My “Leaves of Grass”

Opus Magnum in progress
Opus Magnum, first draft

Sometimes I tease myself that my bowls and jars of pot pourri are destined to be my Opus Magnum. I toy with titles for this great work of mine and wonder if I dare to call it, “My Leaves of Grass, with apologies to Walt Whitman.” That’s long winded but my creation is long in the making and, like the wind, changes its form frequently.

For 2 years and a bit I have been pressing and curating petals, flowers, pods, and seeds for my ever growing pot pourri collection.

Peony
Poppy

Most of these pieces I look upon as lines for my version of a “Song of Myself”. Carefully chosen petals, flowers, feathers, bark, and pods represent seasons and moments in my garden, and in my life. They represent my abiding love of nature, my love of family, and my love of friends. In my bowls, there are representative remnants of grief and sorrow. And as much as there is sorrow, there is also deep joy and sweet memories of places and special connections.

My pot pourri, it seems to me, holds the story of my life. Occasionally, when the bowls start to overflow, I scoop up a few lines ( aka a handful ) of my story to give to a friend, especially a friend who may need some comfort or solace. The act of taking a handful is a comfort to me, too. It puts me in touch again with the feelings and emotions that came at the time of the picking and the pressing of the leaf or the flower.

‘Petals in Time’, lovingly pressed between the leaves of an old calendar

Sometimes I tease myself about my Opus Magnum. And it makes me smile.

“Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it, ” ( Song of Myself 1892 version )

Ps: Did you know that Walt Whitman’s title, Leaves of Grass, is a pun? Leaves are, of course, another name for pages. Grass is another word for works of minor value. I think my Opus Magnum project and this post qualify as “grass”.

pps Apologies for the quality of the photos. I am experimenting with posting from my mobile phone and my mobile phone photo gallery. Like the Opus, it’s a work in progress.

70 thoughts on “My “Leaves of Grass”

  1. Clare Pooley

    How lovely this is, Mandy! You have captured moments in time; so much better than photos because these petals and flowers and leaves are tangible and scented and can be shared with others. I hope you had a good Christmas and that this year is a better one than last year. xx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Clare. Although I am late to respond you are not forgotten. Life happens and time gets taken up with more things than flowers. My collection is still growing but at the moment there is nothing to collect and press. Winter is here. 😦

      Reply
  2. Andrea Stephenson

    I’d never thought of pot pourri in this way – probably because I’ve only experienced it in a bag from a shop. I love the way that yours captures your life and that you can give some of that love and care away when needed.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you for coming by! Hope you are all keeping well at Frog Pond Farm. I picked up some tiny gum nuts on my walk today. They make a perfect addition to the every growing pot pourri.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Lavinia, for your generous and supportive words. Yesterday I picked some deep purple clematis to press for the pot pourri. They will be a reminder of how beautiful the clematis is this year.

      Reply
  3. Miriam Hurdle

    It seems like this is a wonderful project, Anne. I used to dry my own petals. I have many rose bushes. Two of them have nice fragrances so I picked those. Did you do the painting of your header? Thank you for visiting my blog. Let’s keep in touch. Merry Christmas to you!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Lovely to see you here, Miriam. I am glad you came by. Your dried rose petals must have been lovely. I must remember to gather some petals from my roses which are in full bloom at the moment. Unfortunately, I can’t claim the header painting was done by me. It is by a NZ artist, Dorothy Nicoll. I don’t know much about her but the painting depicts the shop/business which my grandparents owned between about 1920 to 1948. The building still exists today but slightly altered because of earthquake damage in 2010.

      Reply
      1. Miriam Hurdle

        The painting is lovely, Anne. I’m sure it means a lot to you that the painting depicts your grandparents history. It’s amazing that the building still exists today. Where is it located?

        Reply
  4. shoreacres

    I’ve never been a fan of pot pourri, but thinking about it, I realized I’ve only been exposed to the commercial sort. Inevitably the fragrances are too strong, and reek of commercialism; I’ll not even enter some stores that promote them. Yours, on the other hand, are delicate in shape and color, and I suspect equally delicate in fragrance. It’s a creative endeavor, and a wonderful way to make use of the gifts of your garden!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am not a fan of the commercial sort either for the same reason as you; the strong fragrance. My pot pourri has barely any scent at all, apart from lavender. The other day I was toying with the idea of adding some coffee beans to the mix because a) I like the smell of coffee beans and b) I like the look of them. I haven’t made up my mind about that idea yet. πŸ™‚

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I haven’t tried orange slices yet. That’s something to consider. Usually at Christmas time I stick cloves in a whole orange, just for the pleasure of the fragrance. I don’t think I will be doing that this year as I have decided to take a break from my usual Christmas routines in favour of doing nothing at all. That doesn’t preclude me from wishing you a Happy Christmas!

      Reply
      1. Steve Gingold

        And a Happy Christmas to you too, Anne. The holiday seems better for contemplation than consumer insanity. I saw a meme a while back that said “If you think Christmas is being ruined by the supply chain problems maybe you don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas”. Or something like that. But I do think enjoying a bit of clove spiked orange aroma is fitting. πŸ™‚

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I will drink to that! Saying which I suddenly remember that for the 4th night in a row I have forgotten to drink a glass of the pre-Christmas wine I bought.

