We Care - Earth Care!
Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church
June 2021
The Flower Issue
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
                                                         —Matthew 6: 28-29
From the Editors

The great evolutionist Loren Eiseley famously claimed that flowers changed the world. For millions of years, he said, earth’s landscape had shown only the endless, monotonous green of conifers, mosses, and tree ferns. Then flowers evolved with their myriad colorful blooms that brought nectar and pollen for hungry insects and seeds whose concentrated fats and sugars enabled warm-blooded mammals to thrive and diversify. When humans arrived with their big brains very late in the game—Eiseley calls us the “dream animal”—they seized on flowers for beauty, pleasure, symbolism, and sacred rites. From the very beginning, flowers have enriched our outer and inner worlds. Whether you think of them biologically, aesthetically, or romantically, we hope you’ll enjoy these stories of how flowers have brought inspiration and delight to folks in our congregation. 

In This Issue
Speaking of Faith: Rebekah Nolt reflects on morning glories; Julie Malkin remembers Mary Pennycuff’s flowers; Earl Apel tends his mother’s roses; Carl Ward considers ikebana as spiritual practice
Know Your Neighbors: Nan Costello discovers Hawaiian flowers; Julie Malkin remembers the glass flowers of Harvard; John Tallmadge walks with wildflowers all over North America
Walking the Talk: Rick Sowash composes a wildflower walk; Diane Smith explores Dutch flower paintings.
Quick Escapes: where to smell the flowers in the woods, parks, and gardens of SW Ohio
Speaking of Faith
Morning Glory Story
Rebekah Nolt writes:
Sometimes I think one of the hardest things for us humans to do is admit when we do not know something. About six years ago, I set out to live off the grid in a camper in a cow field. In exchange for use of the land and access to the water pump, I was asked to take on garden responsibilities for a rather extensive plot. I grew up doing a bit of gardening, so I thought I knew the basics. This garden plot was filled with an ample variety of perennial flowers that bloomed in colors that I could have sworn only existed in my imagination. I did not grow up with flowers in the garden, so of course I did not know what any of these flowers were. You cannot know something you’ve never encountered before. It doesn't matter how old you are or how seemingly obvious the thing is.  
When they told me to plant some more flowers, I wanted to prove my worth. Also, I was a little embarrassed that I, someone who had made my life as close to one with nature as possible, did not know all the things that grew in the garden, so I did not tell them I was clueless. I was sure I could figure it out. Afterall, I had figured out how to do all the electrical wiring for my solar panels and battery system for my camper on my own. Delicate pink and purple petals should be no problem since they don’t have the potential of electrocuting me. So I set out to plant and add beauty.

Digging through the flower seeds in the barn, I found quite a few unlabeled packs. While I can easily identify vegetable seeds from a mile away, six years ago I couldn’t even begin to identify a zinnia seed from that of a morning glory. So, gardeners be warned, what happened next is something of a nightmare. 
Because I refused to admit I did not know something, I walked through the garden scattering seeds, thinking I was adding a nice cut flower addition to the more delicate perennial colors only to actually be planting the prolific and all consuming morning glory. However beautiful they would become, the morning glories destroyed so much in that garden for years, even killing a redbud tree eventually.  
No one knows everything and we will always have things to learn, no matter how old we are. There is no shame in asking questions and admitting when there is something we do not know, even if we think we should know it. A lot of struggles could be avoided if we practiced admitting our limitations and let curiosity lead rather than stubbornness and shame. Six years later, I’m certain blue, pink and purple blooms still peek their faces towards the sun each morning, because if there is one thing more stubborn than humans, it’s morning glories.  
Mary’s Flowers
Julie Malkin writes:

