Part 1 – King Midas
Brown Study: The condition of being so lost in solitary thought as to be unaware of one’s surroundings: absent-mindedness, abstraction, bemusement, daydreaming, muse, reverie, study, trance.
–The American Heritage® Roget’s Thesaurus
I’ve been convalescing for the past three months (i.e., returning to health slowly over time following illness, weakness or surgery). My arthritic right hip was replaced with a prosthetic on March 24th. My recovery has been relatively easy: there wasn’t much pain and I could get around with the help of a walker and dress myself using an array of devices, including a long-handled shoehorn, a “reacher” and a “sock aid”. There was a list of things I wasn’t allowed to do. I couldn’t bend down, twist at the waist, cross my legs, lift anything heavy or drive a car. As a result, I stayed home for over a month, with the exception of trips to the doctor or physiotherapist, for which I needed to have a driver. In short, I was often lost in solitary thought: a “brown study”.
My consolation was the daffodils and tulips blooming outside my window, in spite of rain and cold. Unfortunately, as the weeks went by, there were also a lot of weeds getting bigger and healthier outside my window. After the spring flowering bulbs came the peonies and the bearded irises. My favourite bearded iris produces flowers in shades of brown. I brought it with me from the last place we lived, where it was already growing. I’ve never known the name of it for sure, but I think it is “King Midas”. This iris is described as “Early. This variety is in a class entirely by itself as to color and is one of the most beautiful iris we have. It represents an entirely new color break, a golden-buff and garnet brown bi-color blend, but this description gives but a faint idea of its great beauty.” [from Robert Wayman’s catalog for 1940]
You will remember that King Midas was given the golden touch and accidentally turned his beloved daughter into a gold statue when he touched her. The daughter is given different names in variants of the story, including Phillomena, Aurelia and Marigold (by Nathaniel Hawthorne); however, one version of the story gives the daughter’s name as “Iris”. In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow and, in my next post I hope to explore the (brown) colours of the rainbow.
Meanwhile, I’ve completed a drawing of some Dutch Iris, grown from bulbs described either as “Eye of the Tiger” or “Tiger Mix” or “Lion King”. (I planted some of each but can’t remember where I planted what). These irises are 18 to 20 inches tall and seem almost to glow in the garden. They come in various colours: yellow, purple, brown and red. I intend to paint the brown ones.