Night into Day
In the sinking stillness of the evening,
After birds have ceased to flit and call,
Silence comes to rest as day is leaving
And dark draws down the shade where night will fall;
The smallest breath of wind stirs from its sleeping,
For after dusk another world takes flight,
A world with gleaming secrets in its keeping
That give the constellations dazzling light,
Fill up the moon with shining opalescence,
Fill up the heart with dreaming of the day
And how its powers overcome senescence
When sun returns to chase the night away.
Is there something else you want to tell me, sir? You say you are a musician, yet I distinctly recall that on evenings around the campfire you’ve always strummed off-key and your songs are always unrecognizable to your fellow players. You tell me that you are a skilled horseman, but I have known you to fall off every mount you ever met and the way you’re always sneezing makes me pretty sure you’re more a specimen of the allergic type than a cowboy of any real sort. As for your claims of being a king of the romantics, they strike me as far more hopeful than strictly factual, considering that you cannot read, write or dance, never remember to comb your hair or wash your face, and are cowed into stammering and foot-shuffling when actually in the presence of anyone even slightly ladylike.
Forgive me, then, if I tend to take your claims with a certain jaded skepticism. I am fairly certain I do not want to listen to you bash away on your two-stringed guitar, to watch you topple out of the saddle the instant your horse makes a move, or to wait for you to wrestle up the courage to make small talk while I dream of my escape from your company. And if you should persist in attempting to convince me that you are the master of the Wild West, I shall be reduced to the expedient of dispatching you with a hefty branch of mesquite laid across your noggin, stuffing you into a handy gunny sack and slinging you over the back of a mule headed toward some terribly remote corner of the prairie.
Other than that, though, I suppose I don’t mind your company. A girl can’t be too choosy out here on the frontier if someone offers her his family fortune and she has her eye on a particular set of acres for ranching. Business is business, after all.On Closer Examination
A fella whose flaws were prolific
And both manners and taste quite horrific
Filled my soul with alarm
But still had one great charm–
His inheritance, to be specific.
The ever-marvelous Celi, she of the sustainably-farmed wonders at The Kitchens Garden, challenged all of us to share what we see from our back porch, patio, stoop, door, window or patch of land, and the images pouring in have been a delight. Each so different, each from some other far-flung locale around the globe–but each seen from the home turf of a person joined together in this fantastic community of blogging and readership that makes the otherwise disparate styles and locations seem we are all next door neighbors. What a superb thing, to shrink the world down to a size that can easily fit into a single embrace!So I give you a glimpse of what I see behind my home, too. Our house is situated on a city lot (about the typical suburban US standard of 50 x 100 feet), but it feels both less like a suburban place and much bigger because it backs on an easement, a small ravine for rain run-off and city/county service access. The ravine’s seldom wet (this is, after all, Texas) or used for services, so it’s mainly a tree-filled wild spot and a refuge for local birds, flora, insects, and an assortment of critters that have at various times included not only squirrels and raccoons but also rabbits, opossums, armadillos, deer, foxes, coyotes and bobcats. There have certainly been, along with the delightful bluejays and cardinals and wrens and chickadees, doves, grackles, hummingbirds and killdeers and all of those sorts of small-to mid-sized birds, plenty of hawks and vultures and, I suspect (since I know others not so far from here who have had visits from them) wild turkeys, though I’ve not seen the latter.What I have seen recently that is infrequent if not rare, is some very welcome rain pouring down on us here, so I’m showing you slightly uncommon backyard views today. The second picture is taken from our raised patio, but the first is the view as I most commonly see it: through the kitchen window, where I can stand safely out of the lightning’s reach (as on the day shown) and more comfortably in air-conditioned splendor than in the 90-105ºF (32-40ºC) we experience so often here. Believe me when I tell you that the intense green of this scene as shown is rather unusual for this time of year, when we would more often have much more brown and bedraggled plants all around us. But we also have the luxury of a sprinkler system, so if the ravine begins to droop in dry hot weather, we’re generally protected from terrible fire danger and can still be an inviting spot for the local wildlife to take its ease. To that end, and because I generally prefer the beauties of the more native and wild kinds of landscapes to the glories of the manicured, I have my new wildflower swath in place and it’s just beginning to show a variety of the flowers and grasses I’ve planted there; seen to the left of the grey gravel path in the second picture, it stretches from the patio all the way back to the ravine.
I lived most of my life in northern climes. My childhood and many subsequent years spent in the Seattle area naturally color my view of nature and my connections with it, so even though I’ve spent the last four years putting roots down into Texan soil my inner imagery of the season of growth is of sprouts and blooms native to alpine, temperate, rainforest and coastal territory. I appreciate and admire the vast and varied beauties of this wildly different terrain that is my new home, and my heart still resonates joyfully when it comes to those northwest marvels of green and gorgeous living things as well. I don’t think I’ll have to tell you which region inspired these two poems.
