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Avoid Drowning, Dive into Ikebana

Updated: Jul 19


I’m a swimmer and a fan of the writer Bonnie Tsui. She loves swimming and writes about it often and eloquently. In a recent article, she referenced a song by Loudon Wainwright III, also a swimmer. It made me reflect on the summer of 2020, a summer we’ll never forget, but also on ikebana and it’s power to keep us afloat.


This summer I went swimming

This summer I might have drowned


But I held my breath and I kicked my feet


And I moved my arms around



I think of ikebana as an anti-anxiety treatment. In this summer of drowning, when we don’t know what the future will bring, where all plans, whether they’re for one-year, one week or one day ahead, are suddenly underwater, where our sense of where we were going and what we would do there is as muddy as a wave on a sand-roiled beach, handling flowers is good medicine.


So, let’s practice ikebana. Look around. Can’t leave your house or yard? Snip a few intriguing odds and ends. Gnarled misfits from an overgrown vegetable garden? Seed pods from a spent bloom? Pick up something wild along a walk. Don’t eschew the humble weed! Ask a neighbor (from a social distance) if you might have a stem or two from their yard. Then, see what happens.

Scotch Broom. A noxious weed? Really?

Survival tips:


  • Know your river: Prepare your work space. Have vase, kenzan, scissors and water handy. Study your materials. Hold that branch up. Which direction does it face? Does it express movement or stability? Is it heavy or light? Find the face of the blossoms. Have them turn toward the sun.


  • Beware underwater currents: Is that stem going to droop or break? Will your flowers fade in a day? Maybe so. Be prepared. Kick your feet and move your arms around. Chalk it up. Experience is the best teacher.


  • Don’t panic: The water can be cold when you first dip your toe. Have a good ikebana book by your side. Hold your breath. Be brave. You may have to change course. Keep an extra kenzan and alternate vase handy.


  • If all else fails: Focus on the shore. Find the beauty and float.





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