Views Far and Near

IMG_2296

Yesterday was finally the day I got to linger and enjoy looking far into the distance from the top of Mt. Moosilauke.  The summit is broad and open, and sitting to the west of most of the White Mountains, has spectacular views of the Franconia Ridge and all the mountains beyond.  Every other time I’ve hiked to the top of Mt. Moosilauke there has been some sort of unfavorable weather to deal with — mist or scattered rain or snow, and most often hard wind that makes it too cold to stay at the top for long.

Yesterday was warm, sunny and bright, with little wind and no bugs.  This was the Moosilauke hike I’ve been waiting for.  I hiked with a group of friends and we spent a long time at the summit, enjoying the view, the fair weather and the satisfying stretch of our muscles after our first serious hike of the season.

But even when the views were near rather than far yesterday it was beautiful.  The rivers and brooks we crossed and hiked along were running clear over speckled rocks, glinting in the sun, and there were beautiful flowers along the trail — trout lily, tiny white violets and trillium. There was also a broad bush with lacy white blossoms we couldn’t identify.  When I look at the ridges of the White Mountains from any summit I can name the peaks.  When I look at flowers in the woods I want to be able to name them too, so I looked up the flowering bush — hobblebush viburnum.

IMG_2298

I’ve been thinking about view and perspective a good bit the last week, because I’m taking a break from working on the memoir.  Having spent three months working through several drafts, I can’t see it as a whole piece right now.  I can edit individual sections and see where a word or phrase or sentence needs to change.  But I’ve gotten too close to be able to see how the pieces work together and whether those pieces make sense as a book.  Time to step away for a bit and see if I can come back to it with a wider view.

Getting to the top of Mt. Moosilauke on a sunny day, enjoying the trailside flowers and tumbling water along the way, was a good lesson in perspective.

 

A Good Week

IMG_2262

Last week was a good one for so many reasons I want to keep track.

  • My neighbor’s yard of riotous crocuses started to bloom.
  • The sun came out and it was above freezing.  I can’t overstate how sun-starved everyone I know is at this point.  It’s bad enough that there’s so little daylight in Northern New England in the winter (and I was in even northerner NE most of March), but when almost all of that daylight is cloudy and gray and it’s very very cold, people get cranky.
  • I not only met my Momentum Writing Goals for the week, I exceeded them.  And didn’t immediately turn that excess into new, harder to maintain goals.  A steady focus is what’s going to get this book I’m so engaged with done and I’m staying with my plan until I know a faster pace can stay as steady.
  • Three poems were accepted by the Chagrin River Review, a fine online journal I’m delighted to be part of.  Four of the five poems I sent out a couple of months ago have now been taken by journals.  Time to take another look at that fifth poem.
  • I was able to run for three miles twice.  Nursing a knee injury that’s kept me from running for months has not been easy.  Running is my go to stress reduction and standard work out.  Even I’ve been getting tired of listening to my knee complaints.
  • My houseplant that blossoms once a year for one day did its thing.  And a beautiful thing it is.

IMG_2260

I’m hoping for a repeat good week.

On the Subject of Gratitude

IMG_1665

It started with a L’Shanah Tovah greeting from a friend.  “The Year of Gratitude” was the heading of her email.  It resonated.  One way to deal with the inevitable heartaches and troubles of any life, my life anyway, is to be grateful for what is right, what is beautiful, what is comforting and sweet.

As the Jewish year of 5774 starts, I’m embracing gratitude: for the station function on Rdio which delivers an interesting mix of music familiar and new while I move around the house, processing garden bounty, cooking, kneading challah; for the flock of black birds moving through my corner of the physical landscape, flying in a twirling cloud across the yard and into a tall white pine and back into the grass of the pasture across the street, their wings beating in late afternoon sunlight like a thousand lit pages; for my health and the health of most of those I love, especially the almost miraculous continued presence, if not full health, of a beloved sister; for the reappearance of calendula in my garden, which only happened because a dear friend lost a life partner and she loved, the one who died of cancer, these flowers and we were all given packets of seeds at her memorial service in October, and now they’re blooming in my garden again, to my great delight.  I picked a bouquet today when I got home from services and put it on my new table on the porch.  Bright, hardy and simple, my kind of flower.

So gratitude will be my way of approaching another year, after a year in which all the complications of life and love and what needs to be done resulted in me to going to Rosh Hashanah services alone, for the first time, ever.  I cried through much of the service, but that’s okay.  Any truthful contemplation of forgiveness and repentance, of what has been and what might be, deserves some tears.  It’s a New Year.  5774.

Prolonging Peony Happiness

IMG_1442

Like many people, I adore peonies.  Their lush blossoms and intense fragrance are intoxicating.  So when two recent family trips crossed into and right back out of peony season here, I was truly sorry to be leaving my peonies.

I mentioned this at a dinner with old friends just before the first trip, and Al told me a trick for prolonging the peony season. Cut peony buds when they’re still tight balls, wrap them in wet newspaper, store in the refrigerator for up to several weeks, then take them out, put the buds in a vase with water, and the blossoms will open and delight.

It works.  A week and a half ago, headed off for the second of the family beach gatherings, I picked two bouquets to take with me.  If I had to leave and there were open blossoms, why not cut them and bring them with me, one jar full for my mother’s house, one for my sister’s cottage at Humarock Beach.  And I cut a dozen stems with buds, wrapped them in newspaper, wet the paper under the faucet, put it all in a grocery store plastic bag, and stowed it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. I unwrapped the buds and put them in a vase on Tuesday.  Today, they are peony perfection.

