Tag Archives: colors

You Can’t Deny A Whim

I’m not used to drawing with pastels.  But I had a whim, so…just don’t harsh Aubrey out, please.

 

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Forever Amber

Throughout the temperate climates there are trees that hold on to their spring and summer greens throughout the later, demanding months.  They wear them as stubbornly and foolishly as one who wears a favorite coat in July or refuses to take an umbrella into the rain.  They live their evergreen lives eternally, proud of their verdant blood and the succulent life that will not blink in the face of the shifting seasons.

But there are some trees that pay attention:  to the altering temperatures, to the shadows that lengthen before noon, to the greedy night – Nature’s subtle hints that it is time to change.   Their leaves become melting prisms, with colors that undulate and flow:  creating microcosms of sunsets within a dying morphology.  Garnet, ginger, bronze and scarlet, they are as pure and fluid as the stained colors in cathedral glass.  The tints of Chartres, Notre Dame, Cologne are reflected in their autumnal DNA.   The air is bright with their departure; the earth and streets are crisp with the trees’ brittle sacrifices.

In the mid-17th century, Spanish naturalists stumbling through the Americas took note of a pretty tree with leafs shaped like clipped stars and a clear, perfumed gum that looked like liquid amber.

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350 years later their happy discovery is alive still, in backyards and cities, celebrating the cyclical weather, the migratory temperatures.

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Liquidambar styraciflua is known for its fluid colors and fragrant liquor.  It bleeds a clear or tinted resin reminiscent of the musky scent of burning amber.  This aromatic hemorrhage is what gives the tree its name.

The Amber’s round seed pods create sheet-music when superimposed against telephone lines.  Its roots are discreet.  Sidewalks do not buckle or erupt into mountain ranges that wait for pedestrians to stumble over, like unsuspecting gods.

It is used for decoration; above succulents and firs, cedar, oak and spruce its colors wink with whimsical flamboyance.  During the summer its canopy is lush with green youth.  By year’s end breezes rustle the crisp leaves like a mother running her fingers through her child’s tousled hair.

It drinks from the subterranean rivers that tumble through the earth in a web of fertile tributaries.  The green elixir permeates the body of the tree, creating an ornament that glories in the year and celebrates the four changing quarters.  It is a reminder of the comfort of change; the knowledge that beauty does not end but renews itself in perpetual rebirths:  that it lasts forever.

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The Admiral’s Garden

I don't pretend to be botanically wise.  I watch the flowers that I enjoy, but am seldom moved to inquire after their names.  It could be that I'm not social.  But I do nod in passing to those that please me:  golden clarion trumpets, daisies flat-faced and innocent, winking magenta stars and the dear garden that I wrote about months ago and which is now curling up and preparing for its winter sleep.

But there is one type of flower that always gives me pause.  Its petals are sheer, tracing-paper shapes, etched with green capillaries.  Sometimes they are translucent, gray as pearls; sometimes they are opaque, with fighting colors torn from a dragon's back:

sometimes they are clusters of tiny sunsets, tinted with apricot and coral:

They hang rich and heavy, a living brocade, off vines that leap over walls.  They travel like ships with colored sails and wave like a lady's maddening, dainty handkerchief.  They grow in gossamer clutches, with hues that insinuate, like the touch of a watercolorist's brush:  sometimes these flowers carry only a scent of color.  Those are the ones that I like the best of all, because the color moves and grows, like an open vein emptying its life into a clear pool.

I wanted to learn this flower's name.  And after some effort I was able to find its nom de bloom.  It was born in South America, in the pulsating jungle, amidst lianas and creepers, breathing the thick, heavy air.  In the 1760's, an explorer introduced it to the hothouses of France.  He was an Admiral, and his name was Louis de Bougainvillea.

So I would like to thank the Admiral; if it wasn't for his efforts I wouldn't be peering into the gathered colors of the many rouged and tinted faces.  Nor would I be watching the braids of knitted vines unraveling as if the hand that worked the spinning wheel had grown tired and was silent.

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A Secret Garden

On my way home, I always walk by a small garden.  It reached to the edge of a wooden door, with pale, thirsty branches.  It extended the length of the wall in a patterned mesh; a crochet of varied greens – mint, sage, olive, lime – woven on a loom that never felt the pressure of human hands.  Leaves were sharp and serrated.  They balanced like verdant stars.

The thin stems interlocked like witches' fingers, and pulled apart like splintering wood.  I looked closely and saw myriad paths wandering deeper into their desiccated depths.  I saw the swirling eye of a bird's nest, an overgrown circle still marked with the fairies' footprints, bleached hay waiting to be slaughtered and harvested, corridors leading into stories and adventures happening again and again, withdrawn from the wide world.

Sparking the tops of these brittle stems were sharp bursts of color:  sapphire, cadmium, magenta and white.  Flowers that bloomed quickly and then exhaled into splashes of dried paint ready to crumble at the first touch.  Their fragile colors, drained of sap, rattled in the warm evening breeze:  their brightness a protest against their weary life.

This was not a lush, luxuriant collection of plants, drinking deeply from the dark wines of the earth's cellars.  These plants did not grow expansively with leaves like pleated fans, with healthy and irrigated petals that curled and folded into supple curves.  These flowers did not paint the air molecules with fragrance, so that when caught in the sunlight they would fall like colored particles of dust.

These were wild flowers, though planted by a careful and loving hand.  These were the types of flowers that are embroidered into an untamed girl's blouse, cultivated by a crooked needle and coarse thread.  These are the 'sweet flowers' that were woven into singing Ophelia's hair.  These flowers were collected into a hurried bouquet by the younger son of the house, to be given to his favorite milkmaid.   

These were the flowers, blooming into feral gardens, that pushed their imperfect faces through the ruptured brick walls of castles that guarded darkly and waited for the invaders to cross the borders.

This was a garden with secrets to tell anyone willing to stop and ask, "please, just one more story?"

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