Promiscuously, in a Vase

Why have I been sequestered so long, away from my blogs (and yours)?

I’ve been preparing to moderate a seminar on the Cultural Arts of Japan in our local Learning in Retirement program. I’m sure that in a previous life I was Japanese, so the prep is a pleasure, not a pain. But while immensely rewarding, it’s hugely time-consuming!  I’m thinking about every topic all the time.

This morning I was browsing in Kyoto Encounters, ed. Thomas Rimer (one of the many books that permanently inhabit my bookshelves), and came upon this quote from the writer on tea, Okakura Tenshin:

“Anyone acquainted with the ways of our tea and flower masters must have noticed the religious veneration with which they regard flowers. They do not cull at random, but carefully select each branch or spray with an eye to the artistic composition…. It may be remarked in this connection that they always associate the leaves, if there be any, with the flower, for their object is to present the whole beauty of plant life. In this respect, as in many others, their method differs from that pursued in Western countries. Here we are apt to see only the flower stems, as it were, without body, stuck promiscuously into a vase.”

I lifted my eyes from the book and what did they immediately encounter but this:

Alstroemeria, in a Jug

Right there on the coffee table, alstroemeria — flowers, leaves, stems and all — stuck promiscuously in a vase! The very illustration of this Westerner’s idea of flower arranging. Bright and cheerful, yes. Artistic? Hardly.

And then I looked to my side, and saw this:

Before the Blossoms

I’ve placed it on a table so I could show it to you — although normally it lives on the floor by the sofa, its tracery of line and hints of green offering springtime promise especially needed now, when all outside is bleak and black and white and bitter bitter cold.

What could illustrate more directly the difference between two kinds of artistic sensibilities? And provide me a blog post, culled directly from my very own living room, where I thought there was nothing. Perhaps outside, where it seems to me there is nothing, and has been nothing for ages and ages — perhaps even there, there is something, if I will only look.

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22 Responses to Promiscuously, in a Vase

  1. Pauline says:

    “If I will only look…” there it is in a nutshell, the key to finding what you seek :) As for stuck in a vase promiscuously, I’m trusting the definition “indiscriminate” is assumed here and those branches and flowers aren’t (ahem) creating mayhem behind the couch!

  2. I like the promise of spring. The idea of it and the photo.
    Look hard. It’s there. There’s always something there.

  3. Wonderful to see those green leaves now! I like to go out and take pictures, and I probably haven’t looked carefully enough. Alright, there are the ducks and the squirrels … We had an ice storm around Christmas time which made for some nice photography, but was devastating otherwise. People were without power for more than a week.

    Glad you’re enjoying the preparations for the seminar, and good to see you :)

  4. I love the phrase and your black pot as well looking fine on the table. Time to step up in the world, me thinks.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      The black pot was “elevated” in the world for photo purposes. Normally it lives humbly (well, perhaps, who am I to probe the psyche of my black pot?) on the floor. Which is, of course, normal for a Japanese pot. :-)

  5. I seem to be torn between these two sensibilities – I’m drawn immediately to the spare, minimal aesthetic, but a moment later think ‘ahh, promiscuity, abundance, how lovely!’. What’s to be done in a case like mine?
    Best of luck with the seminar, Judith. I’m pretty sure you’re going to do a brilliant job.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Ah, yes, what’s to be done?
      Choose both, of course! I’m not a big fan of Either — Or —-. I much prefer Both — And —! :-)
      (Effectively, I think that’s what you do!)

  6. Patti Kuche says:

    And the nothing spoke to you and you saw! Best wishes to you Judith for the seminar, what an exhilarating project!

  7. 2e0mca says:

    Just watch it with those lilies… get the pollen on your clothes and you’ll never get it out! the tracery of branches with new grown leaves is always uplifting :-)

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