Looking Back, Looking Forward

The last week of 2016. I typically spend some of these last days to reflect upon the year that’s drawing to a close and plan for the incoming one. It has been a year fraught with every emotion imaginable. It will be interesting to see what 2017 brings. Fingers crossed.

As I review how the garden and I performed over the past twelve months, I’m struck by how much actually worked out well. Invariably, the things that did not do well or what I failed to take care of appear to be outdone by what did go well. It seems one tends to give a disproportionate amount of attention to the failures without giving enough mind to all the successes. As I go over the year’s garden photos, I’m pleased to see that both garden and gardener get a reasonably good report card.

In the spirit of staying hopeful and optimistic, I offer up images from each of the months of 2016. Lets focus on the joys and beauty that nature unfailingly provides. Allow them to serve as reminders that even in the darkest hours, there is always the certainty that the sun will rise again. Together, we can and will make the best of 2017.

Happy New Year one and all!

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

Reflections In The Garden

In less than three weeks, a new year will be here. Our annual opportunity to do-over, makeover, grow, stretch and overcome. For myself, I welcome this time to reflect as it serves as the perfect foil to the commercial madness that comes with the holiday season. Instead of getting carried away with the media-hype, time spent thinking about what really matters keeps my focus on what is truly important to me. This not only serves to prepare me for the new year with resolve and purpose, it also guides me to give holiday gifts from my heart.

I begin with giving myself a report card of sorts. The different areas/roles/projects in my life are the subjects or courses and I evaluate how I’ve performed in each one of them. Since these ‘grades’ are not for public knowledge, I allow myself to be brutally honest. There’d be no point in this exercise if I glossed over my misdemeanors. Holding the mirror to myself is not easy. All the flaws show up prominently. Knowing how far I fell short of my full potential and how many opportunities I missed can be quite demoralizing. But I’ve learned to not judge, berate or make excuses. I stay on track to acknowledge, accept and determine improvement or change. One must move forward. But how does one get started? In the garden of course.

I don’t know about you, but how I garden is a direct reflection on where I am in my head/day/life. Whatever is happening in my life translates to my actions in the garden. No doubt I can also identify similar traits in my poetry and paintings but those are not as clear to track and interpret because I don’t necessarily write or paint immediately after I’m affected by an event. But the garden needs consistent effort and attention and therefore, my enthusiasm or neglect is apparent and has long term effects. For instance, if I was overly absorbed in a particular project and failed to maintain a balance in the other areas of my responsibilities, then, the garden reveals that in beds overrun with weeds and struggling plants or, my lack of oversight resulted in shriveled plants that ought to have been watered during a particularly dry spell. You see?

My goal is to try to stay balanced. Indeed every now and then there will be events that stir up the waters and toss me for a loop but if I’m adequately prepared, I should be able to get back in balance as soon as possible.

Let me elaborate:

Following the rather dry winter with erratic temperature fluctuations, all but the oak-leaved hydrangea took a beating. That native plants are the most hardy is not news but too often, one forgets that point. So, this fall, I replaced all the non-native hydrangea with a variety of oak-leaved ones. The exiled plants were donated to friends and did not end up on the compost heap.

My personal resolve – stay true to self. That’s how one does best.

In the spring, I planted a slew of native plant plugs in the meadow. The plants would attract the insects and birds. My plan was to have three-seasons of entertainment with native flora and fauna. I could envision this thriving paradise clearly. Well, I got distracted by a couple of other projects and completely failed to take note of the lack of rain. So I did not water the new plugs and when I looked for the plants in summer, hardly any were visible. I feel terrible about this. I not only wasted time and money but, I truly neglected my duty to the plants.

I now have a new order of plants that will be introduced in the meadow next spring and I will be sure to take care of them properly.

My personal resolve – don’t take on too much and always determine that every task or project can be fully attended to.