When I joined the choir, in the early 2000’s, I had the privilege of sitting next to Mary Pennycuff. My untrained, shy, and weaker voice took better shape in her presence. Often, in the time before Sunday services we would chat about our families. She was like an older sister, lending an experienced ear as I worked my way through the challenges of living with teenagers. When my older daughter, Emily, went off to college in 2004, I experienced a deep sense of loss. We were close, having survived the teenage years together. Her bedroom, which for 18 years was so full of energy, was now silent. I shed tears as I talked with Mary about it. And several days later she sent a photograph of a peony bush in full bloom, along with words of understanding and support.
Many of us at MAPC knew Mary’s lovely voice, gracious manner and strong musical leadership. But, she was also a gardener. Occasionally, she and her husband, John, hosted choir events at their home, where we not only enjoyed their warm hospitality, but also admired the amazing vegetable and flower gardens (such tall corn in a suburban garden!). And the house was always full of Mary’s fresh cut flowers. The photo of peonies that she sent to me had been taken in her yard. I kept that card for many years.
This past year, after my husband died, I met John in a grief support group. I shared with him some memories of their gardens. He said, yes, they had continued to garden through the years, but the vegetable garden had shrunk over time. However, Mary continued to love flowers, keeping fresh bouquets in the house throughout the year, so John had kept the flowers going. Flowers had been so important to Mary that, after she passed away, their neighbor had carefully saved seeds from her flowers. John recently planted these seeds as a living memorial to Mary’s love and beauty. I can’t help but think of Mary’s adaptation of the American hymn, “What Wondrous Love”.
“And when from death I’m joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.” (sic)

My Mother’s Roses
Earl Apel writes (on Facebook):
“I post this photo in honor of my mom, Carmie Apel, whose birthday is today, May 22. Mom would have been 91 today. This rose bush, which is now in my yard, originally belonged to Angie Collins, my mom's mom and my grandma. I was working in my yard today and noticed the bush had just started blooming, and so I took this photo. When mom was at my house she always wanted to take a look at this rose bush. I expect it helped her remember her mother. Today it helps me remember both of them, which is a blessing and is in a sense a link to eternity!”

Ikebana, The Way of the Flower
Carl Ward writes:
Friendship through Flowers

The Southern Highlands Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC is home to Asheville’s Ikebana chapter. Members and enthusiasts use the auditorium for monthly meetings and live demonstrations. A friend had invited me to this very setting and a front row seat. A pallatte of flowers and plant material welcomed the sensai (teacher) to center stage.
The first of five contemporary arrangements began with the selection of three flower; these would serve as principle stems with predetermined angles and lengths. Blooms varied in size and formed the shape of a scalene triangle with vertices of color. Additional stems and leaves accentuated the triangle with depth and movement. As a finishing touch where less is more, removal of overlapped leaves invited more light and space into the arrangement. The sensai placed the pair of scissors on a folded towel. Now complete, applause followed.
Within days, the sensai accepted me as a new study in the contemporary school of Ichiyo and I became an active member of Asheville’s Ikebana International Chapter #74. My eyes had been opened to new optics and the way of flower.   

East Meets West
Most of us are familiar with European-style arrangements. Vases are generously filled with domes of color flowers. This abundant approach is from the Victorian era and remains popular among mainstream florists in the Western world. 
During the European Renaissance, a different tradition emerged in the Eastern hemisphere. Once reserved for Buddhist priests, Ikebana (literal translation “The Way of the Flower”) became an art form and was widely practiced throughout Japan. Adhering to a different set of rules, simplistic beauty was emphasized. The shape and size of leaves were considered just as important as the shape and size of flower blooms. In contrast to the West, Japanese arrangements were lighter, not excessive, an ultimate essential.
              Western European
Seven Principles
Today, there are many schools of Ikebana, each having an aesthetic that is unique in design and practice. Nevertheless, most adhere to seven basic principles: 
Silence: Ikebana brings peace to your mind; observe and work with nature. 
Minimalism: Less is More, a Buddhist ideal. 
Shape and Line: Shapes should be minimal. Lines are to be graceful. 
Form: The form of an arrangement is found and discovered, not planned. . 
Humanity: Humanity and nature are incorporated. 
Aesthetics: Imperfect, elegant, subtle, original, process, discipline. 
Structure: A scalene triangle is the basic structure delineated by three main points (heaven, earth, humanity).

