Those Spiky Suns

dande

How I loved those spiky suns,   
rooted stubborn as childhood   
in the grass, tough as the farmer’s   
big-headed children—the mats   
of yellow hair, the bowl-cut fringe.   
How sturdy they were and how   
slowly they turned themselves   
into galaxies, domes of ghost stars   
barely visible by day, pale   
cerebrums clinging to life   
on tough green stems.   Like you.   
Like you, in the end.   If you were here,   
I’d pluck this trembling globe to show   
how beautiful a thing can be   
a breath will tear away.  
~Jean Nordhaus “A Dandelion for My Mother”
The lawn is filled with them now
yellow spots in carpeted green
closed tight at night,
in the morning,
opening as miniature reflections
of the real dawn.
Growing up, paid ten cents per dandelion
I dug up each long offending root,
restoring the blemished green
to pristine perfection;
no more yellow splotches
unruly stems
blow away ghosts
releasing scores of
seedy offspring.
But it didn’t last.
The perfect lawn
like the perfect life~
unbesmirched~
isn’t possible.
The hardy seeds of trouble
float innocently on the breeze
or lie hidden deep in our soil
ready to spring up overnight
and overtake us.
Maybe that is our fear
of those little spunky spiky suns:
their cheerful glow
belies their pernicious
tendency to own us,
heart and soul.
puffball

Harvesting

kale

kale

kale

kale

The kale’s
puckered sleeve,
the pepper’s
hollow bell,
the lacquered onion.
Beets, borage, tomatoes,
Green beans.
I came in and I put everything
on the counter: chives, parsley, dill,
the squash like a pale moon,
peas in their silky shoes, the dazzling
rain-drenched corn.
~Mary Oliver from “Rain”
chard

chard

rosemary
rosemary

It’s Life We Harvest

mapleWWU

vine maple WWU

madronaberries

madrona tree berries –WWU

…still it’s not death that spends
So tenderly this treasure
To leaf-rich golden winds,
But life in lavish measure.

No, it’s not death this year
Since then and all the pain.
It’s life we harvest here
(Sun on the crimson vine).
The garden speaks your name.
We drink your joys like wine.
~May Sarton, from “The First Autumn”

burning bush-- WWU

burning bush– WWU

red fringed maple leaf --WWU

red fringed maple leaf –WWU

Is there something finished?  And some new beginning on the way?

I cried over beautiful things, knowing no beautiful thing lasts…
~Carl Sandburg, from “Falltime” and “Autumn Movement”

wwuheartleaf

WWU tree -Haskell Plaza

WWU tree

wwuyellow

WWU tree in Haskell plaza

I praise the fall:

It is the human season. On this sterile air
Do words outcarry breath: the sound goes on and on.
I hear a dead man’s cry from autumn long since gone.

I cry to you beyond upon this bitter air.
~Archiblad MacLeish from “Immortal Autumn”

College Way, WWU

College Way, WWU

 

 

 

Heart of a Pansy

pansy3

pansy1(pansies pictured are above Bellingham Bay on the Performing Arts Center Plaza at Western Washington University)

Nobody can keep on being angry if she looks into the heart of a pansy for a little while.
~L.M. Montgomery

The world is in sore need of a cure for the grumbles.

Fortunately, it exists right outside in our back yards, along sidewalks and in vacant lots.

A cheerful face is irresistible to all but the crabbiest among us, guaranteed to bring a smile every time.

Beyond the obvious charm exists a depth of heart — roots able to thrive in the thinnest of soil, at home among rocks and weeds,  resilient even when tromped on.

We carry its seeds on the tread of our boots in spite of our grumbling and help spread the good news: anger left unfed will dry up and blow away.

Yet the constant heart of the pansy will last.  It smiles back.

pansy4

pansy2

pansy7

Let Them Be Left

abouttobloom

 

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness?
Let them be left,O let them be left, wildness and wet,
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Inversnaid”

 

Maybe I identify with weeds as I too have grown a bit “excessive” in mid-life, growing unnecessarily and a bit fluffier than I need be.  Maybe I admire their ability to thrive where they land, resilient through all sorts of trials and deprivation.  Certainly they deserve appreciation for their wildly unique characteristics and their perfect imperfections.  Once I get to know them,  their beauty brings me joy.

