Tag Archives: spring

We could dance and sing.

Windows above my kitchen sink and near my computer look out on the garden. When the evening sun’s slanting rays make flower stalks shimmer, it is my favorite sort of painting to gaze at, and I can hardly believe it is right here in my back yard — especially in spring when swaths of those blooms are popping up in turn and in overlapping layers, first the white ixia, then blue penstemon and the palest yellow-white California poppies, now the lavender and the rusty yarrow, and banks of little daisies I can never remember the name of.

Probably I should go back and read some of Elizabeth Von Arnim’s descriptions of gardens, to teach me how to convey the scene that makes me so happy. Not only in Elizabeth and Her German Garden but even more in The Enchanted April she expresses her love for this kind of overflowing, colorful and scented landscape, and gardens that are so prolific with blooms that bowls of them bless the rooms of the Italian castle in April (in April, too).

I don’t have a cutting garden most of the time, but right now I am still getting a few heavenly-sweet sweet peas with short stems. When I was snipping them to stick into a tiny vase today, I spied a Cabbage White in the patch of chives. As I understand, those caterpillars eat just about anything, and some years I have seen evidence of that behavior. I wonder how this year will be….

I just discovered that I have never once reviewed a book by Elizabeth von Arnim, or posted a quote by her, on my blog. I guess this is because my relationship with her as a person and writer is about much more than any one of her books; and isn’t it always somewhat of a mystery why we connect with particular authors? Mary Kathryn says it is the writer’s voice that she connects with, and it doesn’t matter what they write about, if one loves that particular voice.

The distance in time and culture between Elizabeth and me seems vast, though it is “only” 100 years. Our life experiences are worlds apart, but as I’ve listened to her voice and her stories, rich with humor that makes me laugh out loud, I’ve been comforted again and again. Today, I didn’t know her name would even come up. Since it has, and while it is yet springtime, here are some words from her that express the feelings of us both:

“Oh, I could dance and sing for joy that the spring is here!
What a resurrection of beauty there is in my garden,
and of brightest hope in my heart.”

Today when I went out to try for a picture of the Lambs Ears, I discovered that the Narrow-Leaf Milkweed flowers have started to open. These are the plants from which I collected Monarch butterfly eggs to incubate indoors, a few years ago. Aphids always decimate the plants, and after that first year’s destruction I realized that any hatched caterpillars would run out of food fast, because the leaves are literally slim pickings to begin with, and then the aphids suck all the life out of them. (By the way, you don’t want to bring in ladybugs to eat the aphids on your milkweed plants because ladybugs also eat Monarch eggs!!) Back then I had to feed my Monarch caterpillars from my Showy Milkweed plants which have large leaves and which the aphids don’t bother so much.

So far the aphids have not arrived — or at least, not noticeably. And the two plants of this species of milkweed come up bigger every spring. I see in the photo enlarged here that ants are among the insects hanging out there, so I maybe the aphids will come soon. But for now, their delicate flower crowns are pristine. The bees will soon be “dancing” around them for joy.

Turn the poet out of door.

It’s the “false spring” one day, and the next, not. When I was at church to bake communion bread, it was spring for sure. Of course the dough knew it, and behaved accordingly.

Yesterday, the wind and various other factors contributed to further thaw the bones of my soul. While I was in my own garden trimming the lemon tree, pomegranate bushes, lavender and a few other plants, a series of great gusts came up suddenly, and made a clattering of doors and toys and other blowing-around stuff in the neighborhood.

The poem below doesn’t originate in my area of the country, so it will never perfectly fit the weather here, but I love the spirit of it, and I’m sure it will please a few of you in more northerly parts of the world. If you tend to be impatient with poems, try reading this one out loud.

TO THE THAWING WIND

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

-Robert Frost

Because we haven’t had any rain in several weeks — or has it turned into months? — I had to put the hose on potted plants that aren’t on the automatic drip system. Hidden behind one big pot, this little great-grandbaby of a cactus I started was in full baby bloom. I brought her indoors to brighten up my kitchen, still lit also by the fairy lights, which are there for the days when spring is clearly not. yet.

