Recently, I had the opportunity to check off the first of a number of Bucket List trips. This one was my first cross country road trip, taking me beyond Wisconsin through South Dakota and down through Utah. It was the most one on one time my brother and I have spent together since I left home for college.

My experiences were feasts for my eyes: Big Skies, Big Mountains, Big Vistas that brought up Big Feelings and Big Questions about Life, our precious Earth and the Universe. It was momentous, unforgettable, mind blowing, joyous and humbling.

I returned home and transitioned back to work and home life. As I drove to my studio I passed stunning burgundy Cotinus “Smoke Bush” in spectacular bloom and decided that was what I wanted to design with. Incredibly none of it was being cut locally. Determined to find it, I turned to the Dutch Markets to search it out. I was disappointed that the local variety that caught my eye was not available, but the less dramatic Cotinus Green Fountain was available. This variety while much less dramatic than the deep burgundy variety is tinged with a lovely mauve pink. To amp that subtle shading I selected a cool pink Asiatic Lily to combine with it.

I designed 12 pieces for two clients and worried that my excitement for this stunning, impossible flower was too subtle and too weird to draw much enthusiasm from my audiences.

To my surprise, they were an instant hit. People stopped me again and again with effusive compliments that chased my reservations and doubts away.

After my installations, while driving home, I realized that the Western Skies had manifested in these pieces and I felt at once stupid and brilliant! The moody skies, (Cotinus) with radiant sun beams (Lilies) breaking through them were my floral landscapes!