Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Flowers

It's sunny in Birdland, a welcome relief after a long cold snap. The early morning sun angled low over the corn stubble, bringing out the gold against the damp earth. By 9 the broken stalks were a common straw color against the mud. That rosy morning light casts a lovely glow on everything, and when I can get outside for even a few minutes to smell the morning and walk around the yard to see what's growing, I feel more connected for the rest of the day.

The lawn is still brown, with just a promise of green sprinkled in the grass. The flowerbeds still hold dry stalks of last year’s flowers—especially a large, bushy aster with a decided family resemblance to its cousin, the thistle: no spines on the more civilized cousin, and flowers a sunny yellow, with a warm, musky, pollen-filled scent, but the very same silohette, a soft shaving brush of the tiny florettes that we see in the common thistle. But I am pulling this image from memory. At the moment, it is a brittle ghost of its summertime self. Soon I'll find time to kneel in this bed with clippers, making slow progress around the house, cutting old growth, digging out grasses and ground ivy, to make room for other flowers. This morning, amongst last fall's detrius, strong, fresh leaves push up from their secret place at the center of bulbs.They shove aside sticks and decaying leaves in their haste to greet the sun. In the spring I can get as excited about leaves emerging from the soil and the buds on the trees, as I can about any midsummer's blossem or the blessing of fruit or the fall of leaves.

On the drive to town today, my friend, Tina, and I were talking about the flowers we've seen so far. In town I found snowdrops blooming on my walk towards campus last week and noticed for the first time their resemblance to Trout Lilies, also called Dog Tooth Violet—I can never decide which name I like best. These will soon bloom in my woods with the Dutchman's Breeches and Spring Beauty. They will come after the ground is a bit warmer, but before the canopy has darkened the forest and filtered out the sun. Tina told about crocuses blooming smack in the middle of her neighbor's yard, right where the foot of a front stoop used to be. She told about small red tulips that bloom in her own back yard marking similar architecture of the past. They are the old fashioned tulips, with pointed petals. This floral archeology reminds me of Frost's “belilaced cellar hole” in one of my favorite poems and connects us to the people who came before us, planting crisp bulbs to make a home on the prairie. I told Tina about the Ghost Lilies that used to push through the cinders in my yard where they used to burn the trash. You get a sense of the strength of the life force when you see the persistance of some of these old fashioned flowers. The yellow rose that has bloomed for over a hundred years watches over the row of Day Lilies my aunt planted when I was a child. The rose hides behind the cedar my brother planted, and I have to remember to check it often in the spring because it blooms for only a few days—hundreds of fragrant yellow flowers peek around the lilac tree that now overshadows it, only to drop their delicate petals at its foot. Some years I catch them in time to bring in a bowl of the short stemmed flowers to decorate my table; some years I'm too late and have to content myself with a bowl of fresh petals. Either way, they remind me to step outside and join in the cycle of life that has no beginning and no end.

Dig in Beauty; Remember Peace; Blessed Be.

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