About this Project/Blog

(This is the original About this Project published in September of 2011. Since then both my health and life have improved. It was a project then, but it’s just a blog now. Did Ikebana help my health and ease the pain while promoting healing? For me, absolutely.)

Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place. —Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, 1977

Can Learning How to Arrange Flowers Mend Me?

This is a project that came about because of a conversation. As so often happens to us throughout our lives, if you’re the right person, in the right mood, in the right place, (you know the rest), with the right person—things just happen.

All the pieces had been sitting there, kind of waiting to fall into the pot together, then with one fell swoop, they were set to simmer, and just like that, the project moved forward. But there really wasn’t a plan, or a recipe, no path to follow, these events led to this current effort as a reaction to something I had going on deep inside of me. In illness, you see, oftentimes, you are set adrift with no compass, and for years now, I have been searching for my way back into the world. This project came about because I know how gardening has helped me, and I somehow just knew Ikebana could help me even more.

Maybe not all chronically ill people feel the way I do, but often I have an emotional pain in the pit of my stomach. I cannot believe that I’m about to call it ennui, but that’s it. I’ve always jokingly told others that the best preparation for chronic illness is French existentialism, and that for me, the concept of “rest” has become like being in the play No Exit. What I mean by this is that in illness you begin to live your life more and more internally.

Living in illness means having normal days where you work very hard to achieve a fraction of what you used to be able to accomplish. It means you have an ongoing battle to partially forget who you once were in order to embrace who you’ve become. That’s an uphill battle where you have to slash your dreams in half, and dramatically begin to rebuild.

Last summer I realized I wasn’t rebuilding quickly enough so I started tipping things over, spreading my cards on the floor, mixing up the order of how I saw things now. I wanted to level the field—again.

That’s when I had the conversation—just as I was on the floor spreading everything around.

This project is now a bit like when you order a bouquet of flowers for your ill friend, except this time, that ill person is you, and you are handling the flowers yourself, arranging the message to yourself—or to whoever the recipient is that day—but there is no middleman, no middlewoman, and there are no formal floral templates.

You just pick plants wherever you land, and arrange them just so, hoping to send out a signal, a thought, an SOS as you drift in illness, an expression of how you’re feeling in the world right at that moment. You’re writing on the wall in that place and time instead of reading the writing on the wall over and over. It’s a bit like floral therapy, and the plants might even nod at you a bit like a therapist, saying calmly, “Go on.”

So why are you here reading this? Well, maybe you’re curious, just like I was when I first asked myself: Can these actions, with these flowers, heal me? 

First and foremost, as someone who is chronically ill and deals with the ups-and-downs of illness management I want to know if this kind of practice will help me. Will I find the balance and inner calm that I miss from my former life? Will the practice of Ikebana help me to find peace from the effects of trauma? How will this experience change my mood? More than anything, will I find that window inside of myself that I can open and for a spell, forget myself?  I want that more than anything.

I don’t know what to expect, but stay tuned and find out! From time to time I will post personal updates as well as information about the classes I will be attending. It won’t start out as Ikebana, but I can assure you that by the end of this year there will be much improvement on many levels.

(Since this is not a blog about my disease, I have chosen to not mention its name but instead I will list the fields of my team of specialists: immunology, endocrinology, nephrology and hematology. I have a swelling disease, and it is not common. Doing any activity repeatedly causes my body to respond with swelling. So yeah, yoga can actually hurt. Let’s not go there.)

4 Responses to “About this Project/Blog”

  1. 365ofbloom February 17, 2012 at 11:01 PM #

    Hi Ann, I just want to say – thank you for such a beautiful blog. Love, 365ofbloom from Singapore.

    • Amateur Bot-ann-istur October 10, 2013 at 4:11 PM #

      Thank you so much. I am so sorry it’s taken me so long to say so, but I really mean it. Hope you’re still out there somewhere!

  2. Nuzhat Anwar March 23, 2013 at 10:25 AM #

    Dear Ann,
    It was inspiring to read your blog and see your creations. I find Ikebana extremely therapeutic. It is a meditative process for me, almost like a prayer. It brings me calmness, comfort and joy. I live in India and have learnt this art form from my mother when i was young, later got an opportunity to learn for sometime from a Sogetsu school trained Ikebana teacher. I practice on my own now although i wish i could learn more. Keep creating and keep expressing. I wish you peace, joy,good health and lots of inspiration. With much love, Nuzhat Anwar

    • Amateur Bot-ann-istur October 10, 2013 at 4:14 PM #

      I am sorry for responding so late to you as well Nazhat. Although I very much enjoy arranging with a sense of humor, it’s very much a meditative and spiritual process for me as well. I am returning now to practicing and I have a lot internally to express. I too wish you peace, joy, good health, and inspiration. With love returned (though many months late), Ann

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