Thursday, May 17, 2012

inside the flower


I have been thinking about nature large and small. A couple of posts ago I wrote that I wished I were a bee or a wee fairy, and could climb inside a flower. Sometimes when I look at the lilies of the valley blooming in my yard, or the last lilacs, I want to inhale them and stay, find "heaven in a wild flower". (see Auguries of Innocence by William Blake here).


I read this Georgia O'Keeffe quote twenty years ago, and never forgot it: 

Everyone has many associations with a flower - the idea of flowers...nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small - we haven't time, and to see it takes time, like to have a friend takes time. So I said to myself -- I'll paint what I see -- what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it -- I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see. 

Pink Tulip, O'Keeffe, 1926 oil on canvas, 36" x 30"

Seeing a flower, finding eternity in a grain of sand the way Blake did, is possible for almost anyone outside of prison. Experiencing nature on a larger scale is not as easy. I've written a bit here about my childhood in the woods of Virginia, the rivers of Maryland, the California mountains and coast--how these environments are integral to who I am. My father worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. I helped develop an environmental education program for a camp and after school program I worked for during college.


That frequent intimate connection with big nature faded when I moved to New York, had children, urban jobs, a complicated life. When we bought our house in the Catskills ten years ago I found it again. We had been looking at charming old farmhouses, but then we saw this waterfall, and time stopped. 

The house is an ugly boxy 80's thing - the interior was entirely painted the color of Silly Putty - every wall, every piece of molding, even the ceiling fans. The kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters are still Silly Putty colored laminate. But houses can be changed, and we fell in love with the waterfall, the creek, the surrounding woods--an entire wilderness environment.


I felt like I belonged there; like my vision had been fuzzy but now it was clear. That I could really see nature again, write about it. Paint. It was wonderful to see my children wading and wandering, exploring without limits.
                                

When I opened the store I had the idea of sharing my love for nature with my customers, recreating it somehow, inside. I've accomplished that to some degree. But now, when I go to the country, I spend most of my time in the store. I take walks around our property, but I don't go hiking or do anything in depth. I don't have the time to look at everything up close, to breathe, to really see it. I want to be outside again. And have time to linger at the farmer's market, try kayaking, explore new places. And maybe get involved in environmental education again.

So I will be closing the store, a bittersweet decision. Sad, but also a relief.

                                                Jack in the Pulpit No. V,  O'Keeffe, 1930, oil on canvas 48" x 30"

"In the woods near two large spring houses, wild Jack-in-the-pulpits grew -- both the large dark ones and the small green ones. The year I painted them I had gone to the lake early in March. Remembering the art lessons of my high school days I looked at the Jacks with great interest. I did a set of six paintings of them. The first painting was very realistic. The last one had only the Jack from the flower."

*Quotations and flower paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe.

23 comments:

  1. Ah Jen...while your store is truly sweet, and it can be hard to let go of one dream, what a blessing it will be to let it go and get back to what you long for. We can be soo sure we're on teh path we're meant to be, and then suddenly or slowly we look around and realize it's not our path anymore, no matter how we've loved teh journey. I wish you congratulations on reaching what was a hard decision, and bliss on the path forward...and I fervently hope you'll keep blogging as you re-discover and reclaim 'your' beautiful piece of the planet.

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    1. Thank you for your insight and good wishes, Ashling. I do think I will be able to continue to post--I will just have to take the last clause off the blog description: home, history, nature, and a little store in the Catskills.

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  2. I understand that feeling of relief when freed from the idea of an all-consuming project. It sounds like you've given this a thorough thinking over and so be it then. When our projects take us away from our prime values, it is often time to move on. However, I will miss your store and obviously you may also for awhile.

    What I love about retirement, even though I have no money, is freedom. I am so much my own person and have the opportunities to be part of nature once again. Possessions can rob us of our freedom though and so it is not so bad to be without. For me.

    Wan't Georgia O'Keefe something else? Well, so are you Jen.

