The Fresh Fields

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Now Spring returns with leaf and blade,
Some seek the garden, some the glade;
And all to Nature turn, but I
to the fresh fields of Poetry.

Sweet are the first green leaves, and sweet
The scents, and genial the first heat;
And backed by pine or cypress glooms
How rich the rhododendron blooms!

Yet rich or sweet as these appear,
They were as wonderful last year;
And all as then move without pause
Through the same course by the same laws.

The flowers I meet in song are new;
None shall forecast their shape or hue;
To none of your dull round belong
The seasons that unfold in song.

The trees that sung in verse I find
Are each its own, an unknown, kind;
But best in all, tree, season, flower,
Is, there’s no limit to their power.
~Archibald Young Campbell from “Spring and Poetry”

 

These intricate blooms,
beautiful as they are,
return unchanged year after year~
a proliferation of brilliant color.

They explode like fireworks
over fields and hills,
flash, flourish, fade
and are gone.

Yet words of the poet bud and swell in slow motion,
a blossoming blend that linger longingly,
ever changing, transforming
the landscape of heart and mind.

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Hear Pink Sing

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Not a color I’ve wanted to wear—too
innocently girlish, and I’m not innocent,
not a girl. But today the gnarled cherry trees
along Alabama Street are decked out
like bridesmaids—garlands in their hair,
nosegays in their hands—extravagant…
~Luci Shaw from “Pink”

If you stand in an orchard
In the middle of Spring
and you don’t make a sound
you can hear pink sing,
a darling, whispery song of a thing.
~Mary O’Neill from Hailstones and Halibut Bones “Pink”

Nothing about me is pink
except my windblown cheeks
on a brisk April day,
yet I love listening to pink
as it blooms all around me,
bubbling with ebullience,
whispering me awake in the morning
and bidding me gently goodnight.

 

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Orchard Mowing

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The rain eases long enough
to allow blades of grass to stand back up
expectant, refreshed
yet unsuspecting,
primed for the mower’s cutting swath.

Clusters of pink tinged blossoms
sway in response to my mower’s pass,
apple buds bulge on ancient branches
in promise of fruit
stroked by the honeybees’ tickling legs.

Bowing low beneath the swollen blooms,
caught by snagging branches
that shower from hidden raindrop reservoirs
held in the clasp of blushing petal cups,
my face anointed in perfumed apple tears.

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Where Minds and Gardens Grow

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As I go between meetings on the Western Washington University Campus in Bellingham, Washington, I can’t help but admire the work of the stewards of the gardens and landscape, as well as some of the four legged visitors.  These are iPhone photos, taken on the run.

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cornflower and pollinator
officially a weed but lovely nonetheless
officially a weed but lovely nonetheless
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rose garden outside Old Main after a shower
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rose garden
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geranium outside the Academic Instructional Center
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hedge of ornamental grasses near the Rec Center
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Hollyhock seed pods
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blackberries sneak in here and there
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ornamental hedge berries
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nigella seed pods
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Queen Anne’s Lace with its “bruised” center

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zinnia patch

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Tip-toe Wings

sweeterpeasHere are sweet-peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings.
~John Keats

I grew up watching sweet peas climb a trellis in our family garden. Their delicate tendrils did wrap clinging fingers around anything they could reach and grasp. The blossoms were too ephemeral to bring indoors for a vase on the table — the petals would droop and then drop within a day or so. They were meant to be appreciated right where they grew, so I would visit them regularly, breathe deeply with my nose in their midst to capture and keep their lovely scent with me as I went on about my day, leaving them waving their vines in my wake.

Some things are better left undisturbed, to flourish right where they have taken hold. In the case of sweet peas, if I had stood beside them long enough, the finger-like tendrils would have reached out and grasped me as well, climbing up my frame and wrapping their blooming fragrance around me, truly changing me forever.

And so it will be in heaven someday: we will be grasped and clung to with the sweet scent of everlasting love, never to be let go, and never again to be what we once were.

Constant Friends

 

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“In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends.” 
~ Kozuko Okakura 

We spent a rainy afternoon touring the estate house and gardens at Mount Stewart on the eastern most peninsula in Northern Ireland while the rest of the country here was steeped in heavy security for the G8 Summit happening and President Obama’s arrival in Belfast with his family.  We decided to bypass all the politics and find something beautiful.  We succeeded.

