Monday, June 14, 2010

The Aging Beauty of Alium

Elizabeth and I were strolling along the other day chatting about this and that nothing when she abruptly threw out an arm to stop me and pointed down at this sputnik growth alongside a garden path -- "I want alium next year," she announced.

At first I didn't recognize it, it was kind of like looking at a high school mate 30 years later -- there's something about you but...

And then I did.

I grew a herd of alium sometime early in my gardening career (can you call something you do so haphazardly a career?) and recalled being enchanted by the fuzzy purple popsicle heads that sproinged about the garden, but was put off in subsequent years by the price of the bulbs. I mean, these are spring thingies, they do nothing all summer, right? They come up and, bam, they're over.

The purple fluff falls off and what's left are these gnarly witchy fingers. But I didn't appreciate the skeletal back then, the way the remains of something have a curious beauty. It's not just the fresh and young and perky that have a lock on fabulousness.

I did have an early introduction to this  idea, even if it took several decades to take root.

Maybe 20-years ago I picked up "Drawing on the Left Side of Your Brain," and spent several weeks sketching. A fascinating book for those whose representational skills stalled out at age 8, or so. Which is (for some reason) most of us. Turns out it's all about not really seeing what's in front of your face. You're looking right at a chair or a chin and not able to get your pen around the contours.

And then you pick up the book and do a couple of exercises maybe you're not Picasso, but you've actually produced something recognizable, something with depth, proportion, something that comes perilously close to -- art. Whoa.

I was lying in a bubble bath drawing my foot on the facuet, sitting in the front porch rocker sketching our big elm tree, hovering over Monica sketching her sleeping, thumb-sucking baby face.

And the more I did the more interested I became in out of kilter shapes and, most particularly, odd looking people. My eye flitted right past the pretty to itch at the thought of getting a bulbous nose on paper, corrugated foreheads, wattley chins, jutting bones and opposing hollows...the old were particularly enchanting, with all their parts coming unmoored in such interesting ways.

This went on for some weeks. 

Now, every once in a while I pick up one of the sketches and am briefly impressed with myself -- and then I recall that I put the book aside and returned to drawing very much as I did in Mrs. Turtletaub's third grade art glass. It's so much easier. I am such a disappointment to me sometimes (I am shaking my head).

So the alium has reminded me of all this and and seeing the spiky remains beside the garden path made me determined to damn the expense and plant them again next year.


  1. I love those things!


    "...hovering over Monica sketching her sleeping, thumb-sucking baby face. And the more I did the more interested I became in... odd looking people."

  2. oh. perhaps that did come out as intended. se la.


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