For one of my current prints, I worked with the chrysanthemum. These flowers signify adaptability and longevity, blooming past the first frost when others have completed their season. They are one of the “Four Gentlemen” in Chinese art, along with the plum blossom, orchid and bamboo—and have a special meaning to me at this time.
In a famous poem from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 265 – 420), Tao Yuan Ming describes his ideal country life of fresh mountain air at sunset, a flock of birds flying home, a southern hill, and chrysanthemum flowers by the wooden fence near the poet’s cottage. Each element was carefully chosen to create an image of complete harmony and connection with nature—and the simple and honest lifestyle that the poet had longed for and enjoyed after moving away from the hustle and crowds of city life.
A simple, honest lifestyle that is true to oneself and in harmony with nature.
I reflected upon this as I recently experienced my own life change, relocating from New York City to our farm in the Hudson Valley. The way those words—and the image of the chrysanthemum flower—made me feel connected to a poet who lived 1600 years ago, remind me how many truths in life really haven’t changed, and how we need to keep searching for our own meaning and happiness as we grow.