The Secret of Happiness

"[Gardening] connects you with what is outside yourself like few other activities, and that is the secret of happiness."
Diana Athill, writer, in a wonderful article about the lure of gardening for various writers.

I came home last night after being away for most of the last two weeks on photo shoots. Today is a bright sunny day and I spent an hour working on a client's garden, mostly pruning and clearing dead branches to make way for spring planting. Spring can't come soon enough.



Poster designed by James White and Signalnoise Studio

I spent the last week in Palm Beach and the Bahamas photographing sumptuous homes, filled with expensive art and luxurious possessions. Every night in my hotel room, I watched the footage of the destruction in Japan on the news and was reminded of the fragility of existence and the futility of the material world.

There is a centuries old tradition in Japan where Zen monks, samurai and others compose poems at moments of death. The monk Kozan Ichikyo, wrote these lines on the morning of February 12, 1360:

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going --
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

When he finished, he laid down his brush and died sitting upright.



Galanthus nivalis

From the Greek word gala, for milk, and anthos, for flower, are the roots of the snowdrop's Latin name. The species name, nivalis, means "of the snow," so Galanthus nivalis literally means "milk flower of the snow." It's a fittingly poetical name for this gem of a flower that braves the cold and shows itself even in the bleakest of winter days. In some countries, it's known as fair maids of February. In French, it's called perce-neige, which literally translates as snow-piercer.

Fear no more, thou timid Flower!
Fear no more the winter's might,
The whelming thaw, the ponderous shower,
The silence of the freezing night.

"The Snowdrop"
Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Visual Break

Sam Taylor-Wood directed her fiance Aaron Johnson in a video for REM's song Uberlin. Great dancer.


Spring, almost

March, from the Roman Martius, was the first month of the Roman calendar. The Anglo-Saxons called it "Hlyd monath," meaning Stormy month, or "Hraed monath," Rugged month. To me March is both a stormy and rugged month, but it is also "a month of expectation." The sun is bright but the chill still lingers in the air. In the garden, the dead hydrangea blooms are worn down almost to nothing but delicate filigrees that barely hang onto the branches. Any moment now, they will give way to new buds, like the ones filling up the magnolia trees. Hellebore blossoms, enveloped in glossy new foliage, are pushing out of the soil. Crocuses have burst into flowers. The witch hazels are fading fast, while tiny yellow winter aconites are making their cheery appearance on the ground. It is spring, almost.