I get out in the fresh morning air to dig my hands into the soil at our community garden allotment. In the evening I sit down with an embroidery. It occurs to me that these seemingly different creative outlets do have a common ground. Today I will guide you through stitches and garden beds.
Come what May
May is a hectic time in the garden beds – the window sill is filled to the brim with pregerminated plants looking towards the garden with longing in their buds, waiting to come out. To make room for them in the pallet collar greenhouses just outside the front door I need to find a spot in the garden beds for the plants already in the greenhouses. The plants need to go in the right quarter of the crop rotation and with the proper companion plants. It’s a giant puzzle with aesthetics, context and function to consider.
I plant, take a few steps back to imagine colours, height, shapes and space a couple of months from now, coming in closer to add another plant. Back and forth, trying to imagine all the parameters, worrying about plants that haven’t germinated yet or the absence of rain. Taking into account trees and shadows, garden paths and soil depth.
Flowers fit for a queen
I remove the lace curtain from atop the kale patch and look at the plants I have just snuggled down in the soil. The pointy and dark black kale leaves with almost burgundy undersides, the light green rounded brussel sprout leaves with a matte finish. All plants only three apples high at the moment, but in a month or two considerably taller. I imagine the bubbly black kale, tall and mighty, looking out over the garden like a queen at her subjects. Yes, she is the queen of all the lands. I close my eyes and see the brussel sprouts holding on to the stem, tightly, tightly, top leaves sprouting out above like tufts of hair. Flowers! The kale needs flowers, something fit for a queen. Marigolds, certainly, brightly orange in the sun. A nasturtium or two, winding their way between the stems. And cosmos, sweet cosmos with their pink flowers almost floating on top of the dill-like greenery, moving softly, majestically in the breeze. Fit for a queen indeed. I open my eyes and tuck the plants back in under the lace curtain, heart singing of gardening joy.
At noon the sun becomes too strong. I wave the allotment goodbye and go inside. I tell myself it’s enough for today, but I still get back a few hours later when the garden is cooler, looking against my better judgement to see if any plants have grown or germinated while I have been gone. They usually haven’t.
I stay for a while, enjoying the stillness of the afternoon. Having my hands in the soil is a joy. I feel the earth in my hands, see the busy workers in the soil and smile at the sweet sprouts as I imagine them all grown up and ready to harvest in August.
In the evening I work on a påsöm embroidery. I have the main shapes all finished and need to embellish with greenery, small flowers and extra sparkle, fill out the empty spaces and find harmony in colour, shape and distribution. I stitch for a while, put the project down, take a few steps back to imagine the finished result.
Just as I am ready to walk away I see something in the corner of my eye, a shape for an empty patch. I can’t help myself, draw the shape onto the fabric and start stitching again. Just one more leaf.
Flowers all set, in pinks, whites, ruby and deep purple. now to add greens. I want overwhelm, abundance, stitches so plentiful there is no room for a single more. Stitch by stitch I fill in the blanks, add leaves to every naked stem, sneak in a daisy or two. I stitch to the very last piece of the wool. I back away to see the entirety, come back close to add another leaf. Details and whole in a sweet dance, choreographed by colour, texture and shape. With needle in hand I grow a flower bed with yarn.
Parallel creative processes
Creating an embroidery is not that different from creating a vegetable garden. As I work with these two processes at the same time, imagining a result I can’t really predict, I realize they are in some way part of the same process; of wholeness and details, context and creativity. I have gone through these processes before, just not at the same time.
I can feel the neural pathways from the two processes come closer to each other and suddenly wave; ”Hi! Fancy meeting you here, let’s flow together!”. And they do, side by side, diverging and converging, all at their own pleasure. The power of plants and stitches suddenly walk together in a new pathway, discovering new perspectives and aesthetic connections between beds and embroideries, plants and stitches, together.
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