  5. Born To Organize

    You’ve inspired me to start pressing flowers and gathering garden gems. I love your creation, the way it ebbs and flows, and the way it’s shared, too, with others in need. I didn’t know that Leaves of Grass is a pun. Beautiful post, Amanda.

    Reply
      1. Born To Organize

        Thank you, Amanda for your kind words and also for sharing the link. It’s fun discovery new things. I’m always tickled to discover the origins of a word or a phrase. Happy Boxing Day and soon a new year.

        Reply
  6. restlessjo

    Whatever you choose to call them, Anne, they’re very beautiful. I love the faded colours and the joy they bring you. Wishing you peace and happiness this festive season.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Peace and happiness to you, too. Your comment makes me think that I may have more fun another day changing the title of my Opus Magnum! Why stick with one title if another more interesting one comes along!

      Reply
  7. Rebecca Budd

    My dear friend, a profound reflection on the ebb and flow of life, something that nature teaches us with every season – of planting and harvesting, of beginnings and endings. I am grateful that you have shared your Opus Magnum with me. Sending many hugs along with my thanks for our friendship.

    β€œHouses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
    I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
    The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.”
    Song of Myself, Walt Whitman.

    Reply
  8. insearchofitall

    Beautifully done photos. I use my phone for them too. Nature crafts is something I’ve always enjoyed and potpourri was so popular so many years ago. You make me want to start again.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I do hope you will start again. πŸ™‚ My pot pourri doesn’t follow a conventional recipe; it’s an ‘anything goes’ creation which makes it a relaxing project which can flow according to my mood.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Peter. I often wish I could hold onto certain beautiful things or experiences forever. This is one way of making them last just a little bit longer.

      Reply
  9. Klausbernd

    Dear Gallivanta
    What a great way to honour Walt Whitman!
    We press leaves of flowers from our garden in books we just read at the time. If we have a look into these books again it reminds of the time and situation when we read this book.
    Wishing you a cosy pre-Christmas time
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      My best wishes to you, Fab Four of Cley. I love that you press your garden flowers in the pages of the books you are reading. I must remember to do that. I have a few pressed flowers in my commonplace books. They are sweet reminders of a time and a place.

      Reply
  10. afrenchgarden

    Beautiful! We are great collectors of dried seed pods but I put them in a china container. I love your idea of the crystal bowl with the dried petals. It is a much better way to enjoy the contents. Amelia

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Amelia. A china container is certainly a great way to keep dried seed pods. My pot pourri in bowls is very exposed to light and dust but fortunately there is very little moisture in the air ( except for today when we are having the worst rain and flooding since 1968!) The crystal bowl (inherited from my great aunt) is a favourite of mine. I love the way it catches the afternoon light when I have it on the dining table.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I am glad you like the effect of the light, Liz. That photo was taken when I was getting started with my project. I was in mourning at the time and the contents of the bowl were filled with flowers pressed from the bouquets sent to me when my mother died. Plus a few of her favourite roses from my garden. The table was covered with a purple cloth, purple being one of my mother’s favourite colours. The comfort gathered from those flowers and the sun sparkle was immense.

  11. utesmile

    That is so lovely and creative. This is something I would like to do. Once I move, I will have a bigger garden and I can plant and enjoy. I have seeds here already to sow, I can’t wait. I always loved flower pressing as my dad did – he sent pressed flowers from Africa during the war to his mum. They are still in a pictureframe in my mum’s house. A little treasure. πŸ™‚ I love your pot pouri and it is definitely an Opus Magnum!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      How lovely that you will soon have a bigger garden. I can imagine how much pleasure that will bring you. I would love to see the pressed flowers your father sent home from Africa. Do you recognise any of the flowers? The flowers I remember most from our time in Egypt are the roses. And there was lots of rosemary in certain areas.

      Reply
      1. utesmile

        In Germany htere is a catholic festival called ‘Fronleichnam’ where they make flower carpets out of petals. When I visitied my mum, I witnessed it once , it was wonderful and colourful. It was on this post: https://utesmile.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/corpus-christi-fronleichnam/
        I thought I had taken a picture of the framed flower, but can’t find it at the moment. Once I have it I shall let you know. I probably want to take that as a memory of my dad. I remember he wrote 1942 underneath.

        Reply
        1. utesmile

          I can imagine, I didn’t know there was one. I have been in Verdun and it is a very sovering experience and reminds you of your loved ones who were in it, and the people who went missing or died in the wars.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      What a lovely comment, Juliet. Thank you. I had a magnificent crop of dark purple poppies this year. I dried as many petals as I could because I wanted to hold on to their satiny luxuriousness for as long as I could. I am happy with the way they responded to the drying process.

      Reply
  12. cindy knoke

    This is so lovely and a beautiful tribute to Whitman. I inherited from my grandfather a first edition of Leaves with the author’s hand written notes part of the text. I treasure it. It is wonderful to see a post from you featuring your unique creative kindness. Merry Christmas Mandy.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh, what a treasure you have in your hands! ( I am trying to refrain from pure envy!) I don’t know Whitman well at all but what I do know fascinates me. I have had a creative blank, or so I thought, for months and months. It was only when I was sorting through my pressed flowers that I realised that my creative life was not blank but had been making a temporary home in my pot pourri project. A Merry Christmas to you, too.

      Reply

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