Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Monday, December 21, 2015

In A Vase on Monday - Advent Four and Winter Solstice

In A Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden each week.  Click on over to her blog to see her Monday arrangement and links to those of other participating bloggers.

My blogging friend Linda (Linda Letters) has a solstice tradition of walking her garden to see what's in bloom on the shortest day of the year, a delightful tradition that I've decided to adopt.  Today's arrangements include some of what I found brave enough to be blooming right now.

Lonicera fragrantissima and Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ will lend their fragrances. Pernettya mucronata rubra, and a symphoricarpos with purple berries lend color. Three little Marjorie roses, Jasminum nudiflorum, and some abutilons along with some evergreen foliage and a bit of Poncirus trifolata.

There were too many blooms for only one small vase which was a good thing as I couldn't decide which of these to use.  Two arrangements it would be.  Could they work together somehow?

Scholars believe that Jesus was born in the spring.  The celebration on December 25th (first recorded celebration at this time was in 336 A.D.) takes place because there were already so many celebrations going on at that time of year. (Politics and all that.)  The eastern Orthodox tradition, still utilizes the Julian calendar and celebrates on Jan 6, when the western church celebrates Epiphany.  Anyway, it's a time filled with traditions, lore, and reveling.  The following poetry, stories, and music are offered in a spirit of sharing.  If you're offended by this sort of thing, feel free to skip the words and enjoy the pictures. 

Advent four is the Sunday in the western liturgical church when the readings include the story of the Mary's visit to her older and wiser relative, Elizabeth, to tell her about the angel Gabriel's visit and her pregnancy. Elizabeth herself was carrying John (the baptist.)  According to the story, John lept in his mother's womb upon Mary's greeting.

"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  and why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? "  Luke 1: 41-43

Mary's response is the famous Magnificat AKA The Song of Mary.
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
(Interesting tidbit, compare this to the song of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2 and Psalm 113.  Were these Mary's original words or were she and Elizabeth singing something they already knew?  You know, like from Elizabeth's Itunes collection.  Were these words penned by a scholar(s) later?)

 This text has been set by so many composers that it would be easier to make a list of those who haven't had a stab at it.  Stabat Mater is another matter entirely and makes a fun, if somewhat esoteric musical joke - Why wasn't Vivaldi (for instance) a good son?  Because he took a stabat mater.  Get it, stab at mother?

Anyway, my current favorite setting of the Magnificat is by American composer Rene Clausen.

You may have heard the popular setting of Ave Maria by Franz Biebl. If not here's a video:

And, if you haven't brushed up on your Latin lately, here's what they're singing in the Biebl piece.

The angel of the Lord visited Mary
and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus

Mary said: See the servant of the Lord.
May it happen to me according to your word.

Hail Mary, etc.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

Hail Mary, etc.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Holy Mary, pray for us now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

Vase number one. Hope now turns to expectation in the midst of the darkness.

Here's a different perspective of the story of the annunciation (When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.)

Gabriel's Annunciation

For a moment
I hesitated
on the threshold.
For the space of a breath
I paused, 
unwilling to disturb
her last ordinary moment,
knowing that the next step
would cleave her life:
that this day
would slice her story
in two,
dividing all the days before
from all the ones to come.

The artists would later
depict the scene:
Mary dazzled 
by the archangel,
her head bowed 
in humble assent,
awed by the messenger
who condescended
to leave paradise
to bestow such an honor
upon a woman, and mortal.

Yet I tell you
it was I who was dazzled,
I who found myself agape 
when I came upon her-
reading, at the loom, in the kitchen,
I cannot now recall;
only that the woman before me-
blessed and full of grace
long before I called her so-
shimmered with how completely
she inhabited herself,
inhabited the space around her,
inhabited the moment
that hung between us.

I wanted to save her
 from what I had been sent 
to say.

Yet when the time came,
when I had stammered the invitation 
(history would not record 
the sweat on my brow,
the pounding of my heart;
would not note 
that I said
Do not be afraid
to myself as much as 
to her)
it was she
who saved me-
her Let it be
not just declaration 
to the Divine 
but a word of solace,
of soothing,
of benediction

for the angel
in the doorway
who would hesitate
one last time-
just for the space 
of a breath
torn from his chest-
before wrenching himself away
from her radiant consent,
her beautiful and 
awful yes.

- Jan Richardson

Vase number two - In the fullness of time or Lo, How a Rose e're Blooming or Quelle est cette odeur agréable.  You choose. 

Vase one in front of vase two.

Side by side with a little sparkle of anticipation and expectancy.  Holding the light until it begins it's ascent and the promise of spring reveals itself.

After Annunciation

                                                                  This is the irrational seasoon
                                                                  when love blooms bright and wild.
                                                                  Had Mary been filled with reason
                                                                  there'd have been no room for the child.

                                                                                   -Madeline L'Engle

The Shortest Day

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen'
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
and when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!
However you celebrate the season or not, may you be filled with wonder at the changing seasons, with joy at the returning of the light and feel peace and love.  Happy Solstice, Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Saturnalia, Hanukkah, or if you wish, Bah Humbug!


  1. It is pouring rain here so I won't be walking in my garden! On the other hand, it is much more common for it to be snowing at this time of year, so we are all enjoying a respite from our typical weather. I'm limited to a poinsettia as nothing is happening in my garden unlike your garden. I am always impressed with all of the information you include in your posts. Happy holidays!

  2. It was so dark this morning when I woke up at 7:30, and it seemed to take forever for the sun to rise. I can't wait for the solstice to be over, and for the days to start getting longer again. Thanks so much for sharing your photos of your vases, but especially for sharing that poem Gabriel's Annunciation by Jan Richardson. It brought tears to my eyes.

  3. A magnificent post based on two small vases and traditional music. Beautiful! I was reading for another purpose this morning and ran across a link to a different presentation of the Magnificat. Music is the best part of the season for me.

    Two nights near freezing has not stopped some blooms here. Frost-nipped in places, soldiering on in others, damp but not cold.

  4. Your posts are always full-to-overflowing, Peter - so much see so much to read, so much to take in. Thank you so much for sharing your pretty December vases and all the extras that went along with them. Festive wishes to you and your family

  5. Merry Christmas to you Peter!! vase number one reminds me of ikebana. They are all beautiful!! And wow, I´m amazed with your wontherful glass snowflakes in the previous post!!

  6. Wow these vases are stunning...I love the idea of the tradition of walking the garden on the solstice...and lovely info...wishing you peace and joy at Christmas!

  7. You always create such beautiful arrangements as if by magic! :-)

  8. You found a lot of bright color to animate the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere, Peter. Best wishes for a merry Christmas!

  9. What lovely little pickings you found! Like our days here are never quite completely dark, nor are our winters completely devoid of life.

  10. Beautiful Peter, happy/merry all of the above to you!

  11. Gabriel's poem is so beautiful, thank you Peter, I must make a copy of that.
    Happy Christmas to you and yours !


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.