Passion Flower No. 2

mixed media on paper, 10" x 8"

2016

 

The Passion Flower

 

When I was a young girl, I remember my mother growing the Passion Flower vine. At least she tried very hard to create a healthy plant. It was one of those prized botanicals that gardeners in the Midwest would pray and pamper over, as it grows best in southern climes. In Florida, I was surprised to find it growing wild and with abandon, climbing small trees on the shores of a lake.

 

 

 

 

I consulted wikipedia to learn a little about this lavender beauty: "In 1569, Spanish explorers discovered passionflower in Peru. They believed the flowers symbolized Christ’s passion and indicated his approval for their exploration." I am still trying to decipher this analogy, as I feel it has many layers of meaning, and some not so favorable to the conquistadors and missionaries whose fervor it was to abscond with as many riches as possible from the New World. And what of my history with this plant? This flower has sparked a series of paintings and musings about my mother and my childhood.

 

 

 

Passion Flower No. 3

mixed media on paper, 10" x 8"

2016

 

 

My mother's worship of the Passion Flower made me jealous. She was so attentive to the thing, that I was confounded. Not a religious woman, she still would have found it's use by early Christian missionaries interesting. It has been written that American missionaries deemed it's unique blossoms the "perfect educational tool in describing Christ’s crucifixion." In the same way that I am perplexed by my mother's love of plants over people, I am searching for explanations for the above quote. Could the missionaries, who were also adept gardeners and botanists, have known that this plant has extraordinary healing properties, so gentle yet so powerful that even children and pregnant women can benefit from its use?

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother had a vast knowledge of plants, their names, and how to grow them. She was both a natural and a learned "green thumb". If she knew about the medicinal qualities of plants, I am not sure, though once she told me that when she (as a child) stepped on a rusty piece of metal, her parents required her to sit all day with a poultice of broadleaf plantain on her foot. I remember that my mother's beloved Passion Flower was a stubborn one, and she fretted over its weakness in the early years. Its flowers, stems, and leaves were sparse, not enough to harvest had she known that those are the very parts that can be used to heal anxiety, depression, headaches, agitation, overstimulation, and a host of other nerve related symptoms. Never waiting for someone to instruct me, I decided to take the cure. I clipped a portion of the vine that I had discovered by the lake in Florida and made a pot of passion plant tea for my own special transubstantiation.

 

 

 

Passion Flower No. 5

watercolor on paper, 10" x 8"

2016

 

 

My mother was capable of nurturing her Passion Flower vine so much so that it became full and lush on its trellis, with many purple blooms, This was an accomplishment since the flowers only last for a day. I studied my mother, sitting quietly nearby when she gardened and also when she painted and sewed clothes. I was silent and watchful and she seemed not to notice that I was by her side. Unlike her artwork and clothes making, which always bore fruit, I had no concept that her favored vine had equal potential. Much later in life, I came upon a wild Passion Flower in Florida, its native home, and for the first time I was surprised to see egg-like green fruits hanging from the plant. This brought me full circle, to my childhood wonderment of my mother and her beloved vine.

 

 

 

 

As I paint a series of flower-women based on this encounter, I travel back to the days when I was an observer of my mother. My way of grasping and twining to her was through the things that she loved so dearly. As a child, I felt displaced by the vine which was truly an attractive and sweet being. I had no way of knowing that the plant was not really that important. Now, I realize that it never had the precious distinction of bearing fruit, the very act that I was able to fulfill. And what of the missionaries and conquerers who called the plant proof of Christ’s passion as well as their own passion for riches? I submit that one can call a plant whatever one wishes and make it a sign of any kind of mischief one feels at the moment. But moments always pass and the imprint of our own act of being, just or unjust, is what will live on forever.

 

 

Passion Flower No.4

watercolor on paper, 10" x 8"

2016

 

 

And with that, this story comes to a close. Oh, but I did not mention my mother's giant white cat, Snowball, with the sulphur-yellow eyes. He was procured when full grown and had been terribly abused by his previous owner. This may be why Snowball hated every human being he came in contact with, except for my mother. They loved each other madly. Another story.

 

 

 

© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved