The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. It can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. This week, we’re drifting along with Laura Boggess, to the un-useful plant section of a conservatory. Un-useful, that is, unless you see the value of sudden play.
West Virginia’s only plant conservatory is housed 25 miles from my home. Open since 1996, the C. Fred Edwards Conservatory is part of a local museum’s mission to “be a proponent for, and an interpreter of, nature.” The plants that live there fall into four general categories: orchids, agriculturally important, fragrant, and unusual.
I go to the conservatory to meet my muse and am greeted by the stillness of slow-growing things and the quiet sound of trickling water. The air is warm and moist and I enter through a doorway of gently swaying palm fronds and a small orchard of “agriculturally important” plants. These plants are categorized as such because we eat them or make use of their products. I am curious enough to stop and smell the berries on a coffee bush and rub my hand over the fruit of the chocolate tree. I also spy papaya, kumquat, and banana trees.
But I have not come to see these “useful” plants. I have come to see the orchids.
The conservatory boasts 400 varieties of orchids, rotated in and out of the collection as they bloom. I don’t know much about orchids—only that the way light filters through the delicate turn of their petals invites me to slow down and look deeper. Soon, I am lost in the symmetry of violets, and pinks, and yellows. The whites become my favorite—the clean, translucent lines snuffing out the noise inside me.
Searching for a name, I peek at a tiny wooden stake tucked down into the soil of the flower. But each orchid is only assigned a number. I give them names of my own making.
“Hello, Roger, ” I say, to a spider orchid variety. “It’s nice to meet you.”