Meditative Practice
With origins in Buddhism, symbolism and reverence for the spiritual, Ikebana is meditative in practice and integral to Japanese arts. Principle flowers represent the entire world: shin (heaven, points towards the sky and source of energy), soe (earth, heaven’s counterbalance) and tai (earth, humanity). The Way of the Flower invites spiritual calm and a space for contemplative practice. Balance.
Don’t Break the Budget
As with any art form, materials and supplies can be expensive. The price of some flowers can be a staggering deterrent. The Ikebana ideal is to increase awareness and use your surroundings. Yards are filled with great material. Check the outdoors after storms and high wind. A broken branch with blooms is a great find. Consider a bed of perennials with three seasons of cut flowers.  Look out for great deals at Fresh Market, Findlay and your local Krogers.
Ikebana at MAPC
Ikebana workshops will return in the fall and 2022. Workshops are 1.5–2 hours in length. Lessons are free and cost of plant material is kept to a minimum. It’s the perfect way to spend time with friends and nature.
“What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them…Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.” 
                                                     —Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Know your Neighbors
The Meaning of Flowers in Hawaiian Culture

Nan Costello writes:
Staying in Maui for extended period gives one a chance to get acquainted with a few native Hawaiian traditions, the most obvious of which is the meaning of flowers. 
The most common is the giving of a lei, a circle of flowers offered in welcome, celebration, or sympathy, such as at funerals. A lei can be worn as a necklace, a bracelet or a crown. It is not unusual, when dining out, to see people both young and old proudly wearing a lei po’o, a ring of flowers worn on the head to signify some special event. At high school graduations, each senior may be given so many lei they often go up to their eyes. Most of these haveflowers but many have candy and some even have dollar bills attached.  
The flowers and leaves used in lei each have their own meaning. The plumeria represents birth, new beginnings, love. It is a very positive and hopeful symbol, popular and adored as you can imagine. In Hawaiian culture, the plumeria, when worn in a woman’s hair, can symbolize her romantic status. The flower comes in two colors, bright pink and creamy yellow and is known for its strong sweet scent. In ancient times, only royalty were allowed to wear them. As revered and prolific as the plumeria is, it is not a native flower. It was brought to the island by a German botanist in 1860 and the plant thrives in the volcanic soil.
The flower that most people associate with Hawaii, is the hibiscus, the national flower. It was once an endangered species but now can be found almost everywhere. While the plant blooms every day, the bloom only lives one day and therefore is not used in making lei. The yellow hibiscus’ vivid color signifies delicate beauty and joyfulness. It is a native flower, one that Hawaiians revere as a symbol of great power and respect. 
The bird of paradise flower is strikingly beautiful and is used in many flower arrangements. The orange and blue flower is native to the Hawaiian bush country. It symbolizes magnificence and joy because it looks like a bird taking flight.
A flower we know as the jasmine, is called the Pikake flower, named after Princess Kaiulani’s favorite bird, the peacock. The pikake is worn most often by brides, hula dancers and honored guests. 
The flower known as the first flower that grows on the lava after a volcanic eruption, is called ohia lehua flower. Its name refers to an ancient myth of a young heartbroken Pele, the volcano goddess, whose male interest, Ohia, is in love with another woman, Lehua. The goddess turns Ohia into a twisted tree. When Lehua begs for Ohia to be returned, Pele turns her into a blossom on the tree so the lovers can be together forever. According to mythology, that is why, if you pick the Lehua flower from the tree, it will rain. It is believed the rain drops are the tears Lehua sheds as she is separated from her lover.

