Tag Archives: Flowers

The Flower Seller and the Angel

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I sent Michelle the half photo of that beautiful man in the background, but it didn’t fit her composition so she sent it back. I really hated to cover any of his face, but sacrificed it for art’s sake.  It represents the face of the omnipotent all-seeing God who originally animates both Floabunda, the flower seller and Phrunel, the angel.  Of course when I started I didn’t have a god or an angel or Floribunda.  I had a man casting his eyes sideways toward someone and holding up an expostulatory hand and I had a woman with an attitude looking back at someone.  I saw immediately that they went together.  Michelle had given me a chair, but it was a little dull.  Chairs and tigers go together so I put the chair on the back of the tiger and voila!  When I used M.’s big basket of tulips to cover up the line of demarcation where the old man ended I realized the woman sold flowers and added a bunch more from my own stock.  I also had a wing like sculpture back from Michele.  I colored it, it turned the old man into Phrunel the angel and there was my story- half unfolded before a single image had been pasted down.  (I admit I wanted a real angel name and so went googling.  Phrunel was obscure and fairly benign – most of the higher orders are quite terrifying.) The pot in Phrunel’s hand had to be added once the story was over.  Originally I wanted something in that hand but nothing fit.  I decided to keep it empty and thought of it as a gesture of speech, which resulted in the necessity for dialog.  The pot arrived as an image at the very end of the composition because now the story demanded it.  It’s so interesting to me how the picture and story play with and against each other creating a virtual picture of right and left brain collaborations.

The Flower Girl & the Angel_NEW

The Flower Seller and the Angel

 There was once a flower seller named Floribunda who dabbled in scents during the winter months. In summertime she gathered and grew, always remembering to thank to each plant and leaving a pinch of sage or a strand of her own hair in return.  As soon as the last bloom was harvested Floribunda dashed for her still room. There she chopped crushed, ground, muddled, mixed and distilled the dried flowers she’d set aside during spring and summer creating potions, balms, perfumes and tinctures to sell at the big Kris Kringle market in December.

You can see by now, Floribunda was an unusual woman.  Her analytical mind and discerning eye had been fine-tuned by years of wild crafting and floriculture. Nature’s innate complexity had tempered her loving heart with wisdom.  Hours of solitude in field, forest, marsh and meadow had complemented long days haggling and gossiping in the market place in honing her intuition.  Integrity was her watchword, Floribunda never answered a question with a question and she never minced words.

Her three constant companions were the serpent Sly, a slender garden snake inadvertently dropped on Floribunda’s toes by the barn cat; Jezebel the rabbit, who’d leapt into her arms from the middle of a flower bed where she’d been busy munching tulip bulbs; and Fredji, a liberated Bengal tiger.  Floribunda had discovered him, skinny, mangy and reeking of dung, huddled in the far corner of a filthy circus wagon.  In her righteous wrath she’d bent the bars apart and pulled him out.  When the ringmaster interfered, she flung a vial of distilled mangrove leaves at his feet.  After the noxious stench had inundated every stitch of canvas in the big top the circus pulled stakes and left, never to return.  It took months to mend Fredji’s wounds and heal his rage, but now he never for a second left her side.

Sly’s talent was to sense falsehood.  He lived in the left pocket of Florabunda’s skirts.  When he sensed dishonesty, pretense or deceitfulness he slithered in and out of her fingers.  Honesty sent him twining rapturously around thumb and wrist.  Jezebel recognized a loving heart, no matter how cleverly disguised.  She was drawn to love like a magnet.   Fredji was simply himself—fierce, loyal, dispassionate—his glacial blue stare warning enough to keep his beloved mistress from any harm..

The angel Phrunel appeared on the first day of the Christmas Fair.  He was a Lesser Angel of Redemption and Hope, who appeared as a benign old man, dressed in green robes.  Jezebel made a giant leap into his arms and snuggled into his chest, ears pressed blissfully against his angel heart.

The huge rainbow wings caused admiration and alarm among the shopkeepers.  Though he folded them carefully, they knocked down a pyramid of tangerines and sent them rolling in ten directions.  While street urchins scrambled for free fruit, their more respectable elders scrabbled after a flurry of  green, gold and blue pin feathers loosed in the elaborate folding of Phrunel’s wings.  He stood twice as wide as Florabunda’s stall and thrice as high.  She reached behind the counter for her chair.  Balancing on patient Fredji’s back she climbed up to where Phrunel could hear her.

