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How Hyrangeas Inspired a Collection and Vision for a New Season

04/14/2024 01:20:27 +0000
When I was about six or seven, my mom had a garden.

We moved in a house with a sprawling backyard on Premier Way in the heart of Sacramento, a neighborhood brimming over with families and two car garages interspersed with older couples whose children had long left the nest.

It was one of those yards (and homes) where the previous owners had, well, they kind of let things go and run rampant, lots of green everywhere. For that matter, the interior of the house was green too. Floors. Carpets. Walls. Counters. Drapes. You'd be hard pressed to find another home that capitalized on the color green. But that's another story (and one my mom probably doesn't want to revisit).
Mum came with a mind to bring order and beauty to the yard on Premier Way. At least, that's what my little six year old brain registered it as. Move out the old, overgrown, and covered over.

One of the first things she decided to do was clear out the corner where lots of weeds were flourishing and put in a swing set. I was elated.
My brothers and I played on it everyday for hours and hours. When my brothers left to play pirate or cars or whatnot, I stayed, making up stories and songs in my head, my legs sailing high up into the sky. I felt like the princess of a small, but beautiful kingdom.

After the swing set and play area was established, Mum set out to establish order among the flowers and bushes.
The Flowers That Grow Anyways. You Too?
Along the house, covered by shade in the afternoon stood a row of hydrangeas, as tall and taller than me. Their blooms spread out everywhere and they seemed huge in every respect. Huge flowers. Flocks of petals. Tall Stalks. Giant leaves.

Spring got warm fast in California, turning to summer weather before May barely started and lasting through October. But the hydrangeas never seemed to miss a beat. They bloomed, blue and purple and pink for the entire season.

As a kid, I thought they were annoyingly big, especially against all the more delicate and elegant flowers my mom loved: the refined azalea bushes, the regal and orderly sunflowers standing against the back fence, the marigolds lined up row after row in colors of orange, yellow, and red. The snapdragons. The petunias. And then the pansies. My mom adored pansies and filled up many flower pots with pansies.

If you'd asked me my top ten favorite flowers for the last several decades, hydrangeas never would have made it.

In the last few years, something shifted. The color-drenched hydrangeas grabbed my attention. I think it was during the pandemic, towards the end when I was looking for beauty and flourishing things. Was it the bigness of their tree like flowers? Their refusal to stop blooming? The way the heat didn't hit them August when everything else was withering in the heat of multiple triple digit days?

It had been years since that house of my childhood. I don't think my mom ever planted hydrangeas in the subsequent home of my teenage years.

But these flowers captured my heart and attention in a way that I couldn't turn away from, that not only enchanted me in the moment but brought back memories of times when dreaming and hoping was as easy as breathing.

I began to paint these flowers, often purchasingn bunches from Safeway (they had the most marvelous floral section. I stuck them in vases and placed them all over the apartment, especially on the bookcase that caught the morning light.

I marveled at the way they look like little trees – each "flower" is really a collection of hundreds of tiny bloom, all bunched together like a tree.
 
What marvelous artistry! What looked like a big, bungling, oversized, odd shaped flower as a little girl suddenly turned into a picture of beauty and stalwartness.

Isn't life funny? When I was young, there were so many dreams and desires in my heart. I didn't think of letting them go when adulthood came along. They didn't seem unreasonable. It was just a matter of time before they came to pass.
 
When the years kept going by and those dreams and desires were thwarted time and time again, I started to feel, well, maybe a little like that hydrangea bush, not quite fitting in but blooming anyways in spite of the heat and less-than-ideal circumstances. I didn't grow in the way I wanted to, but I grew. Is this your story too?
 
Does the hydrangea feel the same? A bit awkward standing beside all the other more common garden flowers, yet with a beauty all its own, if it would only see it.
Whether we receive or attain our hopes and dreams – or don't- the passing of time comes. Seasons change. We have to let go. Isn't this common to us all, letting go of either what we hoped for or what we actually received.

Jobs change. Children grow up. Grandchildren grow up. Friendships change. Beloved mentors pass away. Betrayals occur. Finances change, sometimes up, sometimes down.

Much of life is uncertain. How hard this is to navigate for so many of us!
The Beginning of a Cure for a Lost Heart
Somehow in the middle of all of this, we lose heart a bit perhaps. And with the loss of heart comes the loss of vision, of hoping there is something else, some new life, a new plot of earth to dig up, plant seeds, and grow a garden.

Around the time hydrangeas were inviting me to appreciate them, study them, enjoy them, I realized I'd lost a bit of heart! It was a bit of a dark season, but like all dark seasons, there is gold strands. I started painting hydrangeas.

As I was working on my collection, life changed – as it does – and my upcoming move to New York was fast approaching. I had every intention to finish the collection before I moved, but the center piece, the largest one, wasn't done. I had to pack up the paints the day before it was packed, feeling frustrated over my lack of "getting it all done."

Fast forward several months. I hid the collection, left them in a box. But my heart started stirring again. One rainy Saturday, I cleared out a space in my hobbit-esque studio, set down the floor coverings, pulled out the paintings, lined them up and sat on the floor. The paintings stared at me. I stared back.

Then I started to paint again. In my heart, the quiet whisper came, "Pick up your vision again."

To be perfectly honest, I didn't know what my vision for my life was anymore. There was an A plan and a B plan and now both plans were over and done. I wasn't even terribly sad or emotional any longer, I just didn't know what to do or go or fight for anymore. To be in a winter season but wanting spring...this is also common to us all.
 
What do we do when we know we need to move on, but don't know what to move on to? Maybe the best thing is to pick up our craft and start again until direction comes.

Somehow, in some mysterious way, I will never understand, something changed, stirred, and started growing again. As paint colors were mixed and the palette knife created blooms and stems and the graceful arc of the leaves on the canvas, my heart began to thaw.

I don't know where you are in your life. It may be that life is going well, full force forward with momentum and grace. That's a wonderful place to be. I love those seasons and we should thoroughly enjoy them when we have them.
Or maybe you are where I was, in the middle of a winter season, feeling a bit stiff and frozen and unsure of what to do, lacking confidence in even making a decision or going in a direction.

Did you know that essential work is done in the winter season? It's not only a time of hibernation and stagnation. The rest and cold temperatures are integral for some flowers and roots to develop the strength and stamina needed for the growth-oriented seasons.

In fact, some flowers will not bloom to their maximum ability in the spring and summer if they don't get enough cold temperatures in the winter. Hydrangeas don't fall into this category since they do not grow from bulbs, but the point is fascinating to me.

Our winters have purpose.

And spring always, always, always comes after winter.

One of the sweet lessons from this season is realizing it is more important to do the next thing than to try to formulate a grand plan. The plan will come. The early spring work points the way towards it.

The name of this collection is called "Vision."
Blue is often a color associated with calm, clarity, with an ability to promote mental thoughts and stimulation. I didn't realize that when blue popped up as the theme color. Another gift of grace.

The Vision Collection officially launches April 26.
 
If you are reading this before that, you can get a preview of the work by subscribing to the Creative Season newsletter here. I'll be sharing more stories and the complete collection there first.
Author: Melissa AuClair
I love teaching others easy techniques for creating gorgeous floral and seasonal art. Flowers, seasons, and holidays are some of my favorite themes to paint and play with.
 

Paint with me on YouTube, find more in-depth courses on the website, and shop all the art, stationery & stickers in the online store.

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