Friday, June 21, 2013

I believe in angels

Posted by Melissa

I started drawing angels last Advent, thinking about Christmas ornaments. They were extremely simple in their basic shape--no arms, round stylized faces. They were basically platforms for me to decorate with color and flowery designs. They were cute. I can't show them to you because they are in the hands of a graphic designer.

I had a funny feeling while I was working on them--I felt embarrassed that a real angel might see them and think they were silly. I believe that angels are bright creatures that God sends to protect us, help us, give us messages and do other things beyond our comprehension. My husband has seen angels. I've gotten over my funny feeling, though I don't really think there are little girl gardening angels.

But who knows?  There is a line in the Talmud: "Every blade of grass has an angel bending over it saying "Grow, grow." For awhile I had been thinking G.K. Chesterton said that, probably because of a mental association with this passage from his wonderful book Orthodoxy:

"A child kicks his legs rhythmically through abundance, not absence of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grownup person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore."

Indirect justification for making little girl gardening angels, yes? God says, "Do it again" and they bend over the peonies, the daisies, the morning glories and say "Grow."

And if I can't do anything like justice to real angels, Chesterton has another line to bolster my confidence: "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly." In other words, if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing even if you can't do it well.

And now I must go to my own garden. The angels there seem to need a little help. Which makes sense. All creation is a miracle, albeit a broken one, and humans have a unique function of participating in the miraculous on many levels and in many ways, including working the soil.

Right now, our weeds are prettier than our vegetables, at least in photographs. I'll show pictures of our vegetables when they really take off. It has been so cool, overall, that they haven't grown quickly, but it's been a great season for lettuce and arugula. It would have been great for peas, but we didn't get them in.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The twelfth and final gardening angel, for now

She is very young and doesn't know that dandelions are despised weeds. Or maybe she does, and she's saving these blossoms from a sad end.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Angel number eleven

She found these morning glories self-seeded in an abandoned garden, so she's taking them to a new home where they will bring pleasure every morning. Only an angel can transplant a mature morning glory plant.

A thoughtful observer of birds might wonder how my angels, with their silly little wings, can fly, and here are my thoughts. G.K. Chesterton claimed that  "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." They don't use wings in the same way as birds. Their whole way of being--thought, word, deed and bodily makeup--is conducive to flight. They could probably fly if they just flapped their arms really hard, but that's not necessary because their wings provide all the lift they need while their hand are free to carry flowers.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Angel number 10

Posted by Melissa

Ah, poppies!  I love their awkward grace, their lanky, wandering stems. I love their crumpled, translucent petals that catch fire in the sun and the little fat packages that are the pale green buds.

When I was sixteen I spent a summer in Poland, and I saw from the train window cottages with small front yards entirely filled with blooming poppies. At the time I thought it was the delightful gesture of beauty-loving homeowners. Now I realize they were probably planted for their seeds. I had only known poppy seeds sprinkled on buns and buttered egg noodles (yum), so it was surprising to bite into a Polish coffee-cake and find a thick layer of sweetened poppy seeds.

Poppies don't make great cut flowers. I think you have to plunge them up to their necks in water as you pick them, then quickly take them out and sear the bottom of the stem with a match before you put them in their vase. But surely if an angel gathered them they would stay nice for awhile without all that trouble.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The real angel number nine

The daisies aren't cluttered up by leaves, her dress is a light, fresh blue that goes with white and yellow, and her gaze is direct, like the open, cheerful face of a daisy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Angel Number Nine?

Posted by Melissa
I redid her once and I'm still not happy. I'm thinking about doing her again. You'll be (almost) the first to know.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Angel number eight

I thought of her before any of my other girls, but I waited because I wasn't sure how to do her skin tone. It actually wasn't difficult. My first idea--"let's try Goldenrod Verithin under Terra Cotta Verithin"-- worked well. Artistic intuition is mysterious. I don't know how I knew those colors would probably work. It still doesn't seem obvious to me that they would.

We're getting better, but everyone's still coughing and feeling really fatigued. I'll probably have another angel by the day after tomorrow. See you then, maybe . . .

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sick day two

Posted by Melissa
Some of us are doing better, some worse. Here is the most popular healing food of the day, banana strawberry "ice cream."  It's made of frozen bananas, frozen strawberries, raw eggs from our free range chickens, and secret ingredients like flaxseed oil, coconut oil, unrefined sea salt, and liquid trace minerals. You whiz it up in the blender till it's thick and smooth. Very nice on sore throats.
I got the outline done for my next angel today. Maybe tomorrow I'll get to add color. It's hard to wait!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sick day

Posted by Melissa

I'm not sick. Well, not very, but other people in my family are pretty miserable with a nasty cold that has been making the rounds. I took the day off from drawing angels to concoct healing potions.

This chicken soup, made with a good, long-simmered stock, is hitting the spot.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Posted by Melissa

I didn't mean to post today. I meant to take a dreamy walk in the woods, and I did. It was beautifully quiet, a deep well of silence with small sounds delicately treading the surface--a trilling bird, the tiny crunch of rocks beneath my bare feet, a squirrel scurrying up a tree. The woods are green with only a few small blossoms, but the blossoms were sweet and I wanted to take their pictures, so I went back with a camera. It was the same path but a different walk. I heard a mower, another machine that sounded like a great big vacuum cleaner, children yelling.

