Inspired by Nature

Okra Bloom I've heard more than a few artists say that their inspiration comes from nature. And by inspiration, they are referring to design...shapes, colors, layout, etc. I've never been one to believe that anything I see/hear/feel/experience in nature can be replicated by the human hand--or eye or mind or ear or whatever. I just don't think we're gifted that way. We may wish we were, we may attempt to be...but we aren't. If we were, we wouldn't be doing to ourselves and the planet what we're doing to ourselves and the planet. That is not to say I don't doubt that these artists DO find inspiration in nature. I'm just saying that nature, for me, is not something that influences my art or writing. It's impossible to emulate so why not just start fresh and do my own thing? Art and writing come from my mind. My imagination. THAT'S what I think is the natural advantage humans have--our imaginations.

One of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen in my life is that of the okra plant. Hands down the most visually appealing and hold-your-breath soft (and I've seen some amazing flowers from all over the world). Emmett and I first grew okra in our garden at our home in St. Paul way back in the late 90s. Every year, as we mapped out our garden, we always included a new-to-us vegetable. We had fallen in love with okra on our many trips to New Orleans, where, as you can imagine, the widely used southern vegetable was superbly incorporated into gumbos, fried appetizers, po' boys, and the like. We thought we'd give it a go.

Okra the veggie

Up until our first crop, I had no idea how okra grew and what the plant looked like. I certainly was not prepared for the fruit blossom, a gorgeous and delicate five-petal yellow flower with a reddish burgundy base--a stunning contrast to the phallic-like stiff green pod that is the vegetable. Words (and photos) do not do the flower justice. I could not believe my eyes the first time I saw one. I probably gasped. I know I called out to Emmett. And I remember reaching out ever so carefully to touch make sure it was real. It was. And we had a whole 10' row of plants just about to bloom.

When I was making plans for my veganic garden this year, I told Tom (my veganic gardening partner in crime) I wanted to plant okra. He had never grown okra before but that didn't stop me from giving it a go like Emmett and I had back in St. Paul. I ordered organic burgundy okra seeds from Peaceful Valley and planted them.  We had a bit of a rough start--the seeds sprouted, true leaves appeared, and then the plants just sort of stalled and stayed in a perpetual state of languish until three weeks ago when they suddenly shot up and began cranking out blooms!

Okra and Bloom

It had been over nine years since I had seen an okra bloom up close and personal and let me tell you this: they still do it for me. I still believe they are the most beautiful flowers in the world...and I would do ANYTHING to be able to replicate the colors, the graceful curve of petal edges, and the blood veins fanning out from the base of the flower in my marbling.