Icons

I was labeling slides from this past summer and saw this iconic image of my work place (an icon in and of itself): I'd already forgotten the day I took it. But it is fresh enough a memory that I can recreate the day and remember something about it, other than the floriferous border and classic conservatory shot. The angle and the composition is better than any others this year: this is a keeper I shall use in talks. It will become a symbol, as it were, of a symbol.

The Rocky Mountains (Horseshoe Mountain in the Mosquitos to be precise) and Jan Fahs, my girlfriend. Two of the most pervasive icons in my life: I live in the shadow of the Rockies, and watch them morning, noon and evening every day. Jan is the one I spend most time with and have chosen to be my companion. Both loom large in my life, like the Pantocrator in a byzantine chapel. Large icons indeed!


I took this picture of Iris missouriensis a few months ago on a fishing trip with my two kids (my own personal symbols). Each year I make a point of seeking out this iris, and some years I may see it on five, ten, fifteen or more mountains almost anywhere in the West. I also have grown it and we have lusty plants at DBG. It is one of the many touchstones in my life: icons as it were. I have enormous volumes of reminiscences around this plant: around every plant. Plants are my icons and gardens are a sort of cathedral for me...just what does that mean?



These are my two kids, Jesse and Eleni. They have flown the coop (he to school in Arkansas, she to New York City). They are living reliquaries that contain large, pulsating chunks of my heart, where my dreams and hopes reside . They are leading their own separate existences far from me, although they stay in touch and come and live with me now and again, although I fear the gaps between their visits will inevitably extenuate. My thoughts about them are tender, complex and utterly different from my plant obsessed work and play life. For me, they are perambulating images with minds, hearts and feet of their own that wander farther and farther away it seems. Like all parents, I revere them with a sort of religious fervor....




Late in the summer every year the Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) blooms prolifically here and there, all around Denver Botanic Gardens. It has become iconic for me as well: a flamboyant symbol of the magnificence of the waning growing season. A token of tender-seeming plants that are quite durable (at least at the Gardens!). An evocation of the Pampas whence it comes. Argentina! that silvery land of promise in the Southern Hemisphere, where Borges and the Andes, tango, gauchos and so much else romantic is encapsulated in this outlandish, utterly magnificent plant.



Our lives are every bit as iconic as the Byzantine churches that perdure millenia in Arta, in Thessaloniki, Constantinople, Daphni. At Hosios Loukas, not to mention Sicily and Ravenna. Above all, let us not forget Saint Catherine's on Mt. Sinai. Of course for the couple dozen mosaic churches that remain, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands that collapsed in earthquakes, that were burned in sieges, bombed in wars, scraped by infidels or knocked down by change. I would like to think there may be one or two out there lurking, plastered over, perhaps. Undiscovered in Phrygia or Cappadokia.




We light the candle, and for an instant a flash of recognition glimmers from the tesselated wall.


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