Too often I complicate things. Design, schedules, life, conversations, in all these things I am a complex person who likes detail and intricacy. But therein is my great appreciation of simplicity. Sometimes all that busyness gets tiring, overwhelming, and the sweet refreshment of something simple stands out with such beauty that it makes me pause and consider.
Those are the moments when I realize the greatest impacts, insights, or appreciation of the beauty of life. So much so, that I try to create more space for such simplicity. Let me tell you about the most recent moment of stunning simplicity. It was in a restroom.
No, not what you are thinking right now.
I attended the Garden Bloggers Conference in Atlanta, then stayed for almost a week to visit with my kids and their children. I drove all over the metro area and helped arrange plans for many very busy people to get together for some family time. Late nights, early mornings, and you can bet I was tired.
We got an early start home, but I managed to take a wrong turn and somehow ended up in North Carolina (first inkling that I was on the wrong roads through the mountains), but it was truly scenic and I ended up in Knoxville somehow anyway… which is where I needed to be to continue home on I-75.
Along the way home is one of my favorite rest stops, The Kentucky Artisan Travel Center in Berea, Kentucky. And it was there I found a lesson in simple beauty, not in the paintings, pottery, or carved wood, but in their restroom. Not just that they have spacious, clean, and modern restrooms, but the pervasive attention which is given to artistic touches reaches even to the corners of the sink counters. On every visit I find a different seasonal flower arrangement: individual, pleasing, and carefully arranged.
I knew this from the many stops made during other trips, but this time – maybe because the material choices were so simple and unassuming, made an impression which created the thoughts I’m sharing with you.
The bouquet consisted of only a few flower heads, with some grass stems of autumn seedheads, a couple euonymous alatus, just turning its soft coral tones and one tiny leaved cotoneaster sprig. All were arranged in a straightsided, handmade vase that had Oriental overtones.
I was struck by the way attention to art in our daily lives makes all the difference.
Many times I notice fresh flowers, admire arrangements, appreciate clean and tidy facilities, but this time the juxtaposition of that most utilitarian of spaces with the thoughtful act of creating a pretty arrangement for those who are simply passing through impressed me.
It made me stop and think; considering how small, thoughtful acts, quietly and beautifully done, especially through the physical effects of art on our souls, brings a true gift to those around us.
Small daily things, like an evening meal, or making the rounds of housework can be brightened and enriched with these small and simple acts of artistry. Flowers are perhaps the most accessible way to create this way. The few, the common, the inconsequential are lifted to a new plane and transformed into the things of consequence, of uniqueness and value by simply giving a platform, a place of appreciation.
That is what that simple flower arrangement in the corner of a restroom, a place kept clean and well maintained, meant for this traveler on that late afternoon.
It is a picture of joy that is an expression of what real art is, and means.
Art as something that speaks to us in a way far above the mere materials of its making.
It is something I want to replicate within my life on many levels, and in my gardens. All out of proportion to the materials at hand.