Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unexpected Roses

I didn’t go looking for roses today. 

We had a hard frost in the area last night, and it seemed unlikely that I would find any. So I never went near the rose garden. Instead, I decided to concentrate on photographing the interplay of September light on trees and foliage. 

It was so cold this morning that I expected there to be no one else in the garden. So, when I pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised to find that there was already quite a bit of activity. I snapped a few shots outside, disappointed that the beautiful trumpet flowers I had photographed last week had already been cleared out, and then went into the atrium to make my way out to the main gardens. I knew immediately that something was up. Staff and volunteers were bustling around, and two people were setting up a long L-shaped table to sell something. Uh, oh. I said in my mind. 

As I walked on, I encountered a staff member who recognizes me whenever I come. She smiled and said cheerfully, “Planning to take photos of the quilts today?” Aha. The annual fall quilt show.  “And,” she continued enthusiastically, “We’re having a Thai festival.” This time, I said “oh” out loud. 

Well, I said to myself, somewhat relieved, that means that it will still be quiet outside. So, after chatting with this lady for another few moments, out the double-doors to the gardens I went.

And, for the most part, quiet it was. Bright and crisp and quiet. But it was still very cold, especially in the shade. After forty-five minutes, a hundred photos or so, and a moderate chill, I suddenly had an irresistible urge to see the quilts. So, I went back inside, paid the admission donation, and went down the long runway into the old atrium where about 60 intricate and gayly-hued quilts were on full display, surrounded by flowers. This is, after all, a botanical garden. I didn’t photograph them all, by any means, only those that seemed unusually intricate, unusually beautiful, or just plain unusual. 

As I did so, I was following the guide and jotting notes of which quilts I had photographed for later use in attributions. I stopped for a few minutes in front of the quilt pictured below, contemplating. In the background, I could hear a group of Thai worshippers chanting in an adjoining room, lulling me into quiet serenity. 

The guide said the name of the quilt was “Grand Central.” Huh? When did they build Grand Central Orientale? I shook my head and began taking photos. The quilt had a dramatic black border not visible here. To me, in overall effect, it was by far the most beautiful quilt in the show. So I wanted to make sure I captured it. In the end, I don’t think I really did.

Detail from "Grand Central" by Joanne Cripps
(Quilting by Cindy Haas)
Photographed by Divine Ms. Moon
Anyway, as I was standing there, three people came up behind me and stood quietly discussing the quilts in this group. They seemed fairly knowledgeable about quilts, so I turned my head back and asked, “Can you think why on earth this quilt might have been called “Grand Central”? The three people looked at each other, seemingly puzzled. Then one of them, a small elderly lady with a lovely smile, said in total deadpan, “’Grand Central’ is the name of the pattern." “Oh,” I said, brightly. “Now it makes sense. For the life of me I couldn’t figure it out. It seems a rather undistinguished name for such a beautiful quilt. I mean, all those peonies and wild roses. I wonder what she was thinking.” I turned back to what I was doing, still somewhat perplexed.

The same lady said quietly to the back of my head, “Well, why don’t YOU name it?” Immediately, alarm bells began going off. I stopped still in the middle of framing a shot. Without turning around, I said, “You made it, didn’t you?” “Yes,” she replied. 

Needless to say, I turned almost as red as the peonies in the quilt. But when I turned around again, she was still smiling, and she proved to be extremely gracious, as were her companions. We continued to talk casually as we walked around the show. She taught me a few things about quilting and something about grace. When I commented that other people were likely to wonder why she had named the quilt as she had, and joked that I was just lucky enough to have said it out loud in front of her, she replied, “That’s quite all right. There were many worse things that you could have said.” 

Not likely. Despite my inability to capture its full essence, “Grand Central” was the most beautiful quilt in the show, and its maker was even more beautiful. 

I didn’t go looking for roses in the garden today, but I found them.

Detail from "Grand Central" by Joanne Cripps
Photographed by Divine Ms. Moon

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