Seeds of Valour

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. ”


I don’t claim to understand the quote but it is at the least, an invitation to look and wonder.

These Iris seed heads were discovered on an outing during September. They were maybe a little immature but I brought them home and let them dry out. Now seems like a good time to put them in a pot of damp compost and forget them again to allow time and nature the opportunity to do their magic. The Iris flower commonly means wisdom, hope, truth and valour; so proceeding with hope. All plants and seeds will valiantly do their best to grow, even when conditions are virtually, well, futile.

These blue irises were originally purple but the red pigment was fugitive and has faded away. The Van Gogh Museum says the motivation was an exploration of colour – the complimentary purple and yellow would certainly have been very vivid – and as they hold much of Vincent and Theo’s correspondence, I expect they can substantiate the claim. It would be a fairly straightforward process for the Museum to provide a digital image to replicate a good idea of how it looked originally as the correspondence will include what pigment VG was using, then apply a filter to the image. It would demonstrate some of the concepts he was exploring.

I like the idea of artworks having an independent life cycle, on something similar to the scale of trees. There are examples of Renaissance paintings that used fugitive yellow pigment for instance. In more modern times, I read a hard copy article about Rothko that claimed that he deliberately used materials that would destabilise and decay; these were his late paintings too. I have never ‘got’ Rothko and being much younger then thought it outrageous to charge enormous sums for something that was deliberately decaying.

Decades later, the vanities of youth seem preposterous. Now I think he was telling us something, so I never ‘got’ him, but he’s been with me most of my life 😃

I wonder what VG would have thought about his celebrity, whether modest success would have brought him some peace and contentment, would he be so renowned if his widowed sister-in-law hadn’t been successful in promoting him and his correspondence? His fame after death seems to contradict Shelley or do these both speak more about society’s attitudes towards loss and annihilation?

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


This poem speaks of vanity, futility, hubris. We are all just passing through on the way to being those lone and level sands, royalty and commoners all turn to dust in the end. Empires, universes, rise and fall. Reflections on personal annihilation that are a bit uncomfortable to unpick but hover in that limnal space between perceptions and thought. Is that something of what the Buddha quote could be indicating? The valiant drive to growth despite the eventual, and for humans, known annihilation.

Interesting and informative poem guide >>>

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