“What do you want?” she yelled.  “Have I displeased the Almighty somehow?”

“No, no!” exclaimed Phrunel.  “Quite the opposite. He wants his creatures to amplify their talents.  That’s why he created you. It’s me, I need some help.  There’s a backlog in Heaven and this is so minor, I hesitate to bother Him.

“So you thought you’d bother me!  Well, us actually.”  She pointed at the chaotic mob swirling around them.

“Er, yes.”  The angel nodded.  His eyes filled with tears.  Florabunda gasped and hopped down from her perch to grab an empty green bottle.  She handed it to the angel who carefully guided his huge teardrops into the vial.  Everyone knew how rare and efficacious angel tears were.

“What’s the problem? she asked, climbing back aboard her chair.

He held out a large and shapely hand.  “Wart on my harp finger,” he whispered.  “I can’t play a single note correctly.  I’m so ashamed.”  Tears threatened again, but to Florabunda’s regret he blinked them back.

Once again Florabunda clambered down the makeshift ladder, rummaged in her stores and returned.  She placed a stoppered jar into his outstretched hand.  “Twice a day beginning with the new moon, afterwards bathe the finger in moonlight for three nights running.  The wart will disappear, not a trace left, I promise.”

Phrunel stored the pot in his pocket and carefully plucked a feather out of his wing.  Florabundi gasped with pleasure and hid it under her cloak.

“Time to go,” she said to the animals. “Come on Jez.”

Jezebel simply sighed and snuggled closer to Phrunel.  He smiled and shrugged, unfurled his wings and disappeared.

Sly curled around her left wrist.  Fredji lapped at her right with his sandpiper tongue.  “Tomorrow,  “Florabunda called to the gaping crowd.  “An angel feather!” she thought to herself.  “What will I make with that!”

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The Mermaid’s Tail

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The Mermaid's Tail

There was once a mermaid named Verdi, who longed to fly. When waves roiled and bubbled on the surface and the depths turned murky and opaque she longed for sun. On clear days the limpid emerald and turquoise seas drove her mad with their banality. She longed to swoop through a gamut of blues whose cerulean hues held no hint of green. Whenever she could, she rose to the surface and sent her woes spiraling heavenward in a high-pitched aria of sadness and despair.

Sometimes, when huge weather systems marched across the endless expanse of ocean, strong winds preceded them, heralding change with a phalanx of whirlwinds each bearing an armful of spoils torn from fertile lands beyond the horizon. Occasionally, their booty came as petals stripped from the flower pots and gardens of fisher women. Verdi gathered them carefully, transfixed by the faint hint of fragrance still clinging to each scrap of shimmering color.

In the short time before they turned to slime, she laid the petals out on the back of a large sea turtle, summoned from the depths to act as her table.  Arranging and rearranging them, Verdi tried her best to imagine their original configuration. But, she never could and then the sad, heart-breaking song would rise from the sea again, distressing every living thing above and below the surface.

One day an owl happened to be passing while Verdi was mixing and matching the flower petals. As he slowed his flight to see what she was up to, the tip of his wing crossed her peripheral vision. Without knowing what he was, before her head had swung around to follow his flight, she ensnared him in a web of golden trills. The beautiful notes, tough as spider silk bound his wings together and he tumbled out of the air. SPLAT!  Down, down down he fell, onto the turtle’s back.

The owl shook himself and stood up. His huge yellow eyes raked the mermaid’s sullen face and weedy locks.

“Caught me fair and square,” he muttered. “Well! You may have the requisite three wishes. They come with the standard warning and no guarantees. Be careful what you wish for.”

“I want to fly.”

“Easy enough; hop on. I’ll take you for a spin myself.”

“No! I want to do it myself.”

‘You haven’t any wings,” observed the owl craftily.

“Well then I wish for wings!”

“You wish for wings and the ability to use them in flight. Correct?”

“Yes.”

“That’s two,” screeched the owl, but the mermaid did not care.”

Her wings stuck out on either side of her body, just below her arms. She gave them a lazy flap and felt the air beneath her catch and take hold lifting and carrying as if she were a piece of thistledown. The view was all she hoped it would be. There on the very tip of the horizon she caught the glint of a palm leave rustling in the breeze. The owl flew alongside her. Normally he wouldn’t bother with a wisher, except for the actual granting, but something about Verdi made him curious to see what would happen next.