The drawings, though, could be a bit more nearly universal. Dandelions, in particular–I can’t think of many places I’ve visited so far that didn’t have a substantial contingent of that sunny little weed blossom. I hardly ever see their smiling faces without thinking of the adorable little enthusiast next door who peered over our fence and, seeing my mother pulling dandelions–and perhaps interpreting this as her enthusiasm for cultivating their charms–piped up to boast enthusiastically (much to her own mother’s chagrin): ‘we’ve got a MILLION of ’em!’ In Return
Willingly as daffodils stretch out of the earth
At the first invitation of the sun,
So I come from the dark when my winter ends,
Turn my face up to the blessing sky,
And sigh at the promise of the spearing green
Arising by my feet, even if the icicles
Have not yet
Melted wholly away.
Amid the muffling drifts of downy snow
That draw the pearly winter sky down low
To kiss the earth once more in early spring
Are sparkling spears of palest glimmering
Green newness, first to show upon the white
And break the slope of frosted winter light
Uncurling soon to show the youthful face
Of spring’s renewal in this sleeping place
If still surrounded by the icy pale
Wild woolliness bedecking hill and vale—
The snow, though mighty, cannot fully stanch
The burst of springtime’s sparkling avalanche
Aside from things like my having been chewed upon ungraciously by a bunch of skeeters and having very indelicate and unladylike rivers of sweat inundate my poor little eyebulbs, the inside of my glasses lenses, and every single item of clothing upon my personage, an afternoon of gardening like today’s is a very welcome thing. I finally got after some of the weedier segments of the flowerbeds, planted some of my sprouted babies, moved a plant or two, and did some watering, and by golly, the place looks a tad more presentable.
In honor of that, herewith: a little Texiana and a Garden Fairy for your delectation and/or amusement. Tomorrow, perhaps, a batch of garden update photos. Just to prove I did something, don’t’cha know.
Spring in Texas is a highly variable thing. Like most regions where I’ve lived or visited, north Texas can rightly claim (any day, any part of the year) that if you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait five minutes. Ma Nature is that sort of fickle filly. She treats us mighty differently from moment to moment, season to season, and from year to year, too. So while last year, the drought and excessive heat both started early enough that we saw virtually nothing of the vaunted swaths of Lupinus texensis, the state flower, the Texas Bluebonnet, this year’s mildness and largesse of rains has kissed the sullen banks of the highways, the pastures and prairies, and not a few lawns, with a brilliant return, as if our nature-mistress apologized with flowers for running off and abandoning us to sere and lonely brownness all of last season.The extravaganza began with a wild froth of yellow sprayed over nearly everything–it’s a wildflower form of mustard known by many names and perhaps most commonly here as bastard cabbage, that nomenclature derived from the rosette at its base that resembles a false cabbage, but Texans probably embracing the less kindly interpretation of its first name because it has spread so widely as to be an invasive and predatory plant whose tough rosettes block out the bluebonnets‘ rise. While I would hate to see it usurp the blue beauty of the state flower, the wild mustard‘s foam floating over the rolling grasslands is a very pretty herald of the return of spring’s wildflowers.
Following the arrival of the mustard, in quick succession, the verges are airbrushed, in turn, with the purples of several vetch-and-clover-like wildflowers I don’t yet know after moving to this region, then the red hues of Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa), then the sea of bluebonnets, punctuated by handfuls of the pale pink-and-white tissue of Lady Bird Johnson‘s favorites, the Showy Evening Primroses (Oenothera speciosa).When you’re just moseying along, running errands and minding your own business and an explosion of living color appears before your very eyes, it’s not something you just ignore. If you’re me, you ask your husbandly chauffeur to be so kind as to pull over in the empty lot across the street from the biggest mass nearby so you can hop out and ogle, and take a few pictures. See, there’s this little bit of tension in the romance with wildflowers. As easy on the eye as nearly all of them are, they are, ahem, wild. People don’t really like wild very well, a lot of the time: everybody wishes in his or her secret heart to control the world–at least, to believe they can do so. Wildflowers grow and bloom when and where they are wiling and able to do it, and in many cases they’re not all that cooperative when we try to grow them on purpose. Never mind when the weather patterns of the moment aren’t as particularly conducive to their happiness, health and vigor as they could be. When the blossoming wild does decide to make a grand entrance, however, it can create these impressive and celebratory masses of glory right across the most inhospitable-seeming acres of dirt and weediness. Because, after all, wildflowers are weeds; weeds, wildflowers. As witness the aggressive behavior of the deceptively dainty-looking bastard cabbages, sweeping right over the top of the other spring blooms like a vegetable horde of Huns or Visigoths and laying siege until the smaller, weaker plants succumb and yield their ground.Like humans and animals and plants of all kinds, every living thing in fact that populates the earth, wildflowers are essentially invaders and will happily fill in any available space when they’re good and ready to do so. A plague upon the earth! Thankfully, unlike most species, wildflowers, whether annual or perennial, tend to repay their carbon debt rather quickly, subsiding into glorious compost almost as quickly as they arrived on the loam of last year’s dead. So I say, three cheers for the Texas Bluebonnet, which survives drought and depredation, bad seasons and bad gardeners, and gives us a massive dose of grand color virtually for free, then turns around politely and sacrifices its glories for the good of next year’s, or next decade’s, wild display.