IMG_0552

Highlights and Interstices
by Jack Gilbert, from The Great Fires Poems 1982-1992

We think of lifetimes as mostly the exceptional
and sorrows.  Marriage we remember as the children,
vacations, and emergencies.  The uncommon parts.
But the best is often when nothing is happening.
The way a mother picks up the child almost without
noticing and carries her across Waller Street
while talking with the other woman.  What if she
could keep all of that?  Our lives happen between
the memorable.  I have lost two thousand habitual
breakfasts with Michiko.  What I miss about
her is that commonplace I can no longer remember.

 

Witch hazel

Witch hazel

“But the winter was not given to us for no purpose.  We must thaw its cold with our genialness.  We are tasked to find out and appropriate all the nutriment it yields.  If it is a cold and hard season, its fruit, no doubt, is the more concentrated and nutty. . . ”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journal

The sun was shining — a rare occurrence this winter season — and I was moved to go outside for a walk.  In the spirit of adventure, I made my first visit to the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden at Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum.  What a delight to see things blooming in this seasonal garden, proving that even winter yields its fruits.

Washington Park Arboretum

Washington Park Arboretum

Orange beauty witch hazel

Orange beauty witch hazel

IMG_5852

Ruby glow witch hazel

Ruby glow witch hazel

IMG_5847

Cyclamen patch

Cyclamen patch

Hellebores

Hellebores

Snowdrops, Washington Park Arboretum

Snowdrops, Washington Park Arboretum

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2015

Watercolor sketch of snowdrops

Watercolor sketch of snowdrops

Blanzifiore (Snowdrops) by Dante Gabriet Rossetti, 1880.  Source: Wikiart

Blanzifiore (Snowdrops) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1880. Source: Wikiart

The Snowdrop
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair maid!

Leaf-nested snowdrops

Leaf-nested snowdrops

Chaste snowdrops

Chaste snowdrops

Watercolor sketches of snowdrops

Watercolor sketches of snowdrops

Watercolor sketch of snowdrops in a vase

Watercolor sketch of snowdrops in a vase

 

IMG_0535

IMG_0544

IMG_0488

IMG_0541

IMG_0485

IMG_0537

IMG_0530

IMG_0550

IMG_0553

IMG_0556

IMG_0561

IMG_0559

“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life.  It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much.  But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.  Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really.  How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it?  Perhaps four or five times more.  Perhaps not even that.  How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?  Perhaps twenty.  And yet it seems limitless.”
— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

How many more times will I see snowdrops in bloom? Trying to paint them adds some depth to my enjoyment and appreciation.  But there is a poignancy knowing that there is a limit to the Springs I will experience in my remaining lifetime.

Watercolor sketch of snowdrops

Watercolor sketch of snowdrops

“The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and wonder of the world.  I hardly know which feeling leads, wonderment or admiration.”
— John Burroughs, from The Writings of John Burroughs, vol. 15, The Summit of the Years (written when Burroughs was age 70+)

“There is no other joy in life like mental and bodily activity, like keeping up a live interest in the world of thought and things.  Old age is practically held at bay so lone as one can keep the currents of his life moving.  The vital currents, like mountain streams, tend to rejuvenate themselves as they flow.”
— John Burroughs, from The Writings of John Burroughs, vol. 15, The Summit of the Years

The wonderment of Spring crocuses

The wonderment of Spring crocuses

Watercolor sketch of Spring crocuses

Watercolor sketch of Spring crocuses

 

 

 

This is the closest thing to a Snowdrop walk in my neighborhood.

This is the closest thing to a Snowdrop Walk in my neighborhood.

There are some things the English do particularly well, I think, like maintaining a system of walking paths and hosting intriguing heritage garden events.  Wouldn’t you love to see one of England’s bluebell woodlands, for example?

Oh, to be in England!  If I were lucky enough to be in England this time of year, however, I would attempt to find a snowdrop walk.  Serendipitously, one of the bloggers I follow — Jane Brockett’s Yarnstorm — just wrote about a snowdrop walk in Welford Park.  I took one look at that dappled green and white woodland floor and yearned to see something like this myself.

I set out to discover whether the Pacific Northwest even has places like this, where snowdrops grow in profusion. I mostly stumble across the tiniest of patches growing here and there along sidewalks or flower beds.  My online search uncovered just one possibility — the Dunn Gardens in north Seattle.  I learned that they are hosting a snowdrop stroll for members and guests next Sunday, February 23rd.  Because I will be working on Sunday, I was graciously allowed a preview visit yesterday.

This was my first visit to the Dunn Gardens, which is an Olmstead-designed private garden on the National Registry of Historic Places.  They offer docent-led garden tours by appointment in the months of April, May, June, July, September and October.  I felt very fortunate indeed to have been able to visit during the off season, and I will be sure to return later in the year.

Perhaps the snowdrops at the Dunn Gardens do not rival the show-stopping masses that grow in England, but there were more here than I’d ever seen before.  The setting is spectacular — tall trees, curved paths, groomed lawns.  The patches of cyclamen contrasted beautifully with the white snowdrop petals.  And the crocuses were starting to bloom, too.  Here are some photos from my visit:

IMAGE_2247

IMAGE_2276

IMAGE_2270

IMAGE_2297

IMAGE_2269

IMAGE_2282

IMAGE_2272

IMAGE_2250

IMAGE_2289

IMAGE_2254

IMAGE_2290

IMAGE_2302

IMAGE_2258

IMAGE_2286

IMAGE_2287

IMAGE_2295

IMAGE_2264

IMAGE_2265

Snowdrops from my neighborhood

Snowdrops from my neighborhood

Watercolor sketches of snowdrops

Watercolor sketches of snowdrops

Watercolor sketches of snowdrops

Watercolor sketches of snowdrops

IMAGE_2215

Hidden Hearts

February 13, 2014

“Unless you love someone, nothing else makes sense.”
— e.e. cummings

Snowdrop with green heart

Snowdrop with green heart

Can you find the hidden heart in this little snowdrop?

Snowdrop Valentine

Snowdrop Valentine

Try, Try Again

February 12, 2014

Now that the snow has melted and the snowdrops have re-emerged, I tried once again to paint them.  I’m still struggling with painting white petals.  I tried setting them against a darker background so that the white would be more evident.  I think I need to simplify the shadows on the petals even more.  It’s absorbing to work through this challenge of painting white.

Pencil sketch, the basis of my painting

Pencil sketch, the base of my painting

Filling in the background colors

Filling in the background colors

Defining the petals

Defining the petals

Darkening the background for more contrast

Darkening the background for more contrast

On this next try I attempted to make the petals less busy (less sketchy shadows).

Wreath of snowdrops

Wreath of snowdrops