Prelude to Summer

The first to bloom were the purple irises in a large clump.  From chiffon-shrouded buds, they curled their purple petals open, revealing a hint of glimmering gold.  They stood tall, their grape fragrance catching you just as you passed by, causing you to look again, surely that grape scent hadn’t come from them?  But it had, and as a slight breeze carried their fragrant symphony delicately forth, the bees buzzed and hummed, enjoying summer’s first taste of song.

Then it was a tight ball of a peony bud, bursting open with its huge, single petals as if proclaiming, “Look at me!  I am the first of the peonies, none can surely be as magnificent!”  And they may not be, because nothing is as amazing as that first peony exploding into bright bloom in the garden, no matter its color, its size or its type.  From atop strong, tall stems, my first-born peony of the summer looks across its counterparts in the garden, crowning itself with a golden center of bright stamens.  And nothing quite prepares you for the disappointment as its concerto quickly fades and one by one its petals lose their grip, and flutter to the ground.  Their beautiful interlude just a memory, as its dark petals stain the rocks pink with morning dew.

From tight-coiled cones, my white allium were next on stage.  Their stems swelled and swelled until one morning, feathery white headdresses emerged.  Theirs was a soft minuet formed with the slight scent of an onion and chive-like stalks, waving gently in the breeze.  And their small clumps throughout my garden performed long-blooming solos in white.  The only white blooms in my garden, they warrant a standing ovation for their brave deviance from the bright colors that take over later in the summer.

Without intermission, an heirloom yellow shrub rose performed a final, golden overture among its deep green, glossy leaves.  The morning sun’s light setting their petals aflame. In an instant, they seemed to go from bud to bloom to flailed petals, scattering on the ground below.  A brief, yet lovely, sonata of color, fragrance and thorns.  Here now, gone tomorrow, nothing but a golden dream blurred sharply in our minds.

There are certain times in life where the work just must stop, the music must be heard and the world’s most beautiful moments must be applauded.  The weeding could wait.  The watering could wait.  These were times to look over the first of my blooming bounty, cherishing the very magnificence of an iridescent, silken petal tempted open by the sun’s warm encouragement.  This was a time to watch in wonder as butterflies descended from windy heights, swirling madly, but somehow ending upright atop a pollen-encrusted bloom.  This was a time to feel excitement like goosebumps on my arms, for the magical, visual sound that is just beginning, each new bloom an instrument, only just refraining at the final stanza of their prelude.

And as all these instruments of a springtime garden came together, a late spring orchestra culminated in one grand crescendo, diminishing back down with sweet, soft notes . . . promising a symphony yet to come.

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Just a Spot of Sunshine

My cats are attracted to them.

Just a spot of sunshine is all they need.  A shining place to curl up and be embraced by the bright warmth, to be coaxed into a sleepy nap.  They have a knack for finding them —  those sometimes out-of-the-way spots of bright light that have been cast just beyond a chair or up next to a wall.  Or even on top of a turquoise flip flop.

Do you have a little spot of sunshine?  It may be a special place.  A pond lined with cattail bird roosts and fuzzy-budded willows.  A velvety chenille blanket, a mug of steaming coffee and a riveting book.  Or maybe an old truck, rusted on the outside, its aged seatcovers still scented sharply with gasoline and musty sweat on the inside.

Two spots of sunshine, in the form of my nephews.

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Maybe it’s a special person.  A grandson that hugs you with his whole being on legs that never seem to stop running.  A friend made long ago, separated now by years and distance, that you can start up with again right where you left off years ago.  Maybe that spot of sunshine is someone who can make you laugh and giggle, no matter the situation.

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Where are you drawn, like cats to sunny spots?  Where do you go to feel safely embraced with warmth and happiness? What is your little spot of sunshine?

My sunny spot consists of gravel paths leading through slightly raised beds, a blooming haven of bumble bees, hummingbirds and usually a napping kitty or two.  It is a place that feels like home to me.  I built its borders with river rocks, handpicked out of a big pile, leveled edge to edge, to create a meandering free form outline on the very back of my new home’s lot.  I turned the hard clay soil within these river rocks, then hand-screened, shovel-full by shovel-full, new soil to fill them up.  Then I turned the dirt again.

And as I planted my very first bare root peonies that fall, I also waged war on the weeds that had traveled to my new flower beds via the hand-screened dirt.  It was hard.  It was tedious.  But I knew in my heart that one day it would be a sunny spot for me, in more ways than one.

It’s my sunny spot all winter as I peruse my perennial plant catalogs, dreaming of all the possibilities that exist.  It’s my sunny spot in the spring as I watch what started as little seeds of hope last fall, curl a brand new leaf open to the sun.  It’s my sunny spot all summer as I relish in the fruits of my labor.  Flowers blooming, bees humming and beautiful energy rising from its colorful bursts, bouquets of fragrant blooms abound.  And it’s my sunny spot in the fall as I watch my hard working plants slowly cower down to rest, and I plant new seeds, tubers, rhizomes and roots of hope for next spring.

I’ve celebrated warm Friday evenings there with a beer in hand.  I’ve sat on its graveled path, crushed and broken, embraced by only coneflowers, bee balm and black-eyed susans.  Salty tears dripping onto the soil that gives these plants life.  I’ve smiled there and I’ve cried there.  But no matter the clouds in the sky, my little spot is always sunny.

Never underestimate the power of a sunny spot.

Those special places in our lives have the power to give us rest when beaten down. They have the energy to reinvigorate us, to help us rise up and conquer those obstacles we may have in front of us.

The also can have the calm presence to just encourage us forward, slowly, quietly and subtly.  Giving us a gentle hand on our shoulder to let us know we can do it, that life doesn’t always require us to fight with a roar, but maybe to just have the courage to continue on again tomorrow.