I had resisted removing a dead apple tree because it was supporting a rose and the whole canopy was a center of avian activity. And I’d planned to provide it with more permanent support. But, before anything could be done, strong winds pushed the tree down. Thankfully, the tree fell in the direction that did no damage to anything.

The rose has been relocated and the space that opened up where the tree used to be is actually going to be a good thing for plants already in place and the newly installed sculpture is owning that area very nicely.

My personal resolve – sometimes, good intentions can block one from seeing the reality. And, change can be good. Also, don’t wait too long to take action.

For the last few years, my irises had not bothered to show up. So this summer, I’d wondered if I ought to get new irises. For reasons I do not recall, I did not order them along with my other bulbs for fall planting. Wouldn’t you know! In October, out of season and character, as if to tell me something, one of the irises shot up and bloomed regally. So, I’m giving these old rhizomes another year. Let’s just wait and see.

My personal resolve – be patient. Don’t give up in haste. Everything needs to be given a fair chance ( or chances). Matters do not have to follow my agenda or schedule; sometimes, a laid back attitude is best.

And so, with my garden guiding me, I make preparations to go forth into 2017 with optimism, confidence and humility.

Don’t forget! The Holiday Art Sale is still on at the ASL! Lots of really good art to be had! Just for one more week.

Hope the images below put a smile on your face:

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

Gone With The Wind

Way back this past September, I wrote about the outdoor sculpture I had commissioned. It has been exciting following its evolution from conception to realization. A few weeks ago, it was installed and I’m so pleased with how it looks.

If you remember, I had planned for the sculpture to be positioned near the old apple tree heavily draped in Paul’s Himalayan musk rose. Since the tree was really gasping its last breaths, the plan was to have a support structure at the very top of the sculpture that would hold up the canopy of rose limbs. Said structure would be nicely concealed by the thorny mesh of the rose and not take anything away from the sculpture itself.
The rose canopy is a haven for birds and I really couldn’t bear the thought of losing it once the tree completely bought it. While both sculptor and husband were not sold on my desire to save the rose, they agreed to indulge me.

After the sculpture was set in place, the idea was to create the support in situ just after Thanksgiving. Well, if you recall, the weekend before Thanksgiving we experienced four full days of fierce winds. Really fierce. And cold. On the morning of windy day #3, I awoke to see tree and rose lying on the ground. The tree had lost its fight. Totally broke my heart.

We had to wait for the weather to calm down before checking the state of the rose. The main limb had been stressed and twisted so it is hard to say if it can be revived. For now, it has been moved to a location beyond the meadow near a maple which can be a good support should the plant survive. There is more light in the place where the apple tree used to be. And I’m sure there are plants in the meadow that will welcome the expanded breathing space. Still, I worry that I’ve let the birds down. I plan on making amends by planting several shrubs. Given that the neighbor’s rather unattractive chain-link fence is now more visible, the shrubs will do double duty. Conceal and shelter.
I’m hoping to afford mature, native plants so they can get to work ASAP.

Admittedly, without the presence/shade of the tree/rose, the sculpture displays better. Deservedly so. I’m thoroughly enjoying the way the metal surfaces reflect the environment in a wavy, trance-like manner, how the sunlight strikes it at the different hours, the negative space created between and around the shapes and the moods of the weather echoed.
I have a strong suspicion this was divine intervention. My elaborate, well intended bid to save the rose with a complicated support was not deemed worthwhile. It was time to let go. Thankfully, neither husband nor sculptor have said I told you so.

P.S. I’m going to name the sculpture and I’ve whittled my choices down to ‘Wind Song’ or ‘Tango’.
Which one has your vote? I’d love to know!

Note: Don’t forget to check out the much anticipated Annual Holiday Art and Book Sale at the New York Art Students League.

Enjoy the images of my new sculpture! (Sculptor Domenico Belli)

The sculpture when installed.

The sculpture when installed.

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Wind blown

Wind blown

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By itself

By itself

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar