“Still Lifes”, Reflections in a North American November

Design & Photo: Maria von Brincken copyright 2012

Late November in North America, New England, this Sunday before Thanksgiving forms today’s perspective of this time of transition.  My days and scheduling go from the active creative process of landscape design installations and studio work to only studio work and “office chores”. That’s the category of business chores that are put off when I’m so actively involved in the creative process of installing designs so that they become the unique reality I envision for my clients.

During this transition, I notice my inward retreat. I realize that this is a time of transition for everyone—the shorter daylight hours, the darkness and cold, and winter holidays. The outdoor garden has been mostly to bed—dying foliage cut back and beds somewhat tidied.  Now it’s the “still life” composed  of  indoor plants that lures my creative attention. Many plants that form the compositions have come inside from their summer vacation area on the lower patio shaded by the roof of the deck above.  Not all are welcomed back inside, some become part of the compost heap.  The ones “looking good” come in and become part of what I call a living “still life”—a seeming contradiction of terms. The phrase comes to me from the years of classic art training drawing and painting arranged compositions that the professors called “still lifes”. You know them–they’re in every museum you’ve ever visited.

The orchids didn’t come back inside this year– they’d become ratty looking and didn’t bloom well after I cut off the random stems. I had been warned never to do that if I wanted them to re-bloom, but I couldn’t stand their appearance and thought it worth trying. Sigh. My orchid friend was correct.  So this year when I happened upon an orchid sale I decided to try something different from my “usual”.  I selected 3 different colors and plant shapes to work together in  a color harmony and form. The photo above portrays the “still life” created with them.

The trio weren’t enough together, so I tried the maple and the composition fused.  But not complete.  I had to find the “right”orchid container from my storage cache. The maple’s container style dictated the selection. I liked the classic and organic appeal, and the texture of the terracotta.  And I learned long ago to marry similar elements to style successful compositions.

On a different excursion for “lawn refuse” bags to collect the perennial’s cuttings for town compost collection, I had succumbed to an amaryllis–my collection from previous years didn’t make the grade either so I let myself buy just one. I found a container the same storage forage that was perfect for the lone bulb. It snuggled in the composition you see above.

Today perhaps I’ll travel to the garden center to purchase some paper whites. I had spied a large glass fish bowl container while I looked for the others.  It will be perfect this year to house the paper whites–large enough to hold 6 or 7 bulbs to form a mass of the fragrant flowers and support the stems at the same time.  And if it works with the orchid composition I should be able to watch the emerging growth—always a powerful reminder of the strength and persistence of living things. This “still life” composition will fascinate and return me to the joy on some less than joyful days winter –or truth be told—any day can present.

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