Wednesday, May 2, 2012


One lone early bloomer turns her face to the sun.
IN BIRDLAND, THE POPPY FIELD IS READY TO BLOOM. On the end of each curving, hairy, stalk is an olive shaped bud that wants to crack open revealing scarlet crepe. Poppies seem so primordial to me. A simple two part calyx holding the full-skirted petals tightly. They remind me of prehistoric birds with long, skinny necks, sparse hair instead of feathers. One, lone early bloomer turns its head toward the sun, a flamenco dancer waiting for partners. A few buds teasingly show just the ends of their skirts. When we moved out here 25 years ago, the circle of poppies was small, maybe 4 feet across. Each year it expands and now it reaches almost from the Lilacs to the Redbud.
 Edging the house, my grandmother's pale purple Irises bloom, scenting my morning walks. Along my path to the barn, though, I have been planting Irises from various sources—friends and a visit to an Iris farm up north. These are a variety of colors and shapes, and I can't remember what I planted where. Some are fall blooming, but this morning two new ones are climbing out of their shells. 
 I can hardly wait to see the blossoms. The one has big fleshy buds, the sepals edged in burgundy, like exotic snails. The other is smaller, the petals beginning to turn a deep purple.
Grandma's Yellow Rose
 We have two new additions to our yard. Last weekend, in a private ceremony of reconciliation, Michael and I celebrated some of the complexities of our long association by planting a Rose and a red Maple tree. We were thinking about how to commemorate our reunion. We knew we wanted to plant something—maybe a tree, and that Malvina Reynolds song started singing itself in my head: “If you love me, if you love, love, love me/Plant a Rose for me. If you think you're gonna love me a l-o-n-g time/Plant an apple tree.” I voted for the Rose, and Michael wanted a Maple—one that would turn red in the fall. 

Iris Bud
 We ended up buying both. The Rose was already in full bloom, and the tag promised blossoms “from frost to frost.” We planted the Rose on one side of my path, and the Maple stands a little away, on the other side, so it won't shade my Irises too much. 
If you love me, plant a rose for me.
 We can see them both from the window. Our dear friend, Pastor Janet, was with us, and we showed her around the yard. I told her about the yellow Rose, blooming now, that my grandmother remembered as a tree when she was a girl, when the Lilac was just a little upstart bush. Now, of course, the gnarled Lilac tree towers over the Rose, which blooms anyway in its shadow.
If you think you're gonna love
me a long time,
plant a maple tree.
 Janet remarked about the importance of stories that connect us with our home. She said that someday our children would tell their children the story of the Rose and the Maple tree. I look around the yard and I find it is full of stories. Ghosts of five little kids greedily pluck mulberries from the tree at the side of the lane. They stain their fingers and their mouths. Over there is a young mother, planting the twigs she bought mail order, now an unruly hedge of Forsithia, Weigela, Rose of Sharon. In back, near the new Rose, my grandfather plants grapes; twenty years later a young father crafts an arbor for them to climb, with posts of Locust and boards of Cedar. Grandpa's twin cherry trees are now ghosts themselves, after living out a long life, generous with pies. A young peach tree now stands in place of the cherries. In the evenings, if we are quiet, we can see the spinney of woods that grew up between the two houses fade. Wait. The field will return and five little kids will run through the waist high grass, chasing the fireflies that rise like wishes to the sky. This emotional landscape, this architecture of memory, holds these stories for us, connecting us to our past, to this land, and to each other.

Remember Beauty; Recollect Peace; Blessed Be.


  1. Hi Mary. I wanted to comment on your description of five little kids running around the yard chasing fireflies....

    40 years ago or thereabouts, there were 4 other little kids running around that same yard chasing fireflies. Back then, the "spinney of woods" bore an abundance of hedge apples and provided shade to a pasture of hogs and horses. Without the second house (Catherine's) being there, the driveway seemed miles longer than it is now, at least to the eight little legs that tredged down it to meet the school bus, or navigated their first bike rides and spills up and down from the road to the house.
    My three brothers and I spent a few of our most formative years on that property as well, and while it looks much different today than it did those 40 years ago, it still holds a myriad of memories for me. It's nice to see all the plantings you've posted, and I'm glad you've found such peace and happiness there.

    Sincerely, Peggy Klausner

    1. Thanks so much, Peggy! I'd love to talk more about how the place has changed. Thanks for your image of the hedge apples and the hogs and horses. Send me an email if you'd like to visit sometime this summer. :)