Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Magical Reward

Magical Reward
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
If you’re in the market for a pair of gossamer wings, I’m here to tell you that you can buy them right here in Portland, Oregon on NE Fremont at a magical little shop called Bella Flora. I’ve been walking by Bella Flora ever since we moved to Portland five years ago, but my walks never seemed to coincide with the shop’s somewhat irregular hours. Still, I always stopped to peer in the window at the most amazing merchandise: baskets made entirely from plump-budded pussywillows, silvery wreathes fashioned out of money plant, mammoth paperwasp nests, and a full range of fashions and furniture for fairies and sprites.

Bella Flora

A few days ago, I decided to treat myself to one of the fabulously wild wreathes from Bella Flora—I’d been wanting to get one for years, but I move very haltingly and skittishly when it comes to home décor. (I’m terrified of making a regrettable mistake.) But after getting up at 6:00 AM to work on the marketing of my business (ugh!), by early afternoon, I was in dire need of an antidote and a reward.

I took a walk and found myself in front of Bella Flora. It was open. Stepping across the threshold was like entering a Grimm’s fairy tale (not one of the ones with a grisly ending, though!). I ducked under a garland made of mottled oak galls and took a deep breath of the earthy and enchanted air. No fairies immediately apparent but plenty of evidence of them—cast-off wings, tulle skirts, and a pair of shimmery but impossibly narrow antique shoes. The fairies must have stepped out for a moment, possibly they nipped down the street for a soymilk latte or a pint of pale ale.

As I was taking it all in, Elaine, the cheerful and sprite-like owner, emerged from her workshop to say hello. We started chatting as I flitted (the only acceptable form of locomotion in a shop like this) about. I loved seeing all the raw materials right there in the shop, waiting—arranged ever so artfully—for Elaine to work her magic on them.

Raw Materials

Sheaves of gnarled sticks and knobbly branches form a makeshift thatch roof over her workspace. There were also buckets of dried lavender, sea holly, grasses of every description, and a stack of delicate skeletonized magnolia leaves. So ephemeral and, I’ll say it again, magic. Yep. We were throwing that word magic around left, right, and center.

The magic happens because Elaine knows how to use death and decay to advantage. She's a modern-day hunter-gatherer, scouting the forests and thickets for decomposing treasure. That morning she’d been out checking the progress of pussywillow buds. We should all spend more time doing that sort of thing.

I bought myself a wreath. I was really drawn to a massive wreath fashioned mainly of sinuous manzanita from southern Oregon, but there’s no way it would have fit over our fireplace. It was magnificent, though. But I’m thrilled with the one I did choose. Here’s a close-up.

Close-up of Wreath

Click on the photo if, like me, you simply must know the name of every plant Elaine wove into the wreath.

It looks stunning up on the wall—a huge improvement over the nondescript mirror from Bed, Bath, and Beyond that was there before. It makes me happy just to see it. I think it makes a suitable backdrop for the photos on the mantel of my grandmothers—especially my paternal grandmother whom, I think, looks remarkably like a wood nymph.


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