IMG_1460

And now the annual poppies that volunteer all over my gardens are open, coming again and again from seeds I started 20 years ago.  The colors and shapes have intermixed, and now I get lavender and red and the pink carnation poppies with their shaggy blossoms which have migrated some genetic code over to ruffle the edges of other colors.  When the blossoms have frayed and left the bare poppy heads, I let a few of them dry on the stalk, break the seed head open and scatter the poppy seeds over my beds.  Next summer, poppies everywhere.

IMG_1462

And here is the rudbeckia, also sowing itself into new clumps every time I weed another garden bed.  These flowers came from two clumps a friend dug me from her garden, and I in turn dig clumps and give them away.  I pull up and compost more than I can keep or gift.

IMG_1464

This all makes me happy.  When the big stuff in life gets a bit heavy to carry around day after day, making sure to appreciate the simple, little stuff gets more important.  Not that flowers are simple or little.  But they’re here and now and lovely.

Wildflowers

IMG_1435

In my late teens and well into my twenties I loved to pick wildflower bouquets.  Noticing a field with daisies, or black-eyed Susans, or yarrow or asters, I would stop my car or my bike and wade into the tall grasses and flowers.  I sometimes thought about the people who owned the fields where I picked flowers, but I was living mostly in the country, and there were pastures everywhere, often no where near a house, and I couldn’t imagine any one would mind me taking home a free bouquet.  When Eric and I got married, our bouquets were made with wildflowers.

In June, 1981, Eric and our good friend Anne and I bought the house where I still live.  The house is surrounded by fields and hay meadows and pastures.  The day we moved in I walked into the small field on the south side of the house and looked at the flowers — daisies, vetch, clover, Indian paintbrushes, wild multiflora roses.  They were all blooming among the tall grasses with their full seed heads, nodding back and forth in the wind.  I sat down in the field, happy and overcome with the thought that I now had my own wildflowers to pick. It felt remarkable that I didn’t have to stop at the side of the road any more and pick someone else’s flowers.

Since then I’ve mostly created bouquets for my house from the flowers I grow in my garden — columbine and iris early in the season, then peonies and on to salvia and zinnias and cosmos and rudbekia.  But I still love a field in June, with its wild array of ever-changing flowers and its splashes of color — all, in many senses, for free.

Peonies

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Peonies in the garden, nodding their heavy heads towards the grass as I walk to the house from the car.   A grand bouquet of peonies on my kitchen table and a small globe of peonies aflame with western light on the coffee table, scenting the house, greeting me as I walk from room to room.  Peonies poking through the railings on my porch as I sit here, in late afternoon sun after a long day in the yard and garden.  The birds are quarreling, a cricket is whirring and I am awash in the deliciousness of peonies.

Petal Salt

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The early blossoming trees and bushes are ringed with color, their pink and white petals fallen like petticoats that have been dropped into the grass.  I first saw this a few weeks ago in Tennessee, where the azaleas were finishing up their blooming circle and dropping their blaze of colors.  Now I see it here in New Hampshire, again with azaleas and apple and cherry trees.  I love the richness of color in the landscape now, trees at their peak of showing off.  Here is a poem from long ago that comes to mind every year at this time.

Rising

What is the weight of a flower, the weight
of a tree bearing such blatant intent?
Every mass of blossoms, snow cloud,
exclamation, exuberance of fruit
to come, has a future, a history,

a moment of abandon, petals
splayed wide, drawing pollen to the core.
The wilt and decay towards apple
is hidden in new leaves, riches spent,
riches returned, petals salting the grass.

Fast Forward Season

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m sitting on a patio in a backyard of a suburban neighborhood in Knoxville.  Beyond the line of trees and low bushes that block this yard from the next I can hear a basketball bouncing and occasional voices of children.  The air is cool but comfortable against my skin.  Yesterday walking along the Tennessee River the sun was summer hot.  The roses in the front of the house are dimming in the light and the white fence that encloses the patio gleams in the dusk.  It’s past 8:30 and just now getting dark.  Traveling south and west this time of year is delightful, bringing me further into the warming and day-lengthening season.  I’m relishing this fast forward season.

Early Crocuses

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The crocuses are up early across the Northeast this year, the year with more or less no winter.  I saw crocuses weeks ago in New York, and now they’re here in New Hampshire. Helen’s crocuses, a carpet of spring  color on a neighbor’s lawn, planted decades ago by Helen Johnson when she was still alive, most likely long before I knew her when she was young, are blooming.  I wrote about the crocuses on this blog last year, including the poem about Helen and her flowers that was published in my chapbook of poetry, Fever of Unknown Origin.

Here’s another poem from Fever of Unknown Origin, this one about Norm Johnson, Helen’s husband.  Norm was a wonderful neighbor and a good friend.  He would pull his jeep over to the side of the road when he saw me in my garden and I’d go stand at his window and we’d chat.  Helen and Norman both died many years ago, but I think of them often as I look around my neighborhood, a lovely farm landscape they helped create and maintain throughout their lives.

And one interesting note, you can buy a copy of Fever of Unknown Origin on Amazon, for $3.00, or $66.00 or for $161.62.  If you want the $166.62 copy, let me know and I’ll make a deal with you.

Some Days

Stakes sawed raw at the point
slit the earth, hitting frost
only once all day, a good day,
for a body yanked by years
to this stiff heave from the cart
to help hold the barbed wire taut.

Most days are spent in a seat –
bucket loader, tractor, dump truck, mower,
these days mostly the jeep –
chatting with neighbors, napping, watching
one day as the milk herd is loaded into trailers
strangers drive away.