Spring always brings with it an immediacy that arises from an idea of situation and place that can hardly be surpassed by any other season. This is more evident in the colder northern climes where a change is more perceptible. In the south, where winters are milder the seasons slide in and out of each other more subtly. The approximation comes from an almost imperceptible change of mood, of colour, of time and place. Which is quite contradictory, especially in this area where the weather is rough and thus distinctly noticeable. For though the Mediterranean basin is famous for its blue skies and warm seas, let that not fool you. At the foot of the mountains, another, very different micro-climate exists, with almost a fickle nature mostly akin to women. Harsh winds from the south and west can blow in any time, bringing with it the most fascinating silk like clouds that streak across the sky, indicating furious air flow. Thus, it always surprises me to see the quiet way that one season flows into another, almost effortlessly. And this is most evident not just in the change of air or sun but in nature and in the garden.
What was a bare patch or almost bare is now a sea of tiny seedlings, promises that were planted in the ground now sprouting the most encouraging bed of greens. Corms planted in winter now produce masses of spectacularly coloured ranunculus and anemones. The roses that were planted bare-root last year have put on an amazing growth. The fat buds have now burst open to reveal the most exquisitely perfumed blowsy blooms. Of the ones planted last year, Princess of Monaco has to be my favourite. An old variety that carries the distinct features of being showy but in a renaissance Dutch still-life painting way, it is one of the most beautifully scented roses of all times. I bring them in to adorn my desk and can’t get any work done, because I am busy burying my nose in its soft petals. And no matter how much I inhale the perfume lingers on and on. Roses should always have a perfume, that is my belief. Meanwhile, in the ranunculus patch, the spectacular flowers of brilliant reds, oranges, pinks, lemons, whites all put on their show daily, while fat buds like minarets on tall stems sway above them all ready and poised for their time.
Whilst they are incredibly long-lasting in the vase, I am always amazed by the changes these blooms go through while ageing. All flowers age, but none so gracefully as the ranunculus. Their petals begin by first fading at the edges, crumpling ever so slightly and gaining a paper-like quality, translucent and ethereal. They remind me of ballerinas, spreading their tutus as they dance, hovering in the air, stillness in movement. As we traverse through time, just as the flowers do, we can add a certain graceful quality to our lives, if we can emulate what nature does. I remember seeing a photograph of an older Louise Bourgeios, taken by Annie Leibovitz. Her hands that she held up as if she were to cover her face any moment were the most beautiful hands I have ever seen. They spoke of a lifetime of work, but not just that, they had an element of prayer in them. In another time, Master Shakespeare would describe them as “hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” They were wrinkled and veiny, not just from old age but from pilgrimage. For that is what artists are. They are pilgrims, who journey through their art to articulate what is inside, from a place of primeval fire of creation. I think of Louise’s hands now, as I look at the ranunculus fading. Soon, they will drop their petals and vanish. Then, new growth, new birth. There is so much hope in spring, in the re-birth and in fresh beginnings but I find the biggest promise is held in the fading, the dying down. Or, so I believe. If there was a quality I would like to embrace today it would be quality of grace. To have grace, to hold grace and to become grace on my journey home.
On my way home, I see others who have travelled too. Some come with me, some besides me. Some walk far, but I know they are there. There is unity in distance. Alliance in solitude. Just as there is fading in birth. Grace everywhere, that embraces me, holding me close so I can hear its beating heart. And for that moment, I am whole.