Ozias Leduc: Le Jeune étudiant, 1894
In short, all over the map, literally and figuratively. After our November concert with the Edmonton Metro Chorus Brenda and I took a short winter break in Mexico, spending two weeks at the Mayan Palace on the Riviera Maya, half way between Cancun and the Playa Del Carmen. In spite of neigbouring resorts on the Riviera, the place felt fairly isolated; even within the compound one takes public transportation to get from one area to another, including the beach and the pools. What fascinated me was the fact that the property was carved out of a tropical mangrove forest. The place has kilometers of boardwalk meant to keep you dry, but on a rainy day in the tropics you ended up shin high in water pools flooding the walkway. I’ll come back to the Riviera in a bit.
I also spent a lot of time in my head or buried deep in books, reading both fiction and non-fiction where at times it was hard to tell one from the other. The reading does explain the illustration above. The Ozias Leduc painting seems to carry with it two different titles, Le Jeune étudiant used in the caption above, but it is also often referred to as Le Jeune lecteur which happens to be the title that has always stuck in my mind. So yes, I have over the last few months done a lot of reading. But I have also been doing some studying which could also justify the use of that image. I do believe in the adage that one is never too old to learn and, therefore, I have started Japanese classes with the ultimate goal of speaking, reading and writing the language. A very ambitious project indeed, but why not, I’m still alive and well, all should be possible.
Believe it or not, I started this post a month ago promising to return to the Riviera in a bit. It obviously didn’t happen and here I am less than 24 hours from my next trip to Florida and the Caribbean. Silly me. I guess that upon my return I will have to adopt some new writing strategies, perhaps give serious consideration to the 10 minutes a day approach. What I had meant to say about the Riviera was that we had a great time there, enjoying the beach, playing golf a couple of times a week on a wonderful and difficult Jack Nicklaus design, admiring nature and the local wildlife such as coatis, iguanas, and ibis.
Well, when we left Edmonton, last Friday, the ground was frozen and we had fresh snow. We ended up with a cancelled flight, a frustrating detour through Calgary, and arrived Vancouver seven hours later than expected. Yes, it has been raining off and on but we have the pleasure of seeing flowers everywhere. Magnolia trees in full bloom, cherry blossoms, rhododendron and daffodils in most parks. A city in bloom. A long way from home, literally and figuratively.
We have been here for three days in workshops and ikebana lessons and will be posting more on this subject when we get home in another 3 days. Meanwhile, we are enjoying our visit with family and friends, and, of course, the opportunity we have had to play with flowers. I will have more time for the blog upon our return home so I will leave you with a few pictures of the flowers we are enjoying.
I was originally planning to use this title for my blog but decided it had been used too often as a title for either a novel, a movie, a music album and even for essays. The concept is, however, still valid. I have been told repeatedly by friends and loved ones that I used to write exciting poetry, that I used to produce delightful flower arrangements, that I used to be passionate about numerous things that were for me what I have above called other essentials. I will not deny any of these remarks, nor will I make any excuses. However, I believe that I am still passionate enough to want to have another go at it. This blog is a first step in the right direction.
Our garden has finally also awakened from a long and unusual winter for the Canadian Okanagan Valley. The crocuses and daffodils have long come and gone. The rose beds, however, are almost a month behind, having barely grown some leaves. With some 75 different types of roses, June should be glorious and colorful. We can rejoice at the view and fragrance of our lilac tree and at the continuous blooming of many of the tulip varieties that adorn our back garden and side meadow, formerly known as the rockery. It has afforded me the opportunity to arrange a Shoka Isshu-ike of tulip. It is a simple and yet formal arrangement using one material only. The beauty of such an arrangement is its naturalness. It allows us to seek the essence of our plant material, to enter into a communion with nature.
I belong to the Ikenobo School of Ikebana. It is the original, the oldest school of Ikebana in Japan, having given birth to this form of flower arrangements more than 500 years ago. Today, there are thousands of Ikebana schools in Japan. I joined a long time ago and worked with the Okanagan group for a number of years before leaving the country for a five year term abroad. During our stay in Switzerland, because of the distance to our nearest teacher, I only attended week long workshops twice. Then I spent another two weeks in workshops at the Ikenobo Headquarters in Kyoto. Since our return home, I participated in a two day workshop in Vancouver with a second one coming this weekend. I will have more to share upon my return next week.
People have often asked me how I got involved in studying Ikebana. I once answered that question on a webpage now unfortunately defunct. I promise to bring the answer back to this blog in the very near future. Until then, I bid you farewell and leave you with this haiku I wrote a few years ago for the UFK birthday calendar.
The first buds appear
I contemplate the shoka
Now coming to life.