I can only hope I too can be left,  my over-proliferation shown grace, my greediness granted mercy.

gonetoseed

 

In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.
~Alice Walker

 

lotsaweeds

 

…if the simple things in nature have a message you understand,
Rejoice, for your soul is alive.
~Eleanora Duse

 

weedybarn

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
~A. A. Milne

closedfist

 

…make no mistake:  the weeds will win; nature bats last.
~Robert M. Pyle

 

weedybarn2

Always Summer

pinkroseThe serene philosophy of the pink rose is steadying.  It fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready to fall, without regret or disillusion, after only a day in the sun.  It is so every summer.  One can almost hear their pink, fragrant murmur as they settle down upon the grass: “Summer, summer, it will always be summer.”
~ Rachel Peden

And so it always will be summer when one lets go in the midst of brightness when all is glorious.  No cold winds, no unending days of rain, no mildew, no iced walkways, no 18 hours of night every day, no turning brown with rot.

Serene and steadying — with so much brevity.

Let me be strong and serene through all seasons rather than letting go at the height of delicate beauty.  Let me thrive steady through the hard times rather than withering at my peak.  Let me age, let me turn gray, let me wrinkle.

It may always be summer — someday — but not yet.  Not here. Not now.

rosetree

rosearch

Let it Go

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

I let her garden go.
let it go, let it go
How can I watch the hummingbird
Hover to sip
With its beak’s tip
The purple bee balm — whirring as we heard
It years ago?

The weeds rise rank and thick
let it go, let it go
Where annuals grew and burdock grows,
Where standing she
At once could see
The peony, the lily, and the rose
Rise over brick

She’d laid in patterns. Moss
let it go, let it go
Turns the bricks green, softening them
By the gray rocks
Where hollyhocks
That lofted while she lived, stem by tall stem,
Blossom with loss.
~ Donald Hall from “Her Garden” about Jane Kenyon

Some gray mornings
heavy with clouds
and tear-streaked windows
I pause melancholy
at the passage of time.

Whether to grieve over
another hour passed
another breath exhaled
another broken heart beat

Or to climb my way
out of deepless dolor
and start the work of
planting the next garden

It takes sweat
and dirty hands
and yes,
tears from heaven
to make it flourish
but even so
just maybe
my memories
so carefully planted
might blossom fully
in the soil of loss.

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

 

Thinking Rhubarb

madrhubarb
Like a mad red brain
the involute rhubarb leaf
thinks its way up
through loam.
~Jane Kenyon from “April Chores”

Over the last two weeks, the garden is slowly reviving, and rhubarb “brains” have been among the first to appear from the garden soil, wrinkled and folded, opening full of potential, “thinking” their way into the April sunlight.

Here I am, wishing my own brain could similarly rise brand new and tender every spring from the dust rather than leathery and weather-toughened, harboring the same old thoughts and patterns.  Indeed, more wrinkles seem to be accumulating on the outside of my skull rather than the inside.

Still, I’m encouraged by my rhubarb cousin’s return every April.  Like me, it may be a little sour that necessitates sweetening, but its blood courses bright red and it is very very much alive.

 

Lenten Grace — Some Vast, Incredible Gift

 

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Nate Gibson

photo by Nate Gibson

photo by Emily Dieleman
photo by Emily Dieleman

In trees still dripping night some nameless birds
Woke, shook out their arrowy wings, and sang,
Slowly, like finches sifting through a dream.
The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.

Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,
Their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming,
Climbed the hill. The last mist fell away.

And under the trees, beyond time’s brittle drift,
I stood like Adam in his lonely garden
On that first morning, shaken out of sleep,
Rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,
Like tissue on some vast, incredible gift.

~ Mary Oliver – from “Morning In a New Land”

Lenten Grace — Planting the Soul

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.

— Thomas Merton from “New Seeds of Contemplation”

May I be receptive soil.
May I become garden and nursery.
May roots reach deep within me.
May I bloom and fruit in God’s time.