Light and Shade

There’s something about white flowers. The way they capture the light. The way they evoke purity. The way they beguile the gaze. The light in sub-tropical climes is very different to the more temperate regions where I spent my childhood. When I first encountered the sub-tropical light, I thought it made the landscape and all things within, look as if lit from behind. This is never more apparent than the effect of light on white blooms.

The Magnolia grandiflora,  Little Gem is an example. When the flower first unfurls from the bud, its  suede-like texture seems to ignite the light. Even under shadows thrown by the surrounding  glossy green leaves, the bloom appears to glow from within. The petals eventually weather to a lovely ‘old gold’ as the flower ages; losing none of their glow, they still arrest the gaze.

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Magnolia Little Gem

Why I’m drawn to white flowers is a mystery to me. I love the brilliant hues that abound in every form of floral expression. I simply couldn’t do without a riot of colours in my tiny courtyard garden. But the white ones have a special attraction.

Perhaps the appeal lies in the clear contrasts. The white of the magnolia is so perfectly complemented by the shadows its dark leaves cast.  I’m captivated by the deep russet underside of the leaves against their glossy oval tops. They seem to spoon white light over the flowers like water. During the recent visit of the super moon, I was enchanted to see magnolias glowing like Chinese lanterns in the dark; bold competition for the only marginally superior moon.

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”
Charles Dickens

When I ponder this, I think of the parallels in human nature. My own, no less. I’m not speaking of some dichotomy of good and evil. No, it’s more of a known and unknown. Of discovering in one’s mysterious personal shadows, evidence of light – a startling place where some previously hidden aspect of one’s self shines.

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.

Theodore Roethke

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37 responses to “Light and Shade

  1. I especially like what you said about how the “known and unknown” in the self (as opposed to good vs. evil) is suggested by the white petals among the dark glossy leaves which “seem to spoon white light over the flowers like water.”

    Yes, and the Roethke quotation too. So much hope in nature, but also (and because of that) in our own dark times.

    Uplifting words an images here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the lovely compliment Sean but that train left the station long ago. These days enlightenment is a bungee jump. Always reaching, almost there, only to be yanked back again, still tethered to my frailties ☺️

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  2. Robyn, My mother loved gardenias, much for the same reasons as you like the magnolia, I think. She wore one on her wedding day. You made me remember once again Leonard Cohen’s ,”There are cracks in everything, it’s how the light gets in.” Such a comfort for a person like me with so many cracks.

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    • Clare thanks for sharing those thoughts. I had gardenias in my wedding bouquet as well – beautiful flowers and the fragrance is full of memories. As for cracks, we all have them. I enjoy Cohen’s take on their purpose. Remember Louise Penny’s book with that quote? I just finished her new book. I was sorry to come to the end. Her characters are like friends now and I would like to visit Three Pines, have lunch in the bistro, visit Clare and Myrna’s library and yes, even exchange a few insults with Ruth while I cuddled Rosa.

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      • Another thing we share in common. I’ve read all her books and really liked her last one. Did you read the article she wrote for AARP about her husband. She also writes about him at the end of her newest book. I guess you know who my favorite character is? Ruth all the way!

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      • You introduced me to Louise Penny, Clare and I am so grateful. I ‘hate’ reading her books because it means they must come to an end. I love Ruth too. She is so authentic. Louise often remarks that Armand’s character is based on her husband. I was heart-broken to hear he has dementia. I haven’t read the article you mention but will source it through the net. Life’s vicissitudes touch us all, no matter how talented, nor how famous.

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      • I’d forgotten because I’ve told quite a few people about her. She has a newsletter many of the people at Church receive. I’ll have to check on that. It was our minister, a wise man, who started me on reading her books. It’s nice to share things we really like. And we have so much in common!

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      • I was wondering if you’d read The Sunday Philosophers Club Isabel Dalhousie Series by Alexander McCall Smith set in Edinborough or the Maisie Hobbs Series by Jacqueline Winspear (Great Britain)? I also love the Sister Fidelma Series set in Ancient Ireland written by the historian, Peter Tremayne or the Inspector Guido Brunetti Series by Donna Leon set in Venice. I love settings! Technology truly is wonderful when it isn’t driving me nuts.

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      • Haha! Yes, technology is definitely Janus faced, a blessing and a curse. I will look into your suggestions. I’ve read McColl Smith and heard of some of the others. But its always good to have them recommended. I like Australian authors: Richard Flannigan, Tim Winton, Janette Turner Hospital and many others. I’ve just begun to read crime fiction and not all of it impresses. I loved Louise Penny for her different approach: the poetry and sensitivity – the thinking woman’s crime fiction. I tend to get a crush on an author and consume everything they’ve ever written. I’m looking forward to your book 🙂

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      • Hopefully, the first in a thinking woman’s crime fiction series (well put) set here in South Kingstown. That’s the way I am and I look forward to their next book. I’ll definitely look up the Australian authors you suggest. If it’s a snowy winter in New England, I’ll have lots of time to read while you’re tending your garden in the warm sunlight.

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      • Robyn, I always feel safe when the characters are in Three Pines. It’s when they leave that the angst seeps in. We could ask some other bloggers to join us and it would be idyllic. Imaginary worlds attract me even more so lately.

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      • Imagination is a wonderful thing. Essential for a writer, of course. But I think it allows a glimpse of what’s possible as much as it provides a haven, a form of escapism. For as long as I can remember I’ve lived in the wonderful worlds of my imagination – or through books , the imagination of someone else. Bless you Clare.

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