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    1. Rubye Jack--Thank you for your kind words. O'Keefe has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. Freedom. Yes. My kids are pretty much grown, I work part-time, so I am lucky to have time and space. I will miss the store too. It may reappear in another smaller form--I am looking for space in a group store so I can go to auctions and have the fun part without the time and financial stress.

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  3. Your wonderful store will always be part of you, part of what has made you who you are. It's sad to let go of something you put so much of yourself into but it's wonderful that you can always say you had a little store in the Catskills. What an amazing opportunity you are giving yourself to dive into another part of who you are. I am excited to see how it goes. I am excited to see the peace and happiness your decision will bring you. I don't see how a decision to go back to nature can ever be wrong.

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    1. I did put a lot into the store, but no regrets. There is such a big world there in the Catskills--many interesting things going on, and I am missing them by staying in. So I guess it's time to move on.

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  4. I woke up too early and have read this post. I'm a little sad that I wont hear about your beautiful store any more, but your decision sounds hopeful and peaceful. I'm sure that your precious experience in your store will help you. I read the more about you I find the more that you are considerate person and nature lover. What beautiful excerpts.

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    1. I'm a little sad too. I hope I will be able to find interesting things to write about! And the store will be open through the summer-so there's more to come!

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  5. Jen,
    I know exactly how you feel! I still miss my store but in a lot of ways, it was a big relief when it was finally done! It will be nice for you to have the freedom and time to do and enjoy the things you love. Once the shop thing, the buying and selling is in your blood, it's kind of always there! You said you were looking at the possibility of going into a mall, it might be just the thing. What I like is not having the responsibility of the business stuff and being tied down, just getting to hunt, buy and sell, the FUN part! What ever you end up doing, it will be the right thing for you! Hope you'll keep blogging, I've enjoyed visiting and being "bloggy friends"!
    Rebecca

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  6. Rebecca--You do know how I feel! I can't imagine not being able to go to auctions, but what to do with the stuff? I am trying to clean out my house, preparing to downsize...

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  7. Best of luck Jen.

    Life is too short, we have to grab every moment.

    I hope that you will be very happy in your retirement.

    hugs

    Fiona

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    1. Thanks Fiona--It's funny, because I was in "life is too short" mode when I opened the store!

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  8. I'm pleased for you. Whatever you do will be done with your wonderful artistic temperament. Adventures lie ahead and we'll be enjoying them with you. It is a beautiful waterfall. And thanks for O'Keefe's musings.

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    1. Thanks Karen--I definitely look at this as a door (or a few windows) opening.

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  9. Oh and I had planned to visit on my next sojourn up that way, but who knows when that would have been. I am happy for you that you lived a part of your dream and now it's time for the next part. Nature, walking, hiking, smelling flowers; what else can you ask for. Godspeed.

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    1. Amelia--Catskills make a great trip even if my store is closed!

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  10. Sad to hear about the end of your store, but happy to hear you will be able to spend more time outside exploring with all the time to fall in love up close with flowers. Good luck with what comes.

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    1. It is sad! Confusing mix of emotions for me.

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  11. Like you said, it must've been a bittersweet decision but I am glad you are not "looking so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that you do not see the ones which open for you".You have a clear image of yourself doing what you'd like to do after cleaning the fuzz out of the head.
    By the way, "Jack-in-the-pulpit" is a better name for it than the one here; they are called "Mamushisō"; mamushi means viper. What a difference!
    Have a nice weekend, Jen.

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    1. Cosmos--that is a beautiful quote. Thank you for telling me about mamushi/viper--that's so interesting!!!

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  12. If it has become a chore and you don't have to do it, then you have made the right decision. Go enjoy the country around you. You can still buy lovely things ... but buy them just for you! M x

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  13. I can totally relate to your decision. The idea of a little shop is very romantic but to do any business right, you've got to invest A LOT of yourself. Sometimes there are things that are much more important. I think you're on a new exciting journey.

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  14. That's a hard decision, but maybe you will have more time to enjoy other things now.

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