November 30, 2014

Orchids **** Dressed up for the holidays

This post clearly falls into two traditional holiday categories. (A) One gift for you; two (or three), gifts for moi, and (B) It really IS the most wonderful time of year because you can find great deals in the indoor gardening section of your local big box store.

Case in point:  a delicious Black Friday special on orchids at around $8.00 each at Home Depot. Even when shopping for oneself, a single stem can seem too petty; two is nice, but three?  Three is just least when it comes to buying orchids on sale for the holidays. Especially when gathered and arranged en masse in a striking fresh-from-the-expensive-florist way.

SOME HOW-TO TIPS: Orchids are notoriously top-heavy and can be rather unwieldy to work with...they keep wanting to keel over.  (I found this 4" size fit perfectly into my kitchen drain; a handy holder while I worked...)  First, remove orchid from its (often cheap and cheesy) outer plastic pot or foil. This exterior 'gift wrap' will often be filled with water, potentially drowning and damaging the root system.  Look for signs of stress from over watering, cold blasts of air, poor handling, or neglect.  Foliage should be firm and bright green - no sign of yellowing. Flower petals should be blemish free with a few unopened buds for longer lasting bloom and stems should obviously be intact; not broken or bent.

The interior pot was far more pliable than the outer, allowing me to bend and mold each individual orchid to fit and then 'nestle' into my container. (I used a stenciled bamboo basket about 5-6" tall and 10' wide.) To protect the basket itself and contain the contents of each pot, I inserted each plant into a quart size plastic zip lock bag. (Note: I did not put holes in the bags which would have allowed for I wanted to protect the basket. Consequently, I will be careful not to over water.  If I were arranging in a decorative pot with drainage, I would have punctured the bottom of the zip lock bag to allow excess water to escape.)

Each of the three orchids was treated in a similar manner.  I inserted crushed or folded newsprint to fill in gaps and provide support to ensure the flowers stand straight and tall.

Lastly, I top-dressed it with seltzer to hide the mechanics, match the 'vibe' of the basket, and provide an over all more polished appearance. (I often use cushion moss, but in this case, preferred a dry
material for both aesthetic and practical reasons.)

The flowers keep me company (and perhaps more importantly) with their beautiful companionship keep me working. Happily they also commune well in spirit and in hue with a deep lilac-flowered cyclamen also in residence on my desk.

Both enjoy the bright light and draft-free conditions my office provides.

I periodically look up at them. They gaze down at me.

All in all, a wonderfully symbiotic relationship.

November 28, 2014

Gather Together

 Hoping everyone was able to gather with their loved ones this Thanksgiving

~~Here's to the start of a safe, peace filled, and happy holiday season. ~~

November 24, 2014

Savage Beauty

Evening skies have been breathtakingly beautiful recently. Just before and after the sun sets... still air, temperatures just this side of, complex color that glows and fades and induces moodiness and melancholy...impossible to capture; impossible to escape, impossible to resist.

 Painful beauty

 Yes. So beautiful it hurts, fall is.  In a way that spring, summer and winter are not,  I think.

 I read a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay not long ago, SAVAGE BEAUTY by Nancy Milford (here). The title of the book is based on a passage from her poem  


I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage beauty, suffer me to pass,
That I am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!

Truth be told, despite reading the book not all that long ago,  I remember very little to nothing about her life, or her poetry.  

 Just an abiding impression of this concept of 

painful beauty...

 ....and now an abiding backdrop to all my thoughts as I walk and inhale the autumn air.

 I am one who looks down when she walks... not out into the distance, ahead or across the way. Perhaps this accounts for my poor sense of direction, and my often missing the larger forest for the smaller tree.

I attribute this to having needed glasses when I was five or the first grade...but not getting them until the fourth.  (Such things can go perhaps understandably unnoticed in a very large family in the midst of great upheaval and stress.) 

 Consequently, there seemed no point to looking at the horizon or the street sign or the left or right turn. All a big blur,  the blur to the north looking not unlike the blur to the south. 

But MY the world of beauty in a single leaf or acorn held in the hand and inspected carefully...up close and in great detail... a truly wondrous thing. 

Even now,  I can barely pass up the perfect leaf or pod, making leafy tussle-mussies and bouquets as I walk and gather.  Always looking down for the next treasure at my feet...still scarcely believing

that such beauty is there for the taking.  Later, when glasses were to be had and vision restored, I experienced that universal, collective miracle that all severely myopic sufferers experience when they
try on their glasses for the first time...

the sheer wonder of seeing those individual leaves on the distant tree. An obvious connection, between the individual frame...

and the larger story that marvels me still.

November 19, 2014


When you get right down to it, all we really need in life is a good map. A map to tell us how to navigate our way out of feeling lost, to righten the wrong turns, to proceed past the dangerous by-ways and around unexpected chains of events...

to guide us through the labyrinth of fate and chance and self-determination.

Husband and I love maps. Husband (unlike myself) is cartographically blessed with a mental map of the world engraved on his imprint he refers to frequently, easily, contextually, historically. He is the most geographically literate person I know, from the back roads of Oklahoma to the Bedouin trails of the Middle East.

Over the years we have been truly fortunate to have travelled a good (great) bit (we honeymooned for three weeks in Africa)...

largely to scratch the itch of Husband's insatiable wanderlust, a DNA trait inherited from his father...and passed on to his children (probably accounting for one of his son's residence in Delhi right now.)

We are not tremendous shoppers when we travel, but wherever we go, we do
try to come home with a map of where we have been...a souvenir of the place, a geographical memento and reference to the distance travelled and its relative remoteness, or closeness to miles and habit. This practice has resulted in an unintended collection of 'art' that now hangs on our walls and with their inherent beauty, decorates our home. 

Some are precious, most are not. Valuable only to us and the personal significance they hold for our family and our lives over the years. Whereas one is beautiful, many can be magical, and a dramatic (and educational) way to decorate a space and adorn a home. 

The three images above (not my own)  speak to the drama of maps in abundance...exponential cartographical beauty. Easy, inexpensive...and very meaningful. Find more ideas and beautiful maps at World Maps Online  or massive map 'wallscapes' at Map Wallpaper on HOUZZ.