In the fourth week of Lent…

Lithodora

…in the fourth week of Lent I was busy:

1) I cooked seedy crackers, vegan tapioca pudding, and pans and pans of roasted vegetables, including my own asparagus. I boiled a few quarts of ginger tea and tried out another vegan lemon cake recipe that I probably won’t make again. I’m done with cakes for a while. It makes sense to make cakes when one can use eggs and butter.

2) I baked communion bread at church. For a year we haven’t been using the little prosphora loaves that get sent into the altar along with our prayer requests, but we are starting that tradition again; four of us made 200 prosphora. What we call lambs, the larger loaves that we didn’t bake this week, are cut up and consecrated along with wine for Holy Communion. This photo is from the past.

3) I worked in the garden and the greenhouse. Most days now, when the sun shines, I open the door and vent of the greenhouse so that the seedlings don’t swelter. Then I close them up at night to shut out the cold marine breeze. Soon I’ll need to put a shade cloth on one side of the roof as well. The first butternut squash seed took an entire month to sprout; the next several were even later. Nothing like the pumpkins which were the first of all to emerge. I’ve moved most of the plants to larger pots so they can spread their roots in the next few weeks.

4) I shopped at a farmers market with Bella. We ate breakfast there and bought a few vegetables. How long had it been since I’d been to one of those? The sun shone and everyone was cheery. Then we went across town to her community garden plot, because she had a few potatoes that really needed to get into the dirt. I wandered around dreamily while she dug. Besides us, only a very quiet father and little daughter were working their plot, in which they had strawberries in process.

Bella sent me home with some horsetail which she told me to make tea out of, but it is still waiting in the refrigerator.

5) I went to church several times, and did a little housework, and got my taxes paid. I prepared for my church school class by reading more of The Screwtape Letters, and for the women’s book group by reading some of First Fruits of Prayer, which we discussed on ZOOM this afternoon. I ended up not enjoying that book very much. The Canon was not “itself,” plucked out of its normal context of Compline, extracted as a text to read, with explanatory notes but without the usual accompanying music, prostrations, and other tactile and sensory aspects, not to mention the fellow worshipers in the services in which we pray it, divided into four parts for the first week of Lent. This week we will do the whole Canon again, all in one morning.

6) I attended a doubly belated birthday party with my friends with whom I have celebrated for 36 years now, ever since we learned that we were born in the same week of the same year. At that time we lived on the same block of our “village.” Last spring we couldn’t manage it, so this was our 35th luncheon. We ate on the patio at S.’s house and the sun was just warm enough to make it easy to sit and chat for several hours.

7) I found these eggs that my daughter-in-law Joy knitted for me a few years ago, but which were stashed away in a box during the remodel. I posed them among the flowers but then brought them in to brighten up the living room.

This will be another full week. It’s such a blessing to have many different things to do, but — can you tell how worn out I am? It’s a great gift that God gives us rest, too. It’s the 5th Week of Lent – Pascha is coming!

Rain on my plum trees.

Last week I made a little trip to visit my horticulturalist/vintner/adventurer friend CJ, whom I hadn’t seen in a year. Her Christmas letter had gone to an old email address and I didn’t see it until that very day; when I read that she had started keeping chickens, I wrote and invited myself to meet them as soon as she would let me. She said, “Come today!”

It’s a good thing I didn’t have my phone on me as we sat in one room of the chicken house by the creek, where she has a lawn table and chairs for hanging out with her flock, or I would have made a fool of myself taking pictures of the beautiful girls, hens of all my favorite breeds: Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps and Red Leghorns. She sent me home with eggs and I had to explain why I am showing their picture.

This week we have wet and glorious rain. We, speaking of all God’s trees, grasses, shrubs, vines and flowers — and the humans, too — have been thirsty. Between showers, everything in the garden glows, but I don’t know how to capture that in my pictures. The Iceland poppies in the front garden are big and lush. Only two colors of the mixed 6-pack are blooming, and they look a little odd together, coral and orange, but that seems to be what they like.

In the back garden, I have another several poppy plants that have not grown above the ground level all these months. Maybe they are sulking in too much shade. But the stock and the plum trees are coming through with plenty of good cheer.