Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

 

Well friends, I’m still reeling from the terrible events and plain bad news pileup of last week. I’m sure that many of you are, too.  But in spite of everything that has happened and will continue to happen and was happening all along while most of us weren’t paying attention it is still spring.* It just goes on being spring.

 

Sometimes that feels like heresy, a sacrilege. But most of the time it feels like grace.

 

I didn’t write down this beautiful person’s name. If you know it, please tell me.

 

And after all, spring has never been an uncomplicated season.  May 1–May Day–means the protests and parades of International Labor Day (nearly everywhere but the United States), and the Maypoles, flower baskets and crowns and other ancient rituals of Celtic holiday Beltane, which I’ve come to know a bit about through friends. Like all spring festivals, Beltane is about sex, fertility and renewal, but it’s also a time when the boundaries between our world and other worlds grows thin, permeable–a time of magic and danger, hope and risk.**

 

All of which means that now is a pretty good time to take an afternoon off and play with some flowers. At least that’s what I was thinking a couple of weeks ago when I saw that Feliz was hosting a flower crown making workshop led by Studio Choo’s Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo, and signed up before I could think twice. Alethea and Jill are based in San Francisco (thus the title of this post), but they were in Texas to do some events for the launch of The Flower Recipe Book, their completely gorgeous new step-by-step guide to making flower arrangements that look, to me, like Dutch still life paintings, but with more wildness in them.

 

After my own messy, maximalist, cornucopia-loving heart.

 

 

Alethea Harampolis (L) and Jill Rizzo (R) of San Francisco’s Studio Choo

 

 

It was a beautiful afternoon, cool and sunny. Twenty or so of us sat outside under the trees at picnic tables stocked with scissors, floral tape and two kinds of floral wire. Jill and Alethea showed us a few basic techniques: using a comb as a base (like the first two photos above), making a crown base out of bendable twigs or vines, or making a wire circlet and then attaching flowers one by one–a more time-consuming technique that allows for greater flexibility and the possibility of an intricate, mosaic-like crown.

 

Then, lesson over, we got some hands on practice.

 

 

 

Assembling the crown was a simple joy. I found the tape and wire very easy to work with (addictive, really–I want to wire and tape everything now). And when you work with such beautiful materials it’s almost impossible not to create something pretty.

 

But the best part of the workshop by far, was that everyone put their crowns and combs on as soon as they were done making them. And then there we all were, hanging out on a Saturday afternoon with flowers in our hair.  You know. Casual.

 

But transformed.

 

Tamara Becerra Valdez of the magical Botanicals Folklorica

 

 

Food historian Rachel Laudan. Do check out her blog.

 

 

I believe you know this person.

 

We stood around admiring each other and chatting. Alethea and Jill signed their beautiful books. We drank  sweet tea and lemonade spiked with vodka. I’d brought along some of my hydrosols and we experimented with spraying the sweetgrass hydrosol into our cocktails. It added a subtle, delicious flavor–as much a scent as a taste.

 

I made my crown with jasmine and anemones. The next day the anemones had faded, but the jasmine went right on blooming and when I walked into my office the whole room was filled with it’s bitter chocolate and bananas scent. The flowers were there the next day and the next day and the next day after that, surprisingly tough and resilient.  They’re dry now, but still fragrant.

 

Go on, go put some flowers in your hair. I won’t tell anyone.**

 

 

*I wrote that sentence yesterday and then woke up thinking of my friends in parts of the country world where it is still snowing.  It will be spring soon, even where you are. I promise. 

 

**According to some, Beltane is a moment when we can cross over into the world of the dead, if we dare. (On Samhain, which we celebrate in a different form as Halloween, the traffic runs the other direction and the dead cross over from their world to ours.) My Beltane-celebrating friend advised me to leave sweets out in the garden to appease the faery folk and ensure my luck and good fortune for the following year. I obliged–how could I refuse, really?–with some rose jam.

