The Peony’s Soul

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Slowly, they bud, as the lilacs fade, as the days grow warm and long

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One by one, they pop open, bursting bright raspberry shades across the lawns

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They open wider, flinging ruffles and ripples across our paths

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They are generous benefactors, stacking pillows of pink and magenta in front of our eyes

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The slanting sun shimmers in the distance as the bowers of bright pink smile and bounce in the spring breeze

And if you look deeper, inside – as often happens in life – you find that more than the surface color and shine exists. Farther in, tucked away, only slightly hinted at, there lives a completely different color and texture, hidden from first view, but ever so beautiful and surprising as you peer beneath the garish surface of a peony.

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Hearing Voices in the Spring

Spring is the same year after year.  Flowers shoot up through the ground and bloom. Trees carry buds which flower and morph into yellow umbrellas and then into green canopies, lighting up against the gray, wet skies.  But the fabulous part of this whole Spring production is that while each Spring carries the same template, no two Springs are the same. No two daffodils are identical. Each year, the shining canopies of fresh leaves are unique.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing in my voice. By this I mean, whose voice I am really using as I write. Is it me, is it who I want to be, is it who I think someone else wants me to be? Or have I been avoiding who I really am, so that others can think I am someone that I really not.  Sometimes we work so hard to avoid being ourselves that we end up forgetting who and what really composes our true self. There’s a tight balance between the control required to produce quality work (in writing, in art, and in music,) and between being a voice or an expression that truly mirrors the soul within us.  Creativity is more control than it is wild expression. It takes time, maybe even years to stop writing or producing for someone else, to truly be oneself, but to meld the learning from others and the self awareness inside into a quality performance.

Take a child.  Children copy.  And then they make connections between what they copy here and what they learn there and what they think inside their own brains. And they often “think for themselves.”  At some point in life, what they (we) produce is a compendium of mirrored thought and original thought.  I used to think that every piece of productive, creative work had to be entirely original. Then slowly, I realized that artists everywhere form their identities, at some point,  by depending on others.  Some stay close to modeled templates, maybe improving or changing slightly. Some release themselves like birds from a cage and go off to build their own fantastic nests.

I’ve come to think there is nothing inherently right or wrong with either path, as everyone’s capacity for creativity is different. The important thing is to find, within one’s creative template, a voice so unique, so individual, that no one could be that voice but the owner, and then to keep that voice alive and heard.

Don’t stop your voice because it might sound like someone else’s voice.  Don’t chop off your tree branches because your neighbor has the same tree.  Don’t be afraid to produce and create and plant a new flower that no one has ever seen, in case they compare it to ones they have seen.  Just walk out into the fresh, flowery scented air, and breath and let your voice carry over the breezes.  Eventually it will find the perfect landing spot and erupt into a canopy that is the exact fit  for your universe.

A Little Spring in Your Step 

Leaves open and spread like umbrellas over the sidewalks to keep the showers from drenching. The sun rises early through the trees now, when the world is still and calm and fog can shift and dance down the fields and sunbeams can shimmer on flower blossoms.
The scent of lilacs floats across the mist. The fragrance follows me into the house sliding through the slightly opened window. I head across the lawn, to make the ritual spring sacrifice, the breaking of branches to gather in the lavender flowers with the magic, ethereal scent that defies a worded description. The purple bowers join me in the house in a white milk glass vase. The sun glints on stones in the early evening hours. We walk across roadways lined with the frivolity of dancing, discarded blossom. Leaves make designs with their sunny shadows across the paths beneath us. Pansies sit in watering cans, glowing, gleaming, glinting in the sunlight.

I open up again, to the outdoor world, to the growing world, to the spring. I fling open windows, throw back curtains, pull up blinds, cast off sweaters, pull on light shirts. We all start over. Again. Like each year before. Its Spring, you are alive, go out and live, the breeze taunts us and the sun teaches us. Mud and puddles and green leaves and strong branches and blowing blossoms and bubbles from bottles with wands, and Little League, and the smell of grills, and skids of bike tires, and squeals of children, and the scent of lilacs and the sight of pink peonies starting to bud are the Pied Pipers of the Spring world. According to my daughter, even Curious George says that Spring is the time for being outside. Throw off the mess, the struggle, the pain, the sad. Go outside, see redemption foreshadowed in the renewal of life.

Today is the birthday of a friend who passed away last fall. A good friend, more than an acquaintance. One of those few friends they tell you about that you can count on your available fingers, who will change your life, stay in your life, and whose memory will make you smile when they unfortunately leave life too soon. A friend worth remembering. A friend who would be living well during the Spring and would be showing others how to live as well.

There is the comfort of the ritual, the familiar, the repeated coming of Spring. But always, drifting along the edge of the lilac scented mist is hope – dancing, spinning, twirling, and promising that New can come too. Something better, something different, something dreamed of, something healing, all wrapped up with the ribbon of the familiar, doused with the scent of memories, like lilacs in a childhood yard, flooded with the evening sunlight over a familiar road. A grateful combining of old and new.

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