Friday, June 5, 2009

The Artist Speaks

I've been staring at a blank page for awhile now. It feels as if the busyness, tiredness, and overwhelmed-ness of this chapter in my life are sapping all my creativity, robbing me of the words to convey the many things weighing on my heart. I suppose that's because I cannot write or create unless I slow down, breathe deep, and listen to the voice of the One who speaks all my art into being. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I am finding it difficult to do those things in the middle of this thing called moving. Even so, the artist in me is not content to remain silent. She yearns to speak, to create, to make known and be known. Mostly this leaves me feeling frustrated with the place I find myself—no time, space, or strength to be the artist yet still filled with an intense desire to do so. But there is also a part of me that rejoices in this.

Not so very long ago, I couldn't even stand up and say, "I am an artist." Oh, I wanted to be an artist. I thought maybe I used to be one. And I hoped that maybe someday, somehow I could become one again. But even still, I thought of "art" as superfluous, icing on the cake, the fun thing you get to do when you've finished all the responsible things in your life. And being a responsibility addict, you can just imagine how often I let myself "do" art. Basically never. I don't think the yearning to create ever went away, but I quickly stopped recognizing it for what it was. I just felt trapped by my responsibilities and at odds with the life I was living. Eventually, I found myself at odds with God, too. I was tired of doing all the responsible things to maintain relationship with Him. I was keenly aware of how my life and my connection to my Creator lacked the "abundance" He had promised, but really I had no idea why or how I got there. Only a few years previously, the amount of growth I was experiencing on a nearly daily basis, both spiritually and personally, was rather astonishing. How did I end up so far from where I started but nowhere near the place I was meant to be? I didn't know.

That is, I didn't know until God set me on a whirlwind journey to find out. And what, you ask, did I find out? That when the Author of Life spoke me into existence, He created me as an artist. I guess you could say that art is my primary language—it is the way I process life and understand (or at least try to understand) what God is doing, what He is teaching me, why He put me on this earth. As I use my art to "work out" my faith this way, my art then becomes a reflection of God and of His work to the people around me. Of course, underlying all of this is the simple fact that art is at the center of my communication with God. It is the way He speaks to me and the way I speak back to Him. It is the way we wrestle through the complexities of living out faith in a world full of unfaithfulness. It is the way He makes Himself known to me and it is the way I make myself known to Him. Yes, I am an artist. I haven't always known it, but I have certainly always been one. And during those long years when I silenced my own creative voice, it is no wonder that I slowly lost my joy, my strength, my connection to the Source of Life.

So today as I find my spirit yearning desperately to create and be the artist, I rejoice. I am an artist. Even in the midst of this place where there is no room for art, expression, and creativity—I am an artist. And I am deeply grateful for the One who wouldn't let me stay silent, the One who wanted me to use my voice as much as I needed to use it, the One who chose me to be His artist. Someday I will tell you all that He has been teaching me of late. Someday I will tell you about the miracle of being a godmother to a boy who just turned 2 years old today. Someday I will tell you what it's like to start over again—spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and even literally. Someday.

But not today. Today I will just tell you this: I am an artist, and I have found my voice.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Plants of Promise: Dwarf Fothergilla

Fothergilla gardenii bloomLatin Name: Fothergilla gardenii
Common Name: Dwarf Fothergilla

Description: Small, slow-growing deciduous shrub; 3' H x 4' W; blooms in mid-to-late spring
Cultivation: Full sun to part shade (best flowering and fall color in full sun) 

Where I Found It: Flower World in the fall of 2007 for $13

Why I Love It: I discovered this interesting plant when I was in college studying horticulture and we would traipse all over campus (and all over Seattle) identifying plants and learning about their features and cultivation requirements. Ever since then, I have kept a list of "favorite plants" that caught my attention during those years, and the Dwarf Fothergilla is one of them. When I was looking for plants to put in the ground at my new house a couple years ago, I was thrilled to find a fothergilla at Flower World and snapped it right up.

What makes this plant so special? First of all, it produces beautiful and unique-looking white flowers in the spring. As you can see from the picture above, they very much resemble the blooms of a bottlebrush plant. And what's not to love about branches laden with blossoms like these?Fothergilla gardenii in bloom

The foliage is pleasant in the spring and summer but actually quite stunning in the fall when it turns brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple—often with multiple colors in each single leaf. Sadly, I don't have a nice picture of the fall color, but here is a good one of the foliage in spring:Fothergilla gardenii foliage

Overall, the plant seems to have an open, airy growth pattern (which makes it a bit hard to photograph!). Here is my little fothergilla, hanging out in my container garden:

He is still rather small, as he was only in the ground a couple months before I had to dig him up and transplant him back to a pot (due to the sewer line being replaced at my house). I have enjoyed his profuse display of blooms this spring and am looking forward to his brilliant color in the fall.

As a funny side note, I refer to this plant as "he" because his name, Fothergilla, always makes me think of Father Gilla—as in, a priest named Gilla!

So if you are looking for a reliable little shrub with unique blooms and fabulous fall color, Fothergilla gardenii might just be the plant for you!