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Splendour in the Grass


My last post was about the simple joy of the flowers in the garden, and when I stop to smell the flowers, as my mom always encourages, it makes me think of my favourite verse in a poem I studied in high school, “Ode. Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”.

Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

-William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

As a teenager, I loved the rhyme but the meaning of the words didn’t really sink in. For some reason though, it stuck in my head, and as I get older it becomes increasingly poignant.

Perhaps my romantic nature is part of why I became a foodie. The nature of a meal is ephemeral at best, lasting only as long as food is on the table. Capturing the magic of shared company and tastes (in the food and the people) has created the fabric of so many memories for me. That fabric has become the tapestry of my life.

The garden has the same quality, always changing and following the circle of life. It has been a great lesson for me to learn that the faster I cut away the old blooms, the sooner the plants will offer up more in return. (Turning a blind eye only prolongs the sorrow, with dead stalks waving in the wind instead of the vibrant colour of new life.)

Another of my favourite writers is Tom Robbins, a more modern fellow than Mr. Wordsworth, but with the same romantic tendencies. He spoke of childhood too, and how as adults many of us search to maintain that sense of wonder kids know innately.

I’ll close off with a quote from “Still Life with Woodpecker”, one of my most cherished reads of all time.

The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
1. Everything is part of it.
2. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

If it seems a bit obtuse, I can only recommend you read the book. If it makes sense, well then I hope we come into contact some time so we can share in the magic.

Glory in the Flower

Despite the heat we’ve had that melts butter on the counter, and the flooding that has streams and lakes rising past record levels, there is simple beauty around.

We have sardonically joked that it’s a good year to be poor enough to not afford lakefront property. My garden is well above water. We lost a few big branches from one of our lilac trees last night but that’s all. (They were waterlogged and beaten down by previous hits from ambitious woodpeckers. )

If you’ll pardon the expression, I thought I’d show the cup half full in what for many is a time of tense anticipation or even tragedy.

Mother Earth iris blossoms abound at Rabbit Hollow – I inherited them, and take special pride in knowing this symbol is our signature flower in the neighbourhood.

Oriental poppies are a majestic start to the season of blossoms here. For me, they are a sign of strength, perseverance and beauty.

Allium Globemaster flowers are their own world, and a symbol of our larger one. They are also my own private fireworks show.

I hope you can smile at these the way I do. As my mom always says, “it’s important to stop and smell the flowers.” Breathe deep. 

It’s Not Easy Being Green

We sprang forward this past weekend and at Rabbit Hollow that sentiment was taken to heart. We don’t have a particularly hard winter in the Okanagan, certainly not for Canada anyway, but there is still snow and frozen ground and cold winds with which to contend. Every year I marvel as the ground comes to life again; I feel a sense of expansiveness that is not there in winter, as the green shoots grow and the air warms. My admiration for all the new life spurs me on, too. Brighter colours seem the order of the day, so I do my best to participate.

a spring wreath offsets the windwalker hanging at the front entry to the house at Rabbit Hollow

It did my heart good on Sunday to see my first robin of the year as I awoke to Daylight Savings Time. When I walked the dogs I noticed the green shoots in the grass. As I looked closer, I could see tulips poking through the mulch and even a little viola making a brave face in the wind. Every living thing was cheering the coming of spring.

The first Johnny Jump-up to celebrate spring. These violas will re-seed themselves quite happily if you let them.

The icing on the cake was in the back yard. I noticed the forsythia was beginning to show shoots, but the lead cheerleader for the spring cause was the pussy willow. I squealed like a birthday girl with balloons when I saw the fuzzy shoots as big as my thumb, all up the branches. There was certainly more spring in my step as I continued through the orchard on our route.

My shining glory - the pussywillow in "the back 40" at Rabbit Hollow.

I have to remember to take it easy, as spring comes slowly in Canada. I have planted garden seeds in February, to be ahead of the curve. But they can’t go outside until late April and by then they end up being stringy shoots reaching for more sun than I can offer them.

It’s not easy being green, as Kermit said. Those beautiful shoots work so hard to make it through the ground and to keep growing. If they are perennials that survived the winter, they deserve a marching band to announce their return, if you ask me. Once they’re up, they have to make it through spring rains and wind, and possibly even another frost. It’s still a long way till there are rows of green in my veggie garden. In the meantime, I will just have to keep cheering them on.

This is an actual cheerleading garden gnome, wearing the North Carolina Tar Heels colours. It was Michael Jordan's team, and always one of my faves. After all, it is March madness. (I don't have one in the yard, though)

Stay tuned in future weeks as I plan out the heirloom seeds for this year. If you have any favourites you plant in your garden, I would love to hear!

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