 

***But if you posted a photo of yourself, flowers in hair, on my author page or twitter I wouldn’t complain about it. Not one bit. And I bet no one else would either. We might even be grateful. Very grateful. Think about it, OK?

 

Images: All photos by me. Please ask permission before borrowing.

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16 Comments

  • Barbara says:

    Sounds like a good time, and you look great!

  • Alyssa says:

    Thanks, Barbara! It really made me wish we all wore flowers in our hair more often.My friends who travel in India say it is still common there, especially among older women. And my friend Rachel, pictured above, attended the workshop because the flower crowns reminded her of Hawaii, where she lived for years. Such a simple thing and so beautiful.

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams says:

    I love these images. So much beauty after a week of bad news.

    • Alyssa says:

      I’m so glad you like them, Katie. It didn’t feel right to post them last week, but I was glad they were waiting for me.

  • Katherine C. James says:

    Flowers. Fragrance. Spring. Beauty. A gathering. A balm for our weary hearts and souls. We all need more of this.

    Because a friend who usually lives in Bend, Oregon is visiting her daughter on Haight Street in San Francisco, the song line, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” keeps running through my mind. I just read the Wiki entry about the John Phillips composed song and found the song not only brought people to San Francisco, but was also popular in Europe and became an anthem during Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring uprising. Flowers do possess power.

    Thank you for the beauty. You look gorgeous and happy with flowers in your hair.

    • Alyssa says:

      Oh, thank you, Katherine. I didn’t know about the song and the Prague Spring. That makes the connections I was feeling so much clearer and more substantial to me.

      Thank you for the compliment, too. Honestly, is there anyone who wouldn’t look splendid with the right flowers in their hair?

  • Margaret says:

    Thanks for the lovely post! Where can one find directions for making these? What a great idea to share with friends. Thanks!

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi Margaret. I don’t have any links or books to point you toward (I’m sure they’re out there, though), but I would encourage you to get some floral wire and tape (I’ve linked to sources above) and just give it a try. There really isn’t much more to it than what I’ve described above. You just need a base of some kind–either a cone, or a sturdy vine or bendy branch, and then you use the wire to gently fasten flowers (or leaves or herbs or!) of your choice to the base. The tape is there to help bind and hide the stems, and to keep them from being too pointy and uncomfortable. The rest is up to you: Which way do you want your flowers to point when you’re wearing your crown? Do you want them tidy and close to your head? Dramatic and messy? Lots of colors? A limited palette? And so on… Alethea and Jill don’t cover crowns in The Flower Recipe Book, but there are lots of things to learn there about how to work with materials and combine them to good effect, so maybe check out their book, too.

  • nozknoz says:

    Alyssa, I’ve taken advantage of a couple of days off for dental surgery to begin reading your book, catch up on your blog, and enjoy some of the perfumes that you mention in the book. I’m well stocked with painkillers, juices, tasty soft foods, perfume samples, and green spring leaves outside my window, and I’m loving Coming to My Senses, so it’s been a delightful experience! Thanks so much for sharing your insights into perfume and life. ~~nozknoz

    • Alyssa says:

      I’m so pleased that you’re enjoying the book and making it part of your recovery process, Noz! Thanks so much for dropping by the blog to let me know. I hope you heal fast and enjoy your time off.

  • Kandice says:

    This was a lovely reminder that there is much beauty in the world. After last week, that can be hard to remember. I knew people at the race in Boston. The accident in West has been a daily news item. (I live in Texas as well.) With so much sadness, it’s nice to remember that the beauty in the world can offer solace. It sounds like a wonderful event. Thanks for sharing.

    • Alyssa says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Kandice. The West story is so sad. Really the story of the whole town, not just the explosion.

  • Tamara Becerra Valdez says:

    Alyssa! This was a wonderful day! You captured it so well! I have my crown hanging on my wall and it all dried so well!

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