"Oh no, the pictures will be ruined" I thought, as if all the noise would blow away the tiny flowers. What really happened was my lousy camera skills couldn't capture what I saw, but here they are anyway.

Have a lovely weekend, and check back Monday for another little angel!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Angel number seven

Posted by Melissa

She is brushing an ant off a peony bud. (Why do ants like peonies so much?)  She is in her choir robe and is hurrying back to choir practice, but I think she should watch where she's going. She's a little too taken up with her flowers to be quite safe flying.

 These peach flowers remind me of another peach flower I once met. When I was in third or fourth grade in Maryland, my class took a field trip to that lovely city, Annapolis. We were walking along a shady brick sidewalk, when I saw leaning over a fence (was it a cast iron fence?) a peach rose. In its setting of red brick and well-tended green it was astoundingly beautiful. I had never seen a rose that color. "Look at that," I burst out to the girl beside me. She was embarrassed, slightly angry, and she said, "Don't be so enthusiastic. It's just a rose." I felt shaken, jarred into a duller, dimmer place. I learned a lesson about being openly enthusiastic over beauty. Maybe I had already learned that lesson, but I forgot it when that peach rose took me off guard.

And they remind me of something else. In fifth grade, near the end of the school year we had a school outing to a local city park. Near the entrance was a mature border of peonies in full bloom. Once again I was astounded. "What are these?" I asked. My teacher said "Oh, they're peenies." She was a kindly Mennonite lady who wore homemade dresses and a white mesh cap on the back of her head. I don't know when I learned that peenies are actually peonies.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Angel number six

Posted by Melissa

My childhood landscape was woods, creeks, cow pastures, cornfields and scrubby uncultivated ground, which I suppose had once been cultivated, or it would have been woods. That uncultivated ground was a treasure world of weeds, rocks, wildflowers, blackberries, poison ivy and  rare, lone wild strawberry plants with one or two tiny, soft, red, red berries. The flavor of those berries is, I truly believe, the most pleasurable flavor I have ever encountered--sweet and concentrated essence of strawberry. Surely this little angel has berries so delicious. 

The leaves in the photo are from a wild plant that I think is called false strawberry. It's a related plant, with pretty yellow blossoms and red berries that look like strawberries but are watery and surprisingly flavorless--no sweet, no sour, nothing.

One thing I love about strawberry plants is that they have on them  at the same time beautiful berries and beautiful blossoms.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Angel number five

Posted by Melissa 

The fragrance, the grace, the delicate colors of many garden flowers suggest beauty beyond this earth. Growing out of the earth, roses, lilies of the valley, peonies, sweet peas point to something beyond this earth, beyond our imagination. Geraniums don't do that. They typify wholesome, old-fashioned, completely grounded domesticity. They don't have divine fragrance, but they smell clean and fresh, like an aromatic vegetable.

This little bearer of a pink geranium is a practical, competent person. She's gifted with sunny common sense, and she is exactly the sort you want around if you're planning a garden party and you need help getting organized and cleaning up a few messes. Of course, that doesn't stop her from wearing pretty clothes. Why not? She's the kind of person who can get the job done while staying fresh, cool and clean.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Angel number four

Posted by Melissa 

She doesn't have a pouch on her dress because she forgot to change out of her choir robe into her work robe.

Poor thing had to have her wing replaced. I thought I'd have to redo her entirely, then I remembered that these are for digital reproduction and Photoshop can do many wondrous things.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Angel number three

posted by Melissa

Yes, she did pull the watering can out of her pouch. No, she did not really need it. The earth was nice and damp from melted snow and a few good rains. She just likes giving flowers a drink. When one of my children was quite small, I found her outside on a rainy day with a watering can, proudly, happily giving the flowers a drink. This little angel is cut from the same cloth. If you're wondering how she fit the can in her pouch, see yesterday's post.

I struggled a lot with this one. I took dozens of rotten pictures, pulled out my pencils and worked on her some more, took dozens more rotten pictures and finally chose the least rotten picture. I thought about featuring another angel today, but I decided instead that this would be an exercise in good enough. Recognizing and accepting the good enough is an important part of my creative learning curve. It leaves me with the energy to persevere. I believe it leads to better work overall if I don't obsess about a piece that is troubling me. And a funny thing that happens sometimes is that a piece I'm unhappy with is someone else's favorite.
 I do want to figure out how to take better pictures.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Angel number two

Posted by Melissa

She suggested turning off the flash, and I think she was right.   Maybe I'll take a new picture of  angel number one without a flash and add it to yesterday's post.

Her pocket is like Mary Poppins' carpet bag.  It has just about endless capacity. Right now she's carrying the clippers she used to cut the roses, a garden hose with a sprayer attached, and a small step ladder. Yes, she has wings, but when you're picking Japanese beetles off a trellised rose its just easier to stand on a ladder than to hover a foot off the ground.