Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On symmetry, yet again

I've written a couple of times before about symmetry at this time of year, so I guess it's clear by now that's what April means to me. In any case, symmetry was definitely on my mind as I worked out my April contribution to "Styling the Seasons," a monthly project hosted by Katy of Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte of Lotts and Lots.

Every year around Easter time I display these wooden pysanky eggs that belonged to my husband's grandmother in this glass bowl that belonged to my grandmother. For me there's a kind of comfort in having a few things that I arrange in the same way year after year: symmetry across time and, in this case, a connection across generations, too.

This year I realized that the designs on the pysanky eggs, a traditional craft from Eastern Europe and the Ukraine, echo the motifs on this Mexican bird-shaped planter (birds themselves also being a design often found on pysanky eggs), and on a couple of other Mexican vases I've picked up at thrift stores. I love these sorts of connections between folk art motifs from different parts of the world: symmetry across space, here.

Then, there's a more abstract kind of symmetry to April. I grew up in a strongly Christian household, and while I'm not a practicing Christian now I find that the faith's stories and archetypes, like the bittersweet symmetry of death-and-rebirth, are still deeply rooted in my psyche.

I've seen those symmetries echoed in my own life as well; for example, a few years ago my husband's father passed away while I was traveling to Arizona for my grandfather's memorial service. This was over Easter weekend, even.

I thought about this history, and I thought about how cut flowers, for all their beauty, are also incredibly evanescent -- especially the sorts of tulips and daffodils that I brought home throughout March. (This is particularly so in my home: I'm pressed for time and probably a little lazy to boot, so my vases tend to spend more time displaying wilting flowers than fresh ones.)

And so in addition to those ephemeral flowers, this month my dining room sideboard gets a hardy succulent as a kind of bulwark against impermanence. Maybe it's these layers of meaning, maybe it's the crazy zebra stripes on the plant, or maybe it's the funny skeptical expression on the bird's face, but this little scene makes me smile every time I pass by it.


  1. A lovely, thought-provoking post :)

    While I love flowers, I have to admit I prefer them outside, precisely for the reason you outlined. Yes, they're gorgeous on a sideboard, and they do cheer up a room, but it IS so fleeting! Perhaps this speaks to an innate pessimism I should really keep under wraps, but whenever I'm presented with a bouquet (which isn't often!) I will always look at them with a slight feeling of sadness. "Yes, thank you, they're lovely", I'm saying, but in the back of my mind I'm picturing them a week from now...just as you said: wilted and spent! I would much rather be given (or buy) a sturdy, long-lived plant (which to me, seems almost like an endorsement of capability ("tend to this plant and keep it alive!")) versus cut flowers ("just keep them comfortable until they die...or, well, don't really worry too much about it, because let's face it, nothing you do can save them...). (Hmmm...I think I can easily rival you in the whole over-thinking department ;) )

    I really like the history of the eggs and the glass bowl coming from both your husband's and your own grandmothers - it makes a lovely and meaningful arrangement! (And the bird *totally* has a "yeah right" expression; it may even be saying "are you seriously expecting me to sit here with this plant on my back all the live long day?!")

    1. Thanks, Marian. Hee, yes, you and I could have an over-thinking-off (like a dance-off, but much more tedious). :-) You know, I actually like rather-past-their-prime flowers, and the process of watching flowers open and change over the course of days is quite beautiful. With local tulips so abundant here it's a cheap spring pleasure. I think I just need to get better about removing them before they really deliquesce. I'm glad you appreciate my bird's funny expression! I was actually hoping to find a succulent that was blooming in just the right way to send a flower spike over the bird's head like the bobbing crest of a quail, but alas...had to settle for zebra stripes.

  2. If you two have an over-thinking party, I definitely want to be invited! Although there is much I love about spring (the flowers, mostly, and blooming, and new growth), there is a melancholy edge to it, too. Never occurred to me to attribute that to my Catholic upbringing, but maybe that's behind it. Easter is about rebirth, but the death has to come first. I wish I could simply enjoy the blooming flowers, but I get sad about how fleeting they are. How fleeting everything is, really. I love that your eggs--which are so beautiful and meaningful--are the kind that keep from year to year.