“You adapt yourself, Paul Klee said, to the contents of the paintbox…[the painter] fits himself to the paint.”
For the last month, I read snippets of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, trying to drum up insight and inspiration for my own attempt to construct a writer’s life in my non-farming hours.
This summer, we did this photo shoot. We planned it for creative respite in the middle of our busy season. We worked with a talented and fun loving crew of ladies and very generous friends-turned-models. The night before the shoot, I had a vision about the bouquet I wanted to construct—how the colors would interact, the way it would lay in my friend’s arms. I made it the next day.
Since the shoot, the strangest thing is, I swear, I see colors better. The subtle tones of the flowers, how they play off of one another, how combinations affect the mood—I can see it now like I couldn’t before.
The last two weddings we have done, we were gifted something very special by the couples: carte blanche. With very little instruction, we were told to run with it and we were trusted to produce things of beauty. We did what we promised. We used the very best of our flowers with the very best of talents. These things combined with artistic freedom, I believe we created striking arrangements.
We fit ourselves to the paint.
I believe in growing, selling, and arranging with local flowers because I believe that I can grow them in ecologically responsible way and that local flowers are another important part of our economy—and our lives. I could write a treatise on this.
However, I struggle to convey the subtle ways that local flowers can rise to the form of art—and how their beauty can be transformative.
I spend a lot of time around my flowers. I start them as seeds—so much potential in a small package. I watch them grow. Observe their needs and habits. When they begin to blossom, I note the spectrum of subtle color differences even amongst one variety. I am intrigued by what insects visit them. I arrange with them—noting how each one collaborates or conflicts with others. I take them home, notice how they look different in the morning light in my kitchen window. I watch the cut arrangements fade out and decay. I notice how the plants slow this time of year or speed up, trying so desperately to create new life, new seed. I see the frost wipe them out. I observe how the plants are broken down and go back into the soil.
This is the thing I am beginning to believe: the flowers are my paint and my paintbrush and in my own small way, I too am an artist.
My husband is a man of science through and through. In many ways, I am too. But I am the strangest hybrid—one foot in each world of science and art. He and I often discuss things like what is art, why does it matter, what is its purpose/what does it do. It is a discussion I know we will have the rest of our lives.
Art can do many things. It comforts, it enrages, it challenges, it tells stories, it celebrates, it mourns, it attempts to unlock the very same secrets of this world that science also is trying to unveil.
For me, my heart loves art when it attempts to capture, understand, and share beauty.
There is a quote I often turn over in my head by D. H. Lawrence “The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread.”
And what are flowers but beauty bound in vegetative form?
I have questioned at times the relevance of growing flowers in a world where people are living without even the barest necessities, like food. It was my fellow ardent vegetable farmers at Fresh City that confirmed to me that yes, what I do is something nourishing. At a recent group meeting the other farmers told me how they had been converted to flowers—how they could not imagine the farm without them anymore.
On my website I used to have a little slogan: “I believe that beauty found and cultivated can change our hearts and world.” I took it off after a while, feeling it silly and untrue. I didn’t believe in the strength in it.
I don’t think flowers can change the world. But then again, I believe nothing can—in the sense that not one thing has the ability to be that singularly transformative. The greatest issues our world face will not be settled by one grand idea. Problems will be solved by many creative and intelligent ideas. And when it comes to our hearts, we need to find the things that move our own. For me it is a poem by Mary Oliver, knowing how photosynthesis works, walking amidst beautiful places, observing the dragonfly perched on my shoulder, and flowers, of course, flowers.
Update: Please go to the gallery tab for more photos from this day and to find out about the lovely creative crew involved.