At the Shambala Center where my zen group meets, there is a woman who does beautiful Ikebana arrangements. I often scribble a little note to thank her for her work. The simplicity is deceiving, and since I’ve had a class, I can tell you that many steps are taken to create these little still frames of nature. For instance, the flower stems are to be held under water as they are trimmed. I’m not sure if this is just smart practice with any plant, or if it is tied to energy. Flowers and branches are not necessarily eliminated if they are imperfect — in fact, just like a hand knit scarf, the little flaws are a reminder that it is fine as it is — in fact, perfect. Most often beginners use a method using three main branches. These are mathematically proportional and are usually based on the measurement of the vase. They represent ten(heaven), chi (earth) and jin (man). I remember fussing with my pieces and fighting the urge to be perfect with them, and I remember the teacher saying , ” this is not a battle”. She had a great dry sense of humor under her stern face, and it makes me laugh to picture her. If any of you saw the show “Six Feet Under”, there is a scene where the mother takes a floral arranging class. She is so uptight and it is evident in her work. The teacher there tells her to breathe, and that is exactly the advice given to me. After that, things did fare better. I learned how to snip away excess leaves and flowers according to the “less is more” style. I learned that flowers arc towards the sun (of course LOL) and sometimes you bend a branch carefully to help give it shape. There are even ways to create grids out of cut stem pieces that are inserted into the tops of vases to help keep the stems in their upright positions. And this is just the simple overview. There are many schools of Ikebana and some even incorporate found objects in a very modern style. I was lucky enough to see some great work at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year. If any of you have done some Ikebana arrangements, please post some photos.