Each flower on this tropical island, has a specific story to tell. By learning more about them, you can better understand Hawaiian culture and history, both of which are incredibly beautiful and rich. 
Harvard’s Glass Flowers
Julie Malkin writes:
Have you ever wished that the peony or iris which you cut at its moment of perfection could be preserved intact? Is there any way to stop the natural slide toward decay? While modern “silk” flowers may suspend that moment in time, they fall short of nature’s perfect beauty. In the mid-19th century a German glass maker, Leopold Blaschka, developed techniques to do just that. Several generations of Blaschkas had been creating decorative glass as well as glass eyes and lab equipment. While on a trip to America in 1853 Leopold’s ship was becalmed for two weeks off the coast of New England, during which time he noted the glass-like appearance of jellyfish. Back in Dresden, he applied his craft to the duplication of marine invertebrates, and his creations were eventually displayed in natural history museums around the world. The Boston Society of Natural History Museum (now the Museum of Science) obtained 131 of Blaschka’s “sea creatures” in 1880. 
Several years later, the director of the new Harvard Botanical Museum, George Lincoln Goodale, encountered the glass marine models. At that time Harvard was the global center for botanical study, and he wanted to provide scholars with the highest quality botanical models. Given the ephemeral nature of plants and flowers, it is difficult to study them in their live state. Drawings and dried pressed samples have limitations, but glass is three dimensional and retains its color. 
Goodale was so impressed with the realism of Blaschka’s marine models that he went to Dresden in 1889 and requested a series of botanical models. What followed was a five-decade relationship between Harvard and the father/son team of Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, who created over 4300 glass models representing 780 species. Known as the Ware Collection (for the original benefactors, Elizabeth and Mary Lee Ware) approximately 75% of the models are permanently displayed at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History. 
Harvard’s Glass Flowers are breathtaking. It is truly difficult to believe they are not live specimens. As a child living in the Boston area, I was lucky to make several visits to the Museum. I was always enchanted. I was sure the bee hovering over the pistils and stamens would take flight as I approached the display case. And, unlike “silk” replicas, the individual glass flowers on a stalk are in different stages of bloom and decline. In 2016 I returned to see the collection with Richard, who had also found delight in them as a boy.
They remain as magical and beautiful as ever. How did the Blaschkas do it? Unfortunately, they didn’t train any apprentices, and knowledge of their techniques passed with Rudolph.

You don’t need to travel to Cambridge to view these amazing flowers. The Harvard Museum of Natural History is hosting a virtual tour of the Ware Collection on June 8, 2021 at 6 PM. Pre-registration is required.
Real or glass? Can you tell?
Walking with Wildflowers
John Tallmadge writes:
Growing up in the urban east, I was not much interested in wildflowers. I knew they existed outside of gardens and yards, in woods or neglected places. I noticed that they were generally smaller and less showy than their cultivated cousins, and being sort of that way myself, I identified with them. But it wasn’t until I began hiking and canoeing in the wilderness that I really began to appreciate them.
In high mountains the growing season is less than eight weeks and the flowers put out a tremendous effort into rise up and bloom. At first I was charmed by their gentle-seeming beauty, but a sleet storm at treeline was all it took to reveal how rugged and alien they were. Species like Polemonium are used to living with violence and extremes. 
When I moved to Minnesota, I found the same resilience and modesty out on the prairies, where winter lasts five months and temperatures can drop to 40-below, Plants know how to bide their time. In April, as soon as the snow melts, you can find the pasque flower, which looks like a kind of hairy crocus, pushing up through the bleached tangle of last year’s grass. Its lavender, cup-shaped blossom gathers the pale spring sunlight like a parabolic mirror and focuses it on the developing ovary.
A few weeks later, in sheltered woody draws, you can find the round-lobed hepatica with its delicate white or violet blooms, the white waxy flowers of bloodroot, so named for its bright orange sap, the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger with its maroon, bell-like flowers opening at ground level, where they are pollinated by crawling beetles, or—my favorite—the delicate trout lily with its speckled leaves and star-shaped blooms. They may not rival Solomon in all his glory, but have all the understated elegance and mystery of a Basho haiku. Perhaps that’s why Pam and I chose it for our wedding flower.
Farther north in the Boundary Waters, I learned more about wildflowers from naturalist colleagues who explained that these seemingly delicate organisms from the forest understory were often older than the trees around them. Take a hand lens to their bulbous tubers and you can see the ridges of annual rings. They take advantage of spring sunlight that reaches the forest floor only for a few weeks before the trees leaf out. To them, living on the edge means opportunity.
When we moved to Cincinnati, what at first glance seemed like an alien landscape turned out to harbor many familiar wildflowers. Discovering trout lilies and hepatica in Clifton Gorge and Spring Grove Cemetery did much to alleviate our transplant shock. Thirty years later, we know that with imagination, attentiveness, and resilience one can learn to feel at home anywhere. And it never hurts to discover old friends as new neighbors. 
Walking the Talk
Composing a Wildflower Walk

Rick Sowash writes:
Come, visit my class, right now.  Together, let’s consider one aspect of one movement from my Trio #10 for clarinet, cello and piano, subtitled “Winds of May”; it's the second movement, “Wildflowers.” Let’s consider which instruments are playing when … and why.
If you were seated in a concert hall, observing a clarinetist, a cellist and a pianist coming on stage, then poised, seated, ready to play, you might expect all three musicians to play continuously throughout the performance. That could happen. It’s one possibility. If all three play continuously, that alone will MEAN a certain something: a metaphor of continuity, unity, cooperation.

