession: I’ve never really understood the notion of hoisting huge boulders into your yard, willy-nilly, or scattering white gravel around your succulents. It doesn’t look…well, natural. But after reading this book, I’ve come to realize that a few, well-chosen rocks will add dimension–maybe also a bit of sparkle–to my flowerbeds.
There are important design considerations, of course. Johnsen walks you through the options. Rock gardens, cairns, stairs, stacking stones, accent pieces and Zen sculptures… she details the possibilities, and then shows you how to bring your favorite ideas to fruition.
I appreciated that Johnsen braided practical advice and deeper knowledge, and that she explored the ‘spiritual’ significance of rocks. Some people attach meaning to their beautiful colors, shapes, and textures. We might also see them as talismans of strength and endurance. As metaphors, they speak to us in ways that flowers cannot. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, being within him the image of a cathedral.”
The Spirit of Stone is at once practical and spiritual, and it’s as beautiful as any coffee table book you’ll find. I’m keeping my copy handy, as I reimagine my garden landscape this spring.
Because it ties in so nicely…
The Art Challenge prompt for April is Earth Day, so apropos!
Let your imagination flow like water over rocks, inspired by this global celebration of Mother Nature (with an emphasis on conservation). The rules are simple: 1) Drop a note in the comments for this entry, to let me know you’re interested. 2) Sketch, paint, make photos, embroider, knit, write a musical score, record yourself dancing…. any creative interpretation is welcome! 3) Display your work on your own blog, over Earth Day weekend (April 21-23). 4) Link it here, in the “gallery of participants” I’ll provide in an updated post.
(a poem from Mary Oliver’s collection, Why I Wake Early)
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
This is my contribution to the Art Challenge of the Month, Rituals and Routines. Want to join us? The rules are simple: “Draw, paint, photo shoot, embroider, install, write, muse …. any discipline is welcome. Over the weekend of March 18-19, come and announce here that you have posted.”
Three deaths in recent days. Three of our dearest loved ones, gone forever from this earthly plane. Hard as it is to comprehend, those are the cold hard facts of it. And so it is that I've been absent here of late. I'm burrowing deep into my reserves, looking inward.
I'm coming up for air every now and then, scanning the horizon for the narrowest sliver of sunlight, because I know in my heart of hearts that there are blue skies just ahead.
Joy in the morning.
I've taken that promise to heart for the whole of my life, and I've never once been disappointed. Dreams deferred, perhaps, but never denied.
Blue on blue…I'm peering through the camera lens, trying to see past the heartache.
Photo via Veronica Roth (posted with permission)
I head for the cash register, heart-shaped flowers draped like pendant necklaces over the rim of my Red Flyer wagon.
An elegantly dressed shopper approaches me. Her hair is professionally coiffed, her posture is ramrod straight. But her hands are all aflutter, and her face is a tangle of emotions I cannot read.
"Is that–? No, it can't be!"
She speaks with a clipped British accent; no mistaking her heritage now! Her eyes melt into a puddle of sentiment as she recalls for me the cottage garden of her childhood, the mother who planted Bleeding Hearts in the lush undergrowth of her own Secret Garden.
I cling to every word.
She is taller than my grandmother, her mannerisms more refined. But she reminds me so much of my Nottingham-born Nana! Their backgrounds are similar, their sentiments intertwined.
In this brief encounter, I am reminded anew that so much of life –our biology, our shared stories–has its genesis in the garden.
I worried that my gardenia wasn't blooming this year. But a sweet fragrance hung thick in the air this morning, and when I followed my nose, I discovered their hiding place.