Category Archives: poetry

Amy Lowell laments the loss of leisure.

The idea of leisure is almost un-American, in its disregard for achievement, efficiency, and time-management. Do you deep down suspect that to enjoy leisure is to be lazy? Laziness has no part in leisure as Amy Lowell knows it to be, which is as a Presence to be cherished for its “teeming vigor.” To abandon oneself to “unmeasured time,” and the silences and delights of Now, is to make ready to receive gifts that God can’t give us when we are scurrying to and fro.

Before cell phones, which tempt us to flit about from a text message to a game to an Instagram photo, those in less-developed countries might at least have enjoyed leisure, as Richard Swenson wrote about in his book Margin. They are often poor, and have short life spans, but he found that they were happier than we who are continually in the red as regards time, if not money. The number of people in the world without cell phones has surely shrunken drastically since he wrote.

Leisure: the Basis of Culture is a title and a truth (by Josef Pieper).

LEISURE

Leisure, thou goddess of a bygone age,
When hours were long and days sufficed to hold
Wide-eyed delights and pleasures uncontrolled
By shortening moments, when no gaunt presage
Of undone duties, modern heritage,
Haunted our happy minds; must thou withhold
Thy presence from this over-busy world,
And bearing silence with thee disengage
Our twined fortunes? Deeps of unhewn woods
Alone can cherish thee, alone possess
Thy quiet, teeming vigor. This our crime:
Not to have worshipped, marred by alien moods
That sole condition of all loveliness,
The dreaming lapse of slow, unmeasured time.

–Amy Lowell

They come, they wake us.

pineapple guava buds

This afternoon was a healing balm, flowing from the mild-weather waking to breezes coming in at open windows, and Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women. I was celebrating and extra-blessed along with all of the Marys and Susannas and Salomes, plus Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Our Sisterhood at church also counts this as our Name Day.

So after all the spiritual food and agape meal, when we finally arrived home, all three of us (my two housemates and I) spent some time out in the corner of the back garden enjoying the sun while working or reading.

The photo below was taken two weeks ago after a rain, but it gives the rare wide view. The table where we like to sit is off the picture to the right.

Kit talked to us as she added some emitters to the irrigation lines that serve the pineapple guava. Last summer many of its leaves got sunburned, probably because it wasn’t getting enough to drink.

At dusk I went around taking pictures as I seem to do most days. The abutilon is a somewhat gangly adolescent right now, and it was near impossible to take its picture with a nice scene in the background, but each bloom is exquisite, hanging down bell-like so that one has to point a face or camera skyward to see inside. This view is also toward the street, and the lightpole near the corner of my property.

If I stand near that light pole and point my camera back toward the house,
this is what I see:

Do you see the abutilon at the far left? I have yet to finish filling in the asparagus beds on either side of the walk, though I spent a few hours on the job last week. When that job is finally completed I plan to dedicate a blog post to the topic, but by then I might be too done with it all.

Here is one of the showy milkweeds I planted a week ago – I still have narrow-leaf milkweed to put in the ground, plus tomatoes, basil, succulents, pipevine…  Tomorrow is May 1st. When I took a look at the weather forecast for the next ten days, to see how hot it might get, I was quite surprised to read that we are expected to get more rain showers. This spring I have several times been mistakenly comforted in “knowing” that we have seen the end of rain. I guess it’s too soon to start leaving my tools and toys out of doors at night.

And now, a poem, which I posted at least once before — but it does seem like one that bears repeating, with its simple and obvious truth about days such as the splendid one that for me is coming to a close. For many of you, it is already the merry month of May.

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

– Philip Larkin

I float on a sea with bangles.

snow peas

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. (This and all quotes in green below are from G.K. Chesterton.)

I had another title for this blog post, something about pollinators, but when I saw the preponderance of green in the images, it made me think of Tuesday’s poem, which could be talking about my own garden that is wild with leaves and flowers popping out at a mad rate. All the glory does make it hard for me to hold a thought, and there are many I should not let go of — starting with all the outdoor tasks that won’t wait: feeding and weeding and trimming and tying….

But going back to the poem, I’ve been thinking about how it describes the way the most common natural occurrences — after all, “the world comes back” in spring year after year — can confuse and even shock us if we really pay attention. In my yard it seems that between the time I walk from the front garden to the back and return again, a new weed has sprouted or an iris has emerged.

Why have I arrived on the path by the salvia? I don’t even take time to ponder, but I immediately start pulling weeds. Then I return to the fountain and see a honeybee on a flower, and must go into the house for my camera and “waste” a few minutes attempting to record one of the thousands of thrilling things happening here, right outside my door.

There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect.

This road leads to the heart from other sensory “gates” as well. My garden seems primarily visual, but also the rich scents of osmanthus and daphne and lavender have their own direct routes to my heart, as do the bird songs. I don’t have to think about them or know their meaning. In the poem about the “Deciduous Spring,” sounds of words are used to mimic the visual symphony or cacophony that all this burgeoning creates.

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.
It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

This week I will be adding more plants to the mix, and several of them will be of the sort that the hummingbirds and bees and other insects like. Last fall I planted five types of seeds that did not sprout: poppies, milkweed, prairie echinacea… So — I found a native plant nursery where I was able to buy two species of milkweed plants, orange Moroccan poppies, and penstemon. Visions of Monarch butterflies fill my head.

In the picture below of the waiting plants, the milkweed is mostly in the foreground, two types that are native to the western us: Asclepias fascicularis and Asclepias speciosa

The perplexity of life arises from there being too many interesting things in it
for us to be interested properly in any of them.

Three varieties of peas, mostly flowers soon to bloom.

To mention a pair of not-green things: The orioles are back! Not in the group that I am trying to attract with certain flowering plants, their preference is sugar water.They are very shy, so I’m not going to try to take new pictures of them. This one is from my great photographic effort last spring.

 

 

The snowballs on the viburnum are little green things so far. Green fruits are on the fig tree. I ran into a Painted Lady butterfly over there, and bumblebees, but their interest was the lithodora blossoms.

 

 

Jerusalem sage

Even the tiny flowers of the Euphorbia myrsinites are swallowed up in their green leaves.

Nearly every day I fall in love again and try to capture another poppy with my camera.
This time my toes got in the picture. At least they are not green.

The whole order of things is as outrageous as any miracle
which could presume to violate it.

And below, I used a clever jar-vase that Mrs. Bread gave me for my birthday, and made a colorful bouquet that will give your eyes respite from green. It is like a little canning jar with a ring that screws on the top, but into the ring is set a florist’s frog, making it perfect for arranging odd little blooms with their often short stems that one finds in a garden like mine.

That’s my show-and-tell for today! How does your garden grow?

snowball bush

Green mirrors go wild.

It’s National Poetry Month again. Here is a gabbling, spangling and whirling poem I’ve been saving to share at just such a time as this. You really should read it aloud, if only to yourself.

DECIDUOUS SPRING

Now, now the world
All gabbles joy like geese, for
An idiot glory the sky
bangs. Look!
All leaves are new, are
Now, are
Bangles dangling and
Spangling, in sudden air
Wangling, then
Hanging quiet, bright.

The world comes back, and again
Is gabbling, and yes,
Remarkably worse, for
The world is a whirl of
Green mirrors gone wild with
Deceit, and the world
Whirls green on a string, then
The leaves go quiet, wink
From their own shade, secretly.

Keep still, just a moment, leaves.

There is something I am trying to remember.

~ Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), American poet and writer