Are those the qualities I want to evoke in this particular movement? No.

This movement is titled “Wildflowers.” Are wildflowers continuous, unified, cooperative? Is that how we experience them? Walking in a spring woods, coming upon wildflowers, do we experience them all together, all at once? No.
Wildflowers press themselves upon our consciousness in varying patterns, often one or two at a time. As we saunter along, we leave their colors behind us, only to find those same colors re-appearing in front of us a little later, sometimes separately, sometimes in a cluster or ’stand’ of the same species; still other times we glimpse several varieties at once, in close proximity.
Wildflowers press themselves upon our consciousness in varying patterns, often one or two at a time. As we saunter along, we leave their colors behind us, only to find those same colors re-appearing in front of us a little later, sometimes separately, sometimes in a cluster or ’stand’ of the same species; still other times we glimpse several varieties at once, in close proximity.
How can this simple phenomenon be conveyed in music? How did one particular composer, (the undersigned), answer that question to his own satisfaction and, hopefully, yours?
Let me guide you through this short movement with a simple, easy-to-follow chronological ‘map.’ If you want to listen as you follow me, click here:
The movement opens with a lilting, descending figure in the piano.

At :07 the piano exits and the cello enters, rising, the clarinet answering immediately, falling. They form a duet, two wildflowers standing side by side, a bluebell and a trillium, spontaneously arising from the green forest floor.
At :47, having said what they have to say, the cello and the clarinet cease playing, they go silent for now. We move on, leaving those flowers behind.
From :48 the piano wends a winding path through a stand of a single variety, perhaps "a host of golden daffodils."  The piano is the only ‘color' we hear. The other instruments are at rest. At 2:32 the piano goes silent. We’ve moved on again.
At 2:37, so shyly, so tentatively, so unsure of itself, the cello creeps into our vision again, or rather, this being music, our hearing, playing a rising figure, as when it first raised its voice.
At 2:44 the clarinet joins the cello with a falling figure. It makes a satisfying symmetry because -- remember? — we heard this same music at the opening of the movement. The tune has returned to us. Or have we returned to it? Wildflowers are stationery. They do not move among us. It is we who have been moving among them.
Together the cello and the clarinet make it clear, make it simple, make it sing.
At 3:50 they play the falling figure you heard when the piano began the movement, as if they are inviting the piano to join them. Sure enough, she does, at 3:53. 
In the whole of this little movement, the final phrase marks the first and only time when all three instruments play together, contributing to the final chord. They make a lovely threesome, the bluebell, the trillium and the daffodil, a trio of wildflowers waiting for us, together, at the end of our little walk in the spring woods.
Moral Issues in Dutch Flower Paintings

Diane Smith writes:

One of my favorite periods for flower paintings is the Dutch Golden Era between 1590-1650. Flower and genre paintings arose out of the Protestant Reformation in Northern Europe, where the patronage for art came not from the church as in the south but from middle class merchants. As a result these paintings had to be small enough to fit in a home. They depicted every day life in the sort of well-organized household that we see in the works of Vermeer. But flower paintings gradually came to serve as more than just decoration. They also began to impart moral lessons.