Flowers are present for our most emotional times of life–to celebrate birth and comfort the dying, to show love and celebrate life long unions.  They are a universal language, no matter the country.  During our visit to Japan, the whole country was preparing for the annual festivals celebrating sakura, the cherry blossoms that are so beloved there.  Here in Ireland, spring is late this year, so today we got to enjoy azaleas and rhododendrons and peonies all over again, as they are completely done blooming at home.

We are thrilled to find our floral friends blooming richly here, even with the stress and troubles of the recent decades in Northern Ireland, and the current economic struggles here and elsewhere.  If the G8 Summiteers have trouble reaching any agreement, they just need to go find a garden to cultivate together.  Voltaire understood that several centuries ago;  we need to remind ourselves now that the best of friends will be constant through joy and sorrow.

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All in All

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Little flower, but if I could understand what you are, root and all in all, I should know what God and man is.
~  Tennyson

Am I root, or am I bud?  Am I stem or am I leaf?  All in all, these are not me
but signs of God’s fruiting glory.

I am but the tears He shed as He broke
into blossom.

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Sweet and Sour Air

photo of Mt. Rainier sunrise by Kathy Yates
photo of Mt. Rainier sunrise by Kathy Yates

In Summer, in a burst of summertime
Following falls and falls of rain,
When the air was sweet-and-sour of the flown fineflower of
Those goldnails and their gaylinks that hang along a lime;
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Cheery Beggar”

Sweet and sour extends far beyond a Chinese menu; it is the daily air I breathe.  Dichotomy is so much of my life and times,  more distinct than the bittersweet of simple pleasures laced with twinges and tears.

I am but a cheery beggar in this world, desiring to hang tight to the overwhelming sweetness of each glorious moment — the startling sunrise, the lush green and golden blooms following spring showers, the warm hug of a compassionate word, the house filled with love and laughter.  But as beggars aren’t choosers, I can’t only have sweet alone;  I must endure the sour that comes as part of the package — the deepening dark of a sleepless night, the muddy muck of endless rain, the sting of a biting critique, the loneliness of an home emptying and much too quiet.

So I slog through sour to revel some day, even more so, in sweet.  Months of manure-permeated air is overcome one miraculous morning by the unexpected and undeserved fragrance of apple blossoms, so sweet, so pure, so full of promise of the fruit to come.  The manure makes the sweet sweeter.

And I breathe in deeply, content and grateful for a moment of grace and bliss, wanting to hold it in the depths of my lungs forever.

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates
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angel trumpet plant courtesy of HGTV
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Sequestered Nook

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Beneath these fruit-tree boughs that shed
Their snow-white blossoms on my head,
With brightest sunshine round me spread
Of spring’s unclouded weather,
In this sequestered nook how sweet
To sit upon my orchard-seat!
~William Wordsworth

Sequester has a different meaning these days — a “take no prisoners” government withholding of funds it hadn’t collected to begin with.

I prefer the “hidden away for safe-keeping” definition — exactly how I feel when I walk into the orchard.  I am cloistered in blossoms exuberant with potential.

Sequestered nook.  Words and times change but the essence of spring’s promise never does.

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It Sings

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

The roofs are shining from the rain,
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree–
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.
–  Sara Teasdale, April

Here we are, closing in on mid-April and it has been a week of heavily drifting snowstorms in the plains, tornado weather in the south, and blustering wind and rain in the northwest.  I am not so sure of Spring nor is anyone else.

Yet it sings in me.  Yes it sings.

The calendar does not lie, nor does my nose.  The pollen counts are rising despite the rains and as I step outside in early dawn, I can catch the slightest fragrance of just-opening cherry and apple blossoms in the orchard.  Within a week there will be sweet perfume in the air everywhere and the fruit trees become clothed in white puffy clouds of blossom before bursting full into green.

In defiance of the calendar, our oak trees cling stubbornly to their brown bedraggled fall leaves as if ashamed to ever appear naked, even for a week.  In May they will go straight from brown to green without a moment of bare knobby branches.

Even so, it sings in me.  Yes it sings.

A morning bird symphony tunes up ever earlier including the “scree” and chatter from bald eagles high up in the fir trees surrounding our house.  Nesting has begun despite the wet and cold and wind because their nest is the secure home that calls them back, again and again, year after year.

Like them, it sings in me.  Yes it sings.

I rise opening like a bud, I dress my nakedness to cover up my knobbiness, I wander about outside exulting in the free concert, I manage to do chores despite the distractions — this routine of mine which is so unchanging through the calendar days becomes glorious gift and privilege.

Hopefulness sings in me in Spring.  Yes it sings.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten