The Floating Flower Garden

Floating Flower Garden, by teamLab (2015)

Spring is here, even though there is still snow on the ground and the trees are bare in many locations. To help get you in the spirit, here is a glimpse of Floating Flower Garden, a gallery installation by TeamLab, a Japanese art collective. (Check out their other work, it’s all amazing.)

Over 2,300 flowers are suspended from the ceiling, and as the visitor walks through the garden, the flowers rise upwards, creating a dome of space. The scent of the flowers is constantly changing as well, as each scent increases when the flower’s partner-insect is most active in the wild. It is currently on display at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.

More images and information here. Happy Spring!


Floating Flower Garden, by teamLab (2015)
Floating Flower Garden, by teamLab (2015)

Premier Automne – First Autumn

Premier Automne, directed by Carlos De Carvalho and Aude Danset

Premier Automne, directed by Carlos De Carvalho and Aude Danset

Premier Automne is a brilliantly animated short film directed by Carlos De Carvalho and Aude Danset, produced by Je Regarde. It is stunningly beautiful, and explores nature both visually and thematically. But I don’t want to summarize the story if you haven’t seen it yet, because the discovery and mystery of each moment is what makes it so compelling.

Watch for yourself, and then I will share some thoughts below. (Watch on Vimeo for a larger picture, it’s worth it.)

There are so many ways to look at this film. As a simple human drama, it’s the story of two people eternally set apart from each other by the laws of nature. And yet they are both lonely, are both drawn to one other. Both inhabit a world completely foreign to the other, and frightening as well, even as it seems perfectly natural to them.

There is an overtone of death throughout the film, echoed in the darkness that surrounds their world, and yet there is also life below the surface, waiting to spring forth. In most stories, the protagonists manage to overcome their problem in the end, but this film is much more open-ended.

Life and death, summer and winter, boy and girl. There is a lot to think about here. How do you interpret this film?

For those of you who like to go behind the scenes, here is a link to the production blog, and here is a video about the making of the film.

* * *

I dreaded that first Robin

Emily Dickinson

Today I’d like to share a poem by Emily Dickinson, one of her many works inspired by nature. Despite the pleasant imagery of birds and daffodils, it’s really a melancholy poem, describing how even the most beautiful things can be painful when you’re feeling sad. And the more beloved they are (the poet clearly loves the garden in springtime) the more piercing it is to look upon them.

Like all great poems, this one has been interpreted many different ways by different people. What do you think it means?

* * *

I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I’m some accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though —

I thought if I could only live
Till that first Shout got by —
Not all Pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me —

I dared not meet the Daffodils —
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own —

I wished the Grass would hurry —
So — when ’twas time to see —
He’d be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch — to look at me —

I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wished they’d stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?

They’re here, though; not a creature failed —
No Blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me —
The Queen of Calvary —

Each one salutes me, as he goes,
And I, my childish Plumes,
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking Drums —

* * *

Writing books and pruning trees

Apple trees in spring

Spring is here, and that means gardening season.  The parallels between writing and gardening are many, and have been appreciated by writers for generations – planting a seed, nurturing the sprouts, weeding out what is unnecessary, watching it blossom, etc.

A few weeks ago, I set out to prune an apple tree and was confronted by a massive maze of branches. The spindly sticks overlapped in all directions, making it nearly impossible to see which branches constituted the main structure of the tree, the ones that formed the backbone and needed room to grow.

I could not think how to begin, but I did notice one branch that obviously needed to go. It twisted up against another branch so that they seemed to be wrestling to the death. So I picked up the shears and lopped it off, and it came down with all its spindly branches like a giant urchin.

As soon as this branch was gone, my view of the tree became much clearer, I could see the main shape as it should be, and noticed other branches that could be taken away. With each branch I cut, the true nature of the tree became clearer.

So it is with editing a manuscript, sometimes just taking away one piece will allow you to see the rest with more clarity. And pruning a manuscript has one distinct advantage over pruning a tree – if you change your mind, you can always put the words back.