Land was all she had hoped for – the sights, the sounds, the smells and textures. How different everything looked when it was dry! Not quite as rich and shiny as when wet, but the variety more than made up for it. She flew and flew, soaring, diving, gliding and indulging in acrobatics until suddenly, far from the sea, hunger pangs sent tremors through her new wings and she realized how tired she was.

“How do I land?” she demanded.

“Is it your wish to land?” asked the owl casually?

Ye … er no, not just yet. Uh, how do you land?”

“On my feet,” smirked the owl.

The mermaid flapped her tail. They were flying over a thick patch of forest.

“What if I asked for legs? But then what would would I  eat? How long  till I learn to walk?”

Her stomach rumbled, interrupting the string of increasingly panic-stricken thoughts.

“I wish I had…” She clamped her teeth down hard on the tip of her little green tongue and winced.

Your wish is my command,” he murmured sweetly.

Her purple eyes stare fiercely into his yellow ones.  They refused to blink

“Take me home,” she ordered wearily.

In the blink of an eye, she was floating, once again, beside the patient sea turtle. The owl had disappeared, but the wings still hung by her sides so water-logged she was never again able to launch up into the sky, no matter how she practiced.  Nevertheless, Verdi loved her wings; liked the distinction they bestowed.  To her delight she discovered they worked well underwater, propelling her forward more swiftly than she’d ever swum.  She soon became a hunter and explorer of renown, traveling all the seven seas and finding wonders in their depths to equal anything on land.  Occasionally, she thought of the owl and sent a song winging his way.  But nothing ever came of it because, from that day forth, he steered clear of ladies with tails.

 Christine Irving, March 2014

Curiosity

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The Harbinger

The Harbinger

Seize the moment of excited curiosity on any subject to solve your doubts; for if you let it pass, the desire may never return, and you may remain in ignorance.

~William Wirt (9th Attorney General of the United States 1817– 1829)

Wonderland is rife with stories about the consequences (initially dire or at least unhappy) of opening forbidden boxes.  Sometimes the boxes come as covered baskets woven by Native Americans, sometimes they are locked rooms, sealed jars or stoppered bottles.  Always the person who opens them is driven by insatiable curiosity to take a peep inside.  Most often they’ve been warned to KEEP OUT!

But, like the person who insists on visiting the spooky basement at midnight to investigate a strange noise instead of sneaking out the back door and running like hell while dialing 911, the insatiably curious just can’t help themselves.

Tales about locked boxes are often touted as learning stories intended to make people conform.  But, if we read them carefully, we find by the end justice prevails.  So perhaps the stories are really about the necessity to persevere through trial, error and some suffering, in order to bring about change for the greater good.  These accounts are among our oldest, old enough to be called myths,  with roots that go back into antiquity.  They are often complicated, richly layered tales full of twists and turn, successes and set-backs.  To me, they seem like initiation stories- rites of passage.

One characteristic of initiations is to take everything the student has learned and turn it upside down by teaching a seemingly opposite truth.  This radical paradigm shift knocks the aspiring initiate out her/his previous assumptions into beginner’s mind; open to new ways of inquiry and conjexture.  In Pandora’s Box the story seems to a warning.  On the other hand ,it might offer the neophyte encouragement to continue on the journey.  Or the story might be a koan meant to force the student to think more profoundly and explore alternative explanations.

In my collage, Pandora, who wears still keeps her golden key in the  medicine bag strung around her neck (perhaps she will encounter other boxes) has already unsealed her jar (bottom right corner) letting loose a swarm of noxious insects, many of which fly and/or sting.  The insects have long since dispersed.   Now, months later, something new has appeared on Earth – flowers.  Many of those flying, stinging, creepy-crawlies were pollinators.  Not only is the world awash in beauty, but a new kind of food is growing in abundance – mangos, paw-paws, bananas, apples, pomegranates, peaches pears, watermelon, pecans, walnuts, cashews,  almonds, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant, squash, beans , chilies – the list is endless.

You can see these flowers in my collage and also the pollinators, without whom much of the world’s population would starve to death.   The closed jars represent the potential for discovery – the potential for emptying that leaves the womb, which all jars represent, ready for new life.  The emptying is essential to creation; be it a baby, a book or a better mousetrap.  The sealed jars are the catalysts of curiosity, harbingers of action.  Pandora is the universal girl who dares act, who uses the gifts she’s been given to initiate change.