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Paying Attention to the Muse

A big leaf of Hosta ventricosa — showy with a streaky gradation between gray-green center and creamy margin: I set it upright in a small, shallow white vase, cast-iron with an integral needlepoint frog.

Covering the frog, clusters of the apple-green flowerbuds of ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum bubbled up like sea foam — an effect I’d just discovered in another arrangement, but then it got largely covered with other material; this time I would let it shine. Tall, thin stems of euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety,’ with their little leaves of deep green, edged in bright white. A few more smaller hosta leaves around the edges — and suddenly the arrangement took on personality.

It broke a rule I usually follow: shorter elements in front, taller in back for a one-sided arrangement; or taller to the center, for an arrangement to be viewed from all sides. This time, however, taller elements framed a central area, where the short bunches of sedum buds seemed to recede into the distance like hills, with everything else rising around them, creating an enclosure like an enchanted landscape. Between the bud hillocks and the backdrop hosta leaf, a smaller cluster of sedum buds rose a little taller than the others, so you could see its stem. I took it out and put it back in maybe ten times to get it to show off its curve: a sensuous undulation that became the focus of everything around it.

After I put the arrangement on the coffee table, I found myself visiting it several times a day. At first I would tinker with the placement of this or that stem, slowly, with a lot of time to drink in the effect made in the composition by each line, each color, each mass, each shape; their interactions, the way my eye was drawn from one thing to another, the way I felt like I was swaying in a breeze, or rooted in the earth, or bedazzled by magic....

This miniature landscape gave me more opportunity to focus on the art of the garden, than I experience outdoors, where so many variables intervene.

But eventually I just gazed. I felt as though my attention had been drawn into that space, and could rest there and be refreshed. I asked Ward, “when you look at that arrangement, what happens in your mind?” He held up his hand, palm up, with fingers raised around it, a cupping, protective gesture.


Photo by C.H. Clark - An arrangement like a sheltering hand


Text and photo © Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark


Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 17 September 2004

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