The other night Annie and I had dessert at a friend’s house and we were both struck by the natural beauty of her decorations: graceful fronds of ordinary green grass–which were really extraordinarily beautiful–stood in a vase inside a wide bowl; pillar candles in the four directions were wrapped simply with ribbons and feathers. These gifts from nature made Kate’s home feel so serene and connected to the earth.
Here are a few easy, simple, and soul-satisfying tips for making your own connection to the vibrant essence of the planet in summer. It is a time of expansion, fruition, abundance, and great energy, so why not bring all that into your own home? You’ll love how it feels. And nature makes such a creative and wackily inventive decorator!
1. Roadside and Backyard Flowers. You don’t have to spend a fortune on cut flowers to have beautiful reminders of nature’s abundance in your home. Roadside wildflowers, as long as they are not protected by law, make great arrangements in a pitcher or vase, and as long as you only take a few from each plant there will still be plenty for others to enjoy. Just be sure they aren’t sprayed with herbicides; Annie says that one tell-tale sign of spraying is patches of dead grass under guard rails. If you see them, avoid the nearby flowers.
If you are lucky enough to have daylilies in your yard, they make a great reminder of enjoying the moment before it passes: the vivid orange blooms only last for a single day, so get ‘em while they’re hot!
Or do what Kate did and use tall grasses instead: the cooling green is so refreshing to the eye. In fact, the lowliest weeds can be quite beautiful when seen with a fresh eye; infinite shades of green are always appealing. Just be sure to compost everything once it has passed its prime.
2. Seaside Mementos. Some of us have to have an ocean “fix” in summer, and who can resist all those perfect, unique shells that offer themselves for free to our grateful eyes, hands, and collecting buckets? Boil them for a few minutes to kill any germs and then you have yourself a trove of decorating treasures. Heaped in a bowl, arranged in a perfect circle on a shelf, studding the top of a small chest or the bottom of a lampshade, set inside a shadowbox, glued to the ceiling like stars–only your imagination limits the uses you can find for them. You can also bring back some sand to make your own tabletop Zen garden.
3. Fruits of the Earth. Nothing beats the succulent colors and shapes of summer fruits and vegetables. A wooden bowl heaped with lemons, or peaches, or glossy purple eggplants makes a great focal point for a room. Just be sure to use them in cooking, replacing them with something fresh, before they start to mold.
4. Tree Gifts. Leaves are so amazing, when you really stop to notice them. Like people, they are all completely unique and their shapes are gloriously varied and complex. After a good strong wind or rain, look for downed branches to put in a bucket, or take individual leaves and press them to use for gluing around mirrors or picture frames, or select just one to honor in a frame of its own.
5. The Power of Water. When the weather is hot, the sight of water gives a welcome cooling respite, and the sound of running water is always delightfully soothing. You can place a single flower or several floating candles in a bowl of water, or try making a simple tabletop fountain to bring good energy and a sense of peace into your home.
By Cait Johnson, author of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air (SkyLight Paths, 2003).