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Revealing Nature's Beauty Through Japanese Flower Arranging

Ikebana is a traditional art form, representing heaven, earth and man

ruby maruyama arranges flowers

Carmel Zucker/AARP

Ruby Maruyama practices ikebana, an ancient Japanese art form.

As a child, I worked in a flower shop owned by my family in a little town on the Big Island of Hawaii. My father and siblings arranged traditional, Western-style bouquets for weddings, funerals and such occasions.

It wasn't until much later, at age 40, that I took up the study of ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging. I had settled in Colorado after college, and, in 1975, I met a woman there named Kyoko Kita. She had been raised in Tokyo and had become a teacher of ikebana, which literally means “to arrange flowers.”

flower arrangement

Carmel Zucker/AARP

flower arrangement

Carmel Zucker/AARP

In class we learned that each ikebana arrangement must have three main stems, representing heaven, earth and man. In the traditional art form, these stems are positioned according to strict rules that govern their proportions, angles and other factors. After many years of lessons, I then ventured into what we call free-style arrangements, which allow for more flexibility and creativity. In the school of ikebana that I practice, known as Sogetsu, we are permitted to use ancillary materials such as ceramic, glass, metal or driftwood to augment our creations. Many times I'll include something my neighbor has cut from his yard and was preparing to throw away. We see beauty in other people's discards.

To introduce our art to the community, many of us arrange flowers in professional offices, restaurants, schools and places like that. I usually demonstrate ikebana pro bono, as I feel my reward is the compliments I receive and the knowledge that I am spreading this beautiful art.

Ruby Maruyama, 89, lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. She is a retired medical-office manager.

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