Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Grandmother's Gardenias

"For you," my grandmother said, and handed me one perfect, perfumed gardenia blossom. I made the universal noise of delight: "Oh!"

There are few things as intoxicating to me as breathing in the scent of a flower,  and of all flowers that give off scent, gardenias are one of my favorites, especially since they always make me think of my grandmother and her lovely backyard. In the summer, it smells of honeysuckle, jasmine, and her gardenias, which she grows better than anyone I know. Something in the water where she lives, or perhaps in the plants themselves, make the clippings she takes and puts in a vase sprout roots within a few days.

While living in the South may have its share of hot days, we at least get to experience the delights of plants that cannot survive farther north, gardenias being one of them. My parents live only two and a half hours north, yet my mother has never been able to keep any of the rootings my grandmother has given her alive.

So I felt like I'd been given a real treasure today when my grandmother handed me the gardenia blossom as I sat outside in the sun crocheting. As I set the blossom down on my piece of handiwork, I was struck by the way the white blossom looked against the lettuce green of my yarn, and ran to get my camera. Such moments must be captured quickly; soon enough the blossom will wilt in its baby food jar and only dried petals will remain, but every time I look at these photos I will smell that blossom once again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Autumn Dreaming

I am just about desperate for fall to get here. This summer in the Ozarks has been terribly dry and hot, and I am yearning for autumn storms and colors. There is nothing to compare with the snap in the air that comes with that time of year, and the exhilarating feeling of the wind rushing past, blowing one's hair about and tossing around leaves; it makes me feel as though I can fly if I only try hard enough.

photo by Tim Ernst, www.timernst.com

This photo perfectly captures the autumn glory of my neck of the woods, the Ozarks. For more gorgeous scenery, visit Tim Ernst's website.
Alphonse Mucha, Autumn, 1896, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

photo by Tim Ernst, www.timernst.com

John William Godward, Autumn

Gale Rainwater, Soft Autumn Hills in Ozark Mountains, gailrainwater.com

Maxfield Parrish, Morning, www.tendreams.org

Mark Karpinski,  Ozark Region of Southern Missouri, liquiddrift.com

Maxfield Parrish, Reverie, www.tendreams.org

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Silver Swan

Legend has it that the Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor) makes no noise its whole life, and sings one beautiful song just before its death. Any ornithologist will tell you this is not true; the mute swan does makes slight whistling noises at times, and scientists have not observed the swan singing as it dies. But poets will tell you differently... and perhaps indeed, at death, they grace with their song only those who will truly appreciate it.

The Silver Swan

The silver Swan, who, living, had no Note,
when Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast upon the reedy shore,
thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
"Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
 More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise."
~Orlando Gibbons

The Dying Swan

The plain was grassy, wild and bare,
Wide, wild, and open to the air,
Which had built up everywhere
An under-roof of doleful gray.
With an inner voice the river ran,
Adown it floated a dying swan,
And loudly did lament.
It was the middle of the day.
Ever the weary wind went on,
And took the reed-tops as it went.

Some blue peaks in the distance rose,
And white against the cold-white sky,
Shone out their crowning snows.
One willow over the river wept,
And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;
Above in the wind was the swallow,
Chasing itself at its own wild will,
And far thro' the marish green and still
The tangled water-courses slept,
Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow.

The wild swan's death-hymn took the soul
Of that waste place with joy
Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear
The warble was low, and full and clear;
And floating about the under-sky,
Prevailing in weakness, the coronach stole
Sometimes afar, and sometimes anear;
But anon her awful jubilant voice,
With a music strange and manifold,
Flow'd forth on a carol free and bold;
As when a mighty people rejoice
With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold,
And the tumult of their acclaim is roll'd
Thro' the open gates of the city afar,
To the shepherd who watcheth the evening star.
And the creeping mosses and clambering weeds,
And the willow-branches hoar and dank,
And the wavy swell of the soughing reeds,
And the wave-worn horns of the echoing bank,
And the silvery marish-flowers that throng
The desolate creeks and pools among,
Were flooded over with eddying song.
~Alfred Tennyson