The cooler weather is gone, and honestly I might miss the garden peonies altogether, it will be so warm this week. Peonies do not like the heat. Case closed.
Carmine running through new growth – the fresh grape leaves, emerging strawberry red as they unfold, the hanging pendants of columbine and bearded iris draping their ever so tender petals for just a day before they seemingly melt away, and the bloom progresses to the next bud on the stalk. Yellow crowns of Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) – a new one on me, from the border of pollinator plants, and chives, the most cheerful and insistent of garden friends, who will not go away once you let them in, and earn their place by being both delicious and purple.
I cut a few for artistic purposes. I believe that is covered under my poet’s license, which permits a morsel of spring to contain an entire garden.
I had to push myself towards the lilacs this week – even though I wait all year for heaven on earth at sundown in the Arboretum, when hundreds of mature bushes sing with fragrance absorbed from the day’s warmth. I went after work, after dinner. After I knew there was only so much light remaining. I knew I couldn’t skip it – and yet the thought of one more thing added at the end of the day drained me.
That all fell away as I turned into the first row of lavender, wine and white colored plumes reaching overhead into the blue spring evening – and reaching toward me with their tender, cascading bells to be caressed and inhaled. There they were, some of my sweetest friends. I’ve been visiting these creatures so long, camera in hand. Searching their dense greens and radiant pendants of flowers for the invisible portal between what I see and feel and my longing to be here, to be loved, to be known. Because in their presence, existing as they do for no purpose other than delight, I suppose that part of myself can’t help but step forward. And she has a camera, and has painstakingly failed her way to occasionally using it to see what is not there otherwise.
Iris and dicentra spectabilis from the apartment driveway. Tulips from my community plot.
It was a cold, soaking rain for Mother’s Day, but I doubt that stopped anyone from taking Mom on her annual pilgrimage to the Arboretum, to stroll the acres of pink and white crabapples or breath deeply among the long, fragrant rows of lilacs. I did not venture there myself, although I very much need to visit the lilacs soon.
Instead of shoveling soggy wood chips with my friend onto the community garden paths, we took the less heroic route of kaffeeklatsch in the quiet morning hours of a Mother’s Day with nothing to do. We agreed that the black-ice road through Covid and cultural catastrophe is crowded with friends, all just as shocked as we are by the slide and crash of our own unforeseen hazards. And the great challenge seems to be allowing the inevitable joys and contentments to arise in parallel to the heart-stopping hairpin curves.
A dilemma that would feel familiar to so many women. Mothers who wake up dreaming how they can make things better, make things alright for their children, no matter how icy dark the night.
To my complete delight, I have my very own tulips and little blue bundles of muscari. Yes. Tulips and grape hyacinth all my own. Can you believe it? Crab apple branches courtesy of the parking lot at the closed Sears store. Iris from the driveway.
Meanwhile, long story short, gonna need a new computer. My photo editing software just won’t talk to Ms. Catalina Mac. So this is about the best I can bumble through in the web based editor. Which is not the same – and is therefor annoying.
I have so many plans already for next year’s tulips.
Flowers were interrupted last Sunday, due to a disagreement between my PC and Lightroom. The blossoms were not to blame. Forsythia, maple and (I think) serviceberry gathered from the parking lot at the questionable hibachi restaurant on the corner, the power box behind behind Fat Jack’s Barbecue (outside my bedroom window) and along the chain link fence where I park my car.
What pleasurable hours – to follow their gestures, absorbed in their color and form. To watch, amazed, as they carried on with spring right before my eyes.
The hyacinth along my driveway were up and blooming this week, so on Friday morning, I went to check on the muscari and tulips I planted last fall in my community garden plot. To my Incredulous Delight, I found they had pushed their leaves through the straw mulch I’d covered them with. I pulled it back a little, but I don’t want them to get too warm yet. Tulips are really a May flower here, but I’ll keep an eye on them from now on. With a few days this week in the upper 70s, they might make an early appearance.