Flower paintings were not called still lifes until 1650. They were referred to by the subject such as flower piece or breakfast piece. During this period the Dutch were leading the way in horticulture, and the invention of the microscope helped to encourage botanical illustration. So women artists became very interested in the study and classification of plants.  Maria van Oosterwych and Rachel Ruysch were the leading women artists in Utrecht and Antwerp, two cities at the center of flower painting in oil. Their work helped create a distinct genre of flower painting known as a vanitas, in which the imagery carried a moral lesson. Vanitas paintings remind us of our mortality. They emphasize the transience of life, the futility of earthly pleasures, and the pointlessness of the quest for power and glory—everything, in short, that we mean by “the vanity of human wishes.”
I’ve chosen two paintings by Maria van Oosterwych to showcase these vanitas paintings of flowers. One painting Still Life (1669) is at the Cincinnati Art Museum, so you can view it in person. The second painting is Vanitas—Still Life (1668). Both paintings on the surface look simply like “pretty pictures” of flowers and objects. Still life art work was always considered as a mere academic study and did not compare in importance to religious or historical paintings.
Let’s look at the paintings more closely. (I suggest you look them up on the internet so you can enlarge them to see all the details that I’ll mention.)
First of all, the flowers themselves are not drawn from nature; rather, the artists relied on drawings, studies and botanical illustrations. The bouquet represents flowers from different blooming seasons. They are painted on a dark background so the flowers and objects are highlighted with luminous colors and rich details. The artists also used a technique referred to as Dutch trompe l’oeil. This means they are trying to fool your eye into believing this painting is real. They will drop objects off the table at the front of the canvas so it comes into the viewer’s space. 
The CAM painting Still Life is the simpler of the two. There are flowers in various degrees of decay, a dragonfly, a butterfly, various flies and even a spider. So at first glance it looks just lovely, but on a closer look you see these animals feasting on the flowers. The moral is that beauty doesn’t last; it is transient and susceptible to appetite. Many Dutch artists in their flower still life paintings will show a reflection in the vase of a nearby window, which not only reinforces the sense of realism but reminds the viewer that all this extravagant but transient color is being observed in an enclosed domestic space that is also open to the outer world.
The next painting Vanitas-Still Life (1668) is a much more ambitious work. The theme is the same, but the artist has added other worldly objects along with the flowers to make her message clearer. Here she uses the symbolic elements of the skull, hourglass, books, pen and ink, a bag of money, musical instruments, a globe, as examples of worldly activities. Notice the glass vase that shows a reflection of a window just as in the CAM painting. The flowers on the left are in various stages of decay. The front edge of the painting shows us the technique of trompe l’oeil. The wheat stock is being nibbled by a small mouse and piece of paper comes into our space. 
The chaotic placement of the objects relate to the chaos of materialism in life. The presence of the butterfly and the ear of corn symbolically represent the resurrection. The dragonfly represents the growth, transformation and adaptability of the human. The artist wanted to emphasize the devaluing of possession and success in this world and wanted her viewers to focus on their relationship with God in preparation for the after life. 
So my hope is that when you view a still life of flowers, you will expect not just a beautiful picture but a painting with a lesson to be contemplated.
Quick Escapes
John Tallmadge writes:

For those who want not only to smell the flowers, but to discover, admire, learn from, and enjoy them as well, Cincinnati offers a wealth of opportunities. 
Wildflowers are abundant in early spring at various local parks, notably the old growth sections of Ault Park, Caldwell Preserve, and California Woods. The Arboretum Center of Mt. Airy Forest has a woodland section devoted to wildflowers, as well as curated horticultural plantings. The Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society has advocated for preservation and sponsored field trips and outings for decades. See their web site for details. They also maintain an active Facebook page with information on what’s coming into bloom and where to get the best views.
For cultivated flowers, don't forget Krohn Conservatory, where tropical flowers are always in bloom. The formal gardens of Ault Park and the Hauck Gardens at the Civic Garden Center (known affectionately as “Sooty Acres” are well worth a visit. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanic Garden is justly famous for its plantings, as is Spring Grove Cemetery.
For those able to venture farther afield, the Cincinnati Nature Center offers displays and spring flower walks. Some of the best wildflower blooms can be found at Clifton Gorge or Glen Helen in Yellow Springs. Best of all, in my view, is the Highlands Nature Sanctuary in south central Ohio, part of the Arc of Appalachia preserve system. With a museum, miles of streamside rails, and patches of rare wildflowers in ancient woods, it makes a wonderful day trip.
What's Next
Upcoming Issues:

July: Walking
Thanks to all our contributors for this issue! If you’d like to write for us, please contact your faithful editors, Julie Malkin (mlkjulia458@gmail.com) and John Tallmadge (jatallmadge@gmail.com).