My mom once asked me which sense I’d give up if I had to, sight or hearing? A teenager at the time, I wondered if it was a trick question. I thought about the blind people I’d seen tapping their canes along the sidewalks, and answered, “Hearing”. She told me she’d give up sight. I didn’t believe her. It was a kitchen table time-waster, but she went on for a while about ancient blind poets and sages, as well as Ray Charles, whom she loved. She also pointed out the vulnerability of the deaf, reminding me of a terrible traffic accident in our town a few years before.However, I dug in and refused to change my mind. I couldn’t imagine blindness, no matter how I tried. Being deaf was tolerable, by comparison. For instance, I dreaded the notion of learning Braille, since I was already a slow reader. Perhaps it was our 33 year difference in age.
But, lately, I’ve seen Mom’s point. Music was central to our family life, and has remained so for me. As I’ve aged, I’ve wondered if it might be better to be a bat. I comprehend more from a person’s voice than from their words. Thankfully, I’ve never had to make this tragic and absurd decision (knock on wood).
Lovely flower colors manifest the miracle of sight. Hellebore flower heads occupy a rare and exquisite niche in the world of color. My eyes have to “stretch” a bit, dilate and refocus to take in the wide range of subtlety in each bloom. Anchored in a soothing pale green undertone, Hellebores possess a musical quality, a palette that suggests the richness of a cello and the sweetness of woodwinds or French horns. Listen to Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet (K.581) and Divertimento in F (K.247). Hellebores define the tranquility of late winter in the garden.
Most Hellebore flower heads nod downwardly, and one must gently turn them up, like scratching a cat under the chin. A few cultivars angle upward a bit, but the overall effect of the genus is of great formal dignity and delicacy, like an introverted child. Therefore, plant them in groups of 3 or 5, here and there, in your partial shade. They will array themselves serenely about your quiet spots of dappled and diffuse light.