Each spring, (speaking generously of late April in Vermont) my husband, Jack, roams around our property checking for hopeful new sprouts.
Often I join him on these ritual treasure hunts and can’t help but relive the the childhood thrill of searching for Easter eggs. Each small find is a joyous prize.
We exhale a faint but relieving sigh at the reassuring sighting of those first Tulip and Daffodil leaves poking up through the soil. They’re like rebellious children sticking out green tongues – laughing at the passing of another Vermont winter. It’s then we begin to anticipate the glory of what’s to come. Every year it’s like something new.
As summer arrives and other garden alumni return for the season-long reunion, Jack can usually be found somewhere amidst these colorful companions. I often watch from the kitchen window while he weeds and waters, or transplants and prunes, or sometimes just sits in appreciation. It’s a joy to watch him garden in his garden.
It occurred to me during one of my kitchen window spying sessions that what Jack does in the gardens is not unlike what he does in his life. He actively helps others grow and achieve. In doing this he makes the surroundings more vital and rich, and he does it with a direct no-nonsense approach that isn’t demanding or fussy. It’s more like an agreement. “I will make you space to do it; all you have to do is your best. Deal?” And he does this quietly without fanfare. Yes, he frowns over the occasional failure, the plant that wasn’t quite hearty enough for the climate, or one that needed more water or sun. Then he redirects his focus back to the success of the whole. And the successes are many. The successes tend to self-propagate.
I realized that the action of his living, the way he gardens in his gardens, is in many ways a far more tangible and valuable resource than any specific result or flower. There’s a benefit simply in his involvement, in the motion, that’s hard to pin down. It’s ever-changing, sometimes fleeting and often replaced by a new action. It’s alive.
So when I went out to photograph some of the plants he’d planted I wanted to do it in such a way that would represent the broader impact they have in our lives. To do this I chose to color with the colors and in doing so experienced a wonderful journey of adventure and discovery of my own. The results of which are collected here. The intense color and movement in these images are as close as I could get to capturing the energy, beauty and vitality of Jack’s gardens.
I began taking these photos during the summer of 2008, and have continued each season since. Using a small aperture and long shutter speed I am able to transform the flowers into something besides the petals and stems they normally appear to be. By sweeping across the flowers as the picture was being taken and painting with the camera this way I became keenly aware that color, a wonderful thing to behold, is also a verb.
So is love.