Friday, April 1, 2011

Sweet, Mysterious Violet

I did it. I picked this purple hellebore on my walk in the Arboretum on Sunday morning. I know, it's taboo, but I had to pick it. I think it is the same bloom I was taken with a couple of weeks ago when the first signs of spring were brightening our world.

Once again, on Sunday morning, I had a busy mind, fidgeting with my endless to-do list and things I wanted to get done that day. Instead of my usual neighborhood route, I detoured and decided to take a path on the outskirts of the Arboretum and I came across this lovely nature trail that drew me in. I’ve walked it many times over the years, but right now it is so lush and green, and I felt drawn to go this way.

And, once again, I felt an urge to focus on a color as a way to calm my thoughts and focus my energy. Sunday’s color was violet. Pantone calls it Hyacinth Violet.

It is the color of the seventh chakra (or energy center), located at the crown of the head. The seventh chakra is our connection to our higher energy source, a God source, a sense of oneness, and belonging, a divine wisdom and openness to embrace life. I learned in a recent color energy workshop I took that violet’s color energy supports art and beauty. Aaah, now I see why was drawn to it.

All along the path I looked for my color of the day. The path was mostly green but at the end was a field of deep violet hellebore - like a pot of gold - waiting there to delight me and teach me. I picked a sturdy, beautiful bloom and studied it all the way home. It has lines running throughout the petals, like the palm of a hand. I decided it could possibly be the perfect flower. At least from appearances. I looked up the meaning of the hellebore when I got home and found out that the ancient Greeks associated the flower with demons or possessions, and that all species of the flower are toxic. Hmm, not so perfect after all. (Yes, I washed up right away!) Strangely, it is also said to provide protection, and a vase of hellebore brought into a room will drive away an unpleasant atmosphere and replace it with tranquility. I like that!

After my walk, I dashed to church. I was a few minutes late because of where my walk took me. After finding a seat with a good friend, I immediately noticed that “my violet” was decorating the altar and being worn by the clergy. I emailed the rector after church for an explanation about this coincidence. He replied: “Color is a key component to worship at Epiphany. Here is a website that details how color is used in the liturgical rhythms of the church.” I learned that purple (with violet as an alternate) is a symbol for pain and suffering, and used as the liturgical color for the Season of Lent, the 40 weekdays before Easter. It is also the color of royalty, so traditionally has also been used for Advent.

I have to admit, I am struggling with the different meanings of violet. Some are beautiful and uplifting and others are not so uplifting, suggesting introspection about the mysteries of life. 

This week I started reading The Elements of Color by Johannes Itten, considered one of the greatest teachers of the art of color of modern times. (What a great thing to be known for, huh?!) He devoted more than five decades to the instruction of the visual, psychological and esthetic mysteries of color. So cool!)  After reading the foreward to the book, I went directly to the section on color symbolism and looked up violet. He says violet is "the color of the unconscious - mysterious, impressive and sometimes oppressive.” Again, a little good, a little bad. What does this all mean?

I do have some very sad things going on in my life right now that are weighing heavily on me (a good friend's son was recently diagnosed with Leukemia, another good friend with a brain tumor, and a close relative passed away yesterday from an awful, uncurable disease). In contrast, I feel happy and content and I have a lot to be thankful for.

To me violet is a beautiful, mysterious color. Maybe I am drawn to it for its complexity, and as a reminder of life’s highs and lows and that we must put our trust in a higher being. I obviously still have a lot to learn about color’s influence on our lives, but I’m excited to be on this journey as a student of life.


In loving memory of Maggie O’Brien Mathers

Geoff bought this glassybaby last night and we are keeping it lit in memory of Maggie. Its given name is “luxury” but we renamed it "maggie." She loved glassybaby and had a way bigger collection than me. It was one of the many interests we shared.  She had a very strong influence on my life as a mother, artist, neighbor, landlord, friend and cousin, by marriage. This week, two people asked me how she was doing and asked me to tell her hi. I was planning to walk over and see her this morning while Sofia is at school. I am sad I missed her by one day. I am going to take purple tulips to their house this morning. (I bought some for our house too.) Whenever I visited Maggie recently, she was wearing a gorgeous purple cashmere sweater. I will always remember her kindness, creativity and the advice she gave me, most recently about raising a spirited daughter. Her spirit will live on through her amazing children and everyone who had the honor of knowing her. My heart is heavy....

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