A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

My Photo
Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tapis de Fleurs

A beautiful weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts--but an even more beautiful one in Brussels, Belgium. This is the weekend that the carpet of flowers is installed in the Grand Place, the heart of the city and arguably the most beautiful square in Europe, even without the flowers. This event takes place every other year in August.

Ever since my mother and one of my cousins lived in Belgium many years ago, I've wanted to see this installation for myself. Although I've been to Brussels more than once, I've never hit it during flower-carpet time. Oh, well.

The carpets consist of close to three-quarters of a million fresh begonias on a base of sod. Every year, the design is different, and is often chosen to symbolize some appropriate event. The 2002 carpet, for example, commemorated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America, with a mariner's compass worked into the central motif. 1994 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Brussels, with the arms of the city and the regimental badges of the British in the design. 1990 was the Year of Mozart.

The tradition of the biannual carpet dates back to the 1970's. The landscape architect Etienne Stautemans originated the idea, having experimented with carpets of various sizes throughout Belgium and in many other countries as well. His intent was to popularize the begonia, a flower native to the West Indies, but cultivated extensively in the Ghent region of Belgium, and much beloved by Belgians. At 60,000,000 begonias per year, Belgium is the world's largest producer of the flowers.

The early installations stuck pretty much to typical carpet patterns, but variety and technology crept in. The 2000 tapis de fleurs looked like a Belgian lace runner on a table. In 2004, the begonias fashioned an art nouveau stained glass window (Brussels is the home of art nouveau). 2002 recreated the gardens of Versailles, complete with pointy cypresses and real water fountains. This year, the tapis is a kaleidoscope--the medallions in the medieval-inspired design actually revolve.

A small army of workers fashioned the entire carpet on Friday. After Tuesday, it'll be gone. The ephemeral nature of the work, of course, makes it all the lovelier. Flowers have long symbolized the transitoriness of human beauty. As Herrick, To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time:

"Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
To morrow will be dying."

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Cicily Corbett said...

Thanks to expatriate Ben, btw, for the lovely photo.

3:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home