A Floral Symphony

gladiolafair1

dahliafair2

What a pity flowers can utter no sound! —A singing rose, a whispering violet, a murmuring honeysuckle… on, what a rare and exquisite miracle would these be!
~Henry Ward Beecher

eveningdogwoodpetals

fuschiafairies

One last floral symphony before the blooms are gone with the wind and burned by the frost.

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dahliafair3

qalace2016

wwupinks9

fuschia2

A Burst of Fruit Flies

autumn9271415

tomatobug

septtomato

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.

Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
 
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
 
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.
~Karina Borowicz  “September Tomatoes”
bananafly
septtomato3
rainypink
I have an uncomfortable relationship with fruit flies this time of year. The compost bin erupts with a black cloud of fruit flies when I throw in the day’s cast offs. The fruit I bring in from the orchard and garden must be preserved before it rots, but hundreds of Drosophila melanogaster decide their breeding grounds are far more hospitable in a warm kitchen than in the chilly outdoors.  And breed they do, each female laying up to 100 eggs a day just like in biology lab at Stanford 40+ years ago where we traced recessive vs. dominant genetic traits of curly deformed wings, stubby bristles and colored eyes. I am not interested in such subtlety in my current crop of flies.  In fact I have no sympathy for them at all.
I have laid out killing fields everywhere on the cupboards — fruit fly traps (paper cones feeding into apple cider vinegar baths in water glasses), a cautionary tale to the daily burden of fresh fruit flies.

It feels so cruel.

As rot and degradation is their happy place, the flies will win until the fruit is harvested, preserved and put away for a winter day.  Then the kitchen becomes my happy place again, fly-free with no more killing fields.
Then I must face the cruel task of pulling up carefully tended garden plants to ready the beds for winter.  Perhaps if I remember to sing as I pull them out by the roots, they won’t see me weep.
tomatoshine
septtomato2
rainygold

A Zucchini Chronicle

zuke1

blossompunkin

It started innocently enough in April
with two-leaf seedlings labeled green and golden;
non-descript squash plants harboring
hidden potential.

By June the plants crept across the ground with vines
reaching past the beans to confront the cucumbers;
going where no vine has gone before
to divide and conquer, leaving no dust untouched.

July buds formed blossoms inviting bees deep
into yellow-throated pollen pools
thickening within days to elongated flesh:
fecundity in action before our eyes.

The finger-like projections at first harvested
too small, but temptation overwhelms patience;
sauted, grilled with garlic, superb in
supreme simplicity.

But come back a day later: hose-like vines
pumping into each squash, progressive inflation like
balloon-man creations to be twisted and transformed,
but too plump, too distended, too insatiable.

It’s a race to keep up with the pace of production
eat some, give them away, leave on doorsteps like abandoned kittens,
in boxes in church lobbies, lunch rooms at work,
food banks posting signs: “No more zucchini please!”

They march in formation in the garden path
as they are yanked swelling from their umbilical cords
and lined up, stacked, multiplying
like the broom fragments of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

Once tossed on to the compost pile,
they rest in intimate embrace through heated decomposition
in dead of winter, amid steam rising,
a seedling, innocent enough, pokes through exploding with potential~

Run for your lives!

zuke4

zuke3

A Curious Gladness

dandylight81416

daisypair

rose52916

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
and still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
“Light splashed…”

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.
~Stanley Kunitz  “The Round”

wwubee

sunflower816

compostjanuary

It is too easy to be ground to a pulp by the little things, those worries that never seem to wane, sucking the gladness out of the day.  They become four dimensional and soon we’re enveloped within, losing all perspective on what got us out of bed to begin the day.

God is in these intricate details, whether the splash of light on a petal or the smell of rotting refuse and it is our job to notice.  It is tempting to look past His ubiquitous presence in all things, to seek out only the elegant grandeur of creation.   Yet even what lacks elegance from our limited perspective, is still worthy of His divine attention.

The time has come to be refreshed and renewed
even when surrounded by decay.
His care is revealed in the tiniest way.
He is worthy of my attention.

A new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

gardenspot7

wwublackeyed

Your Unfolding Life

sunflowerjuy

begoniawlc

pnp168

Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming,
….an emerging fullness,
a greater sense of grace and elegance,
a deeper sense of depth,
and also a kind of homecoming
for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.

~John O’Donohue from an “On Being” interview

 

cornflower2016

Whenever we wander from home,
witnessing beauty in far flung places,
I find I yearn even more for the homecoming
of memories unfolding
from where they are so neatly stored,
so deep and so wide, so full and filling.

seeds

dahlialinda

petuniajuly

Turn the Earth Upside Down

dewyblue
dewyflowers
 There is a treasure in the earth
that is a food tasty and pleasing
to the Lord.
Be a gardener.
Dig and ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.
~Julian of Norwich
radish
peasprout

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 we breathe.  Dichotomy is so much of our life and times,  more distinct than the bittersweet of simple pleasures laced with twinges and tears.

We are but cheery beggars 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, we can’t only have sweet alone;  we 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 we 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 and pear blossoms, so sweet, so pure, so full of promise of the fruit to come.  The manure makes the sweet sweeter and once again the earth turns upside down.

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

wwupinks

herboctober
summertable2

Just Too Much on a June Morning

morningbird

Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he’s gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.
~Mary Oliver from “A Thousand Mornings”

birdonpostrodenberger
photo by Harry Rodenberger

 

What does it say about me that in the darkness of December mornings, I yearn for the early sunrises of June but once I’m firmly into the June calendar, it no longer is so compelling?  It confirms my suspicion that I’m incapable of reveling in the moment at hand, something that would likely take years of therapy to undo.  I’m sure there is some deep seated issue here, but I’m too sleep deprived to pursue it.

My eyes popped open this morning at 4:17 AM, spurred by vigorous birdsong in the trees surrounding our farm house.  There was daylight sneaking through the venetian blinds at that unseemly hour as well.  Once the bird chorus starts, with one lone chirpy voice in the apple tree by our bedroom window, it rapidly becomes a full frontal onslaught symphony orchestra from the plum, cherry, poplar, walnut, fir and chestnut.   Sleep is irretrievable.

I remember wishing for early morning birdsong last December when it seemed the sun would never rise and the oppressive silence would never lift.  I had conveniently forgotten those mornings a few years ago when we had a flock of over a dozen young roosters who magically found their crows very early in the morning a mere 10 weeks after hatching.  Nothing before or since could match their alarm clock expertise after 4 AM.  No barbecue before or since has tasted as sweet.

So I remind myself how bad it can really be and backyard birdsong is a veritable symphony in comparison.

Even so, I already need a nap.

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marshmallowmorning1