Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Flowers Kept Alive"

Cited as one of the most grotesque moments in English literature, Tennyson's poem "Flower in the Crannied Wall" goes like this:

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

What's grotesque about that is he's singing its praises having torn it up by the roots and killed it: very white western patriarchal. Japanese flower arranging (ikebana, meaning "flowers kept alive") was demonstrated at the History Museum and I was fascinated by the arranger's concerns as she made the arrangement seen at the left. Ikebana cares about movement in their arrangements, thus the tall leaves that wave a little. Then she arranged the white flowers, and then said the arrangement needed depth, and thus the pink flowers. I have often arranged flowers to my satisfaction -- with good flowers one can hardly do it wrong -- but the result of this very conscious and minimalist approach mesmerized me. Right now I have purple irises in the lawn I'd love to cut and arrange, but I think the way the irises have arranged themselves cannot be improved upon.

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