Happy Spring!

* * * * *

Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi

Spring is sprung, even though the weather is still a bit uncooperative. To celebrate the new season, here is a creative interpretation of Vivaldi’s “Spring” violin concerto. The ensemble is called Red Priest, named after Antonio Vivaldi himself, who was nicknamed “The Red Priest” because of his flaming red hair (and he was also a priest.) I’m sure you’ve heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons before, but probably not like this.

Originally written for string ensemble, Vivaldi intentionally wrote the parts to sound like birds, streams, and rainstorms. He based the concertos on a series of sonnets, which are believed to be written by Vivaldi himself. Below is the section that describes the movement played in the video above, translated from the Italian:

Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more

You can hear all of these things in Vivaldi’s music, especially in this lively and inventive performance by Red Priest ensemble, consisting of violin, recorder, cello and harpsichord. (The next time your child doesn’t want to practice the recorder, show them what the amazing Piers Adams can do with the instrument!)

Hope you enjoy this stormy, sunny, chilly, unpredictable spring!

* * * * *

A tree for all seasons

That old tree (Dec 25, 2005)

When people think of looking at trees, March is not usually the month that comes to mind. At least in the northern climates, March is a month when the world seems colorless, trees are bare, and the ground is either frozen or soggy. We are exhausted from winter and just want to see spring.

But I think winter trees, stripped of all their leaves, can be really amazing to look at. You can see all the twisting branches, the intricate patterns. Light falls differently in the winter, weather changes often, and nearly every day creates a different view.

A Swedish photographer named Stefan Jansson photographed the same tree every week for a year, to observe how it changed. The results are truly remarkable, as you can see the tree as it passes through variations that most of us don’t even notice. Look through the slideshow above or view his whole set of photos on Flickr to see the amazing variety from this one tree.

So don’t wait until autumn – trees can be appreciated all year long, if you just take the time to look.

A bit of earth


There are few things that hold more promise than a fresh patch of garden, all ready to be planted. An empty garden in springtime is a lot like an empty page on which to write a story, or draw a picture, or pour out your soul. It is full of expectations, hopes and dreams, and can be intimidating too. It is a place where miracles happen, where something emerges that didn’t exist before, something brand new.

In the classic book The Secret Garden, orphaned Mary Lennox asks of her uncle, “Might I have a bit of earth?” She wants a patch of ground to “plant seeds in — to make things grow — to see them come alive.” Gardens have been used in art and literature for thousands of years because they are such powerful symbols, of life and death and creation and the human spirit. Gardens can be beautiful, or wild, or peaceful, or thorny. They can be secret, or showy, or scary, or poetic – just like the creations that come out of a blank piece of paper.

My own garden, seen above, will have zinnias, dahlias, marigolds and aster, and perhaps I will share some pictures when it is in full bloom. (That is, if the fellow below doesn’t eat them all!)


A light exists in spring

spring_flowersIn honor of Poetry Month and springtime, here is a poem by Emily Dickinson. There is a certain light in springtime that is unique to the year, and all the more precious for its briefness. Enjoy spring while it lasts!

* * * * * * * * * *

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay—

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

– Emily Dickinson

* * * * * * * * * *

Welcome Spring

First sign of spring
First sign of spring

To celebrate the first week of spring, here is a drawing I did recently for the Creative Juices blog, for our “What The Doodle”. The word to illustrate for that week was “welcomed” and what could be more welcome than the flowers in spring?

Spring is one of the most visually stimulating seasons (at least in cooler climates) because it changes so quickly, often from one day to the next. The grass turns from dull gray to green, the trees form buds, then flowers, then leaves. Tulips and daffodils bloom, along with forsythia, azalea and fruit trees. Birds become more active and plentiful. Everywhere you go, nature is coming back to life, if you know where to look.

But make sure you look fast, because if you blink, you’ll miss it.