I have a favorite field in the open spaces in Marin, near my house. It is enclosed by trees and brambles and it has a kind of secret garden feel when you enter. But rather than manicured or planned, its wild and overgrown with native herbs, grasses, wild roses, buckeye, eucalyptus, and oak.
On a recent afternoon walk with the dogs, I noticed the changing light, the colors and the signs of fall. Inspired by the textures and amber colors, I foraged a few things (wild sage, rose hips, and oak) and added flowers from the studio (ranunculus, dahlias, and french tulips) to make a quick spontaneous arrangement, marking that autumnal afternoon.
Growing up in Marin, I was surrounded by people collecting pelican and hawk feathers, small smooth stones, sea-finds, special leaves, and other found trinkets. It was an almost unnoticed ritual that accompanied any walk in nature. These objects would make their way onto informal altars of sorts. Altars to nature were made on bookshelves, dashboards, window sills and were added to over time. These were the collections that made dusting hard, but seemed of value. They taught me the importance of small treasures and appreciating beauty in the bits as you discover them.
The ritual of collecting worn stones, and special shells helps you slow down, take in all the textures, patterns and forms, hidden below a quick glance in the wild. The collections provide a reminder to the beauty of the outside world, once back home amidst the more prevalent human made objects, artifacts and clutter.
On a recent trip to Muir Beach, the protected yet rugged little beach close to our house, I gathered some new beach objects and added some long-held. I created an altar to the natural world, to good spirits and to to treasure. Inspired by the beach outing and by the energy of the Pacific, the wind whipping, and the fog creeping, I created an arrangement full of movement and texture. In contrast to the washed out grey of the beach that day, the flowers celebrate vibrant color and early fall.
My partner, Max, introduced me early on, to a ritual that now crops up at our house multiple times a week. It was a term he started saying while he poured a glass of sparkling wine, or brought out a block of cheese. And like learning a new language, you say it too for a while until the full meaning really sinks in. “Change of day” at its simplest meaning, refers to a small pre-dinner snack sometimes involving a sip of wine or cocktail. It’s never elaborate, but it is considered – the best, simple ingredients – cheese, fruit, olives, roast nuts, cured meats – may make an appearance.
In a deeper way, it always refers to a resetting, a time when the happenings of the day are suspended and left until tomorrow, when the light is changing, and night-time is coming. A change from the outward focus with the world, to inward with family. It feels like a tiny piece of an old-world culture brought into our modern house. We could be in Italy, Spain, France for those 20 minutes. Sometimes we talk, sometimes an article is read. It is a moment to shift the mood, appreciate the dusk hour, each other and transition.
As rituals develop over time, and gestures reflect those participating, I add a simple arrangement of flowers to the change of day routine. It is a gesture that brings awareness and beauty to our space, and elements of nature to our home. For this late summer change of day, I used garden roses, dahlias, and geum. These vibrant flowers quickly fill the room with bold color and faint sweet aromas.