Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Brother's Plant

I believe the commonly used name is "Hen and Chicks", a rosette shaped succulent that reproduces miniatures of itself, looking like many off-spring.  Though not native to North America, this is a hardy little plant. 
We've had more days of sub-freezing temps this winter than I remember in a long time.  As the weather has warmed, I set the pot of hen-and-chicks out in the garden so it could receive some of the rain we were expecting.  On Thursday, a falling tree missed it by inches. I was stunned. With branches curling up all around it, it sat upright and unscathed. I brought it back to the shelter of the patio.
Early in the afternoon today, I took my journal outside and wrote:
"Gorgeous day. The sky is gray, full of moving clouds made invisible by the rain. Thunder keeps rumbling from the west and the light changes frequently, the sun breaking through a high layer.   I couldn't be more content. I'm on the patio listening to rain falling down the gutter, pattering in the trees, titmice singing, a bluebird in the distance.... I'm comfortable in a double layer of long sleeves, no coat, no shivering. Three windows are open in the house and I have successfully made a home for my cedar chest treasure. It is a great relief to have it no longer the center piece in the living room [while I decided where to put it], to have an open floor again....Mother always called it the cedar chest.  She gave it to my brother. My brother has now given it to me."
When I walked outside again later, I had the urge to sketch this plant.  For one thing the outside air was so inviting.  But I was also marveling at the plant's hardiness, thinking about my brother, feeling a wave of sadness wash over me, and noticing once again, the simple texture scratched into the clay, the loveliness of the piles of rosettes in their container.  Suddenly, I realized why I had been feeling so sad.  March has all but arrived.  On March 3rd, it will be a year since my brother died.
The unconscious is an amazing creature.  So many times it takes us where we need to go, whether we are paying attention or not.  I had not considered the date that is approaching, nor that my grief might have a reason for intensifying.  Nor had I considered why I was so drawn to this plant today.  It lived on my brother's porch and invited me to bring it home.  I am so happy I did.
After making a rough sketch, I wet the paper and added paint.  Getting the paint juicy enough was a challenge since my small kit had not been used in a while.  I didn't bring a spray bottle outside with me.  It's a little slower to shake water from a paint brush into the pans, but it works just the same.
I used the sketch as a guide and continued to apply color, wet in wet.  That is, adding color into color.  What you see below is what I accomplished while still outside.  
It is still unfinished, though I like the loose quality of it as it is.  I would like to study some of my photo images of the rosettes, and sketch one in more detail.  Then we'll see what happens next.  

To see all three post in the series click:  Brother's Plant

Wiki on Hen and Chicks

To see more patio sketching visit Seeing a Lantana.

5 comments:

  1. I really felt I was there with you. A beautiful sketch. This time of year has some sad memories for many of us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah, Vickie, I feel for you. I remember so well being ambushed by sadness at the approaching anniversary of a loved one's passing. The heart remembers what the mind forgets/ignores. You said it better: "The unconscious is an amazing creature. So many times it takes us where we need to go, whether we are paying attention or not." It happened to me 26 years ago a few weeks before the 1st anniv of a newborn son's death.

    I like to think that our loving Creator always knows what's going on inside us...collects our tears and uses them in watercolor images of his compassion and love for us.

    How lovely that you have this hardy little living link to your brother's memory--lovelier still your paintings of that plant--and how providential that you acted on your spirit's nudge to bring your brother's "hen & chicks" home with you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's very beautiful, Vickie, and you're right, we are cyclical beings. I am so sorry about your brother, and glad, too, that you gave his plant a new home. It's obviously loved...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I lost my brother at an early age too, in February. Your sketch is quite nice. I like the way the colors meld together sort of like the little clusters of rosettes. It is good that you can get outside again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can relate to your sad mood. I also lost my only brother to cancer when we were both in our 20's...on Mother's Day morning. Now that I am a mother of 2 sons...I wonder how my mother makes it through this day every year. My thoughts are with you these next few days!

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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