It’s a little hard to trust the first few weeks of April – to wear only your warm weather hat, and shoes that are no good in the snow. She can turn pretty blustery without much warning, April can. The forsythia – a bell weather if there ever was one – have not yet ventured their yellow wings, but their branches are plump with mouse-ear sized buds, counting down the days to bloom.
Forsythia notwithstanding, though, I made up my mind it’s worth the risk to take the sunshine-warmth and red-wing blackbirds at their word.
We are ready to begin again, me and you – that’s what birthdays are for. Remembering the start of days yet to come – and the basic truth that every year, without fail, we grow and grow and that is something to be proud of – even if it is a fundamental grace of our lives on this earth.
It was one thing, though, to watch the years tick over before, as we can’t help but do. But those worlds are truly gone now – erased not by time but by disaster. And there is no cure for this shipwreck except to gather what is left, and mend and marry what will keep and what will stay together. And this work needs time.
I hinted a couple of butterflies for us, and the pup is faithfully waiting for something good to happen. Live long and prosper, sweetest girl. And I will do the same for you.
This seems like the picture you wanted to make, with the glowing gold petals and smooth cream petals, in the whimsical Spode cup as big as a tea pot. It’s not quite as soft as your watercolors, but I could tell you were pleased. No forsythia yet, but the yellow witch hazel are blooming at the gardens now, even with the heavy snow that covered up the snowdrops yesterday. Your did not get a farewell walk at Olbrich – but we can go on Tuesday.
Was it a new beginning for you, Mom?
It seems like that is what you told me,
in that darkest morning, almost sleeping,
surrounded by a silent voice.
“You are about to meet a self you have never known before.”
I heard, and I believe at that moment you freed yourself and me
And flew, as sure as any spirit that ever left or held the earth.
Today the surface of the lake, a quicksilver mirror
ruffled with jagged uncounted waves
I pray you see your self reflected
Unknown parts and entirely whole.
A self you could not know before, now in everywhere you are.
By the time I start to write you on Sunday, I’ve forgotten most of the week’s adventures. It may be that I didn’t have any – but I doubt it.
One fun adventure was I looked everywhere and couldn’t find my seeds that I bought last fall. I searched high and low, in all the smart places and even the dumb ones (the basement – gack!) – but I had hidden them too well. And here I was, ready to start my first indoor seedlings, with nothing to plant.
So I did have to go buy more of those dahlia seeds, and the extra-pretty cosmos called Apricotta (sounds like a delicious dessert, doesn’t it?). And while I was at the big garden store, I decided I better buy more, different seeds – because you know, they might run out of them later in the actual spring.
Of course I don’t have room to start them all – probably not even half of them. But knowing that doesn’t matter. You don’t buy seeds from a logical frame of mind, but in a hopeful trance not to be interrupted by petty concerns such as how many shelves and lights you might have in your kitchen.
Of course, I found the lost seed packets the next day. Now I have my Teddy Bear sunflowers and so many more cactus flowered dahlias and Apricotta cosmos. Not to mention calendula, poppy, nigella, snapdragon, campanula, nasturtium, and aster, nestled in their colorful envelopes, just waiting for their days in the sun.
I made up my mind to take a breather from the flowers, and to be sure I did, I went to an estate sale on Saturday morning instead of getting my flowers. I did overpay for this charmingly leaky teapot – but that’s a lesson we can’t learn too often.
This morning I woke up at the crack of 6:30 (really 5:30 darn that dumb time change) to a wet, clumpy snow and grey skies – and something felt off kilter. Of course – no flowers. It just isn’t Sunday any more without flowers.
I wanted to turn over and go back to sleep, then get up and read and make coffee. Truly, I really did want to do those things. But I realized right away I couldn’t. The house would just feel naked without flowers, and what else am I going to do on Sunday? (Don’t answer that.)
So on with the snow boots (not for the last time, I’m sure), and downstairs with the snow broom (yes, it’s exactly what you think) to clean the car and get on the road in time to be there when the market opens.
And it’s a good thing I went, too – because today was the First of Ranunculus. And I got the very prettiest ones.