Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September flowers

Anemone. It’s the name, in part, that attracts me. I heard it spoken in a poem about a year ago. I had planted an anemone and waited a year and nothing much happened. Then last fall, after everything else had bloomed and faded and passed its little moment on the stage of time – which makes me think:
When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment
(that’s a different poem; Shakespeare) – and there wasn’t much color left in the garden, my single anemone, up till then a little ordinary vehicle of green, began to flower. A rich pink, daisy shaped; soft pink ears around a clock face of yellow. Coming so late in the season, they are like a message from another world. The buds are round and puffy before they open. With some flowers you can’t tell that the buds are about blow up into blooms. But with these September flowers there’s a kind of sensuous unfolding, a kind of prolonged anticipation of the moment. Erotic, maybe? Don’t make too much (something is telling me) of a little flower.
But it’s the time of year that gives them that extra punch. The ambience of September. It’s cool and stirring; then it’s balmy and nostalgic. It’s the transitional month, the “turn” in the course of the year, the way a certain line about two-thirds the way through the poem becomes the “turn” in the poem.
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight –
that’s the turn in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 15 (the poem quoted from above). And the anemone, my September flowers, are about to have their turn in my garden.
I look for more color this time of year, unrealistically, like the child who doesn’t want to go to bed. Exhaustion – the garden’s, if not mine – is clearly close at hand. We can’t stop it. The lilies are long gone, so too the daisies, the roses are wearing out; the spring and early summer bloomers (purple salvia, violets, dead nettle, primrose, foxgloves, spirea, laurel, lilac, lavender – all the ‘L’s – and most everything else I can think of) have been gone for months. In some cases the foliage remains and looks respectable despite the wear and tear of weather’s vagaries and garden pests. In other cases (hosta, Asiatic lilies, bleeding heart), the foliage is withered, shredded or wholly withdrawn back into the earth. Some fall flowers are still on the horizon; asters beginning to bloom, mums about to. And some late summer black-eyed susans and tall phlox are still holding their heads up and making their love-light shine, but on the whole there’s relatively little new under the sun.
But anemones are taking their turn. “Even so my sun one early morn did shine,” Shakespeare says in another poem (Sonnet 33). And to arrive at this moment for their share of the spotlight they have come from somewhere so modest, so hidden and off stage you forget they are lurking in the garden’s lower story, squeezed in between the featured acts, waiting there all summer. They keep their heads down. No one calls them “showy.” The garden books don’t call them “cheerful, sun-loving” flowers. To me they are deep-feeling, hearty, September-loving flowers. They don’t laugh a lot, but they smile meditatively. They soak up a lot of feeling.
And maybe it’s because of that turn-of-the-wheel bloom time, popping up in the perennial garden when the other perennials are mostly sinking down, that poets have looked at them long and deep and seen themselves or their predicament.
This was my impression, anyway, when I heard the anemone referenced in a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died just last year. The poem is known by its first line, “The beloved hemorrhaged anemones.” The beloved, here (forgive me if you’ve figured this out), is the land.
Oh people of Cannan… [the poem says] It’s your good luck that you chose agriculture as a profession
it’s your bad luck that you chose the gardens
near god’s borders…
It concludes:
The first of our songs is the blood of love
that gods shed,
and the last is the blood shed by iron gods . . .
(I found the poem on… You can read the rest of it there.)
So, unconsciously, I suppose, these valiant, late-call flowers have since been connected in my mind with certain ideas and feelings. But that’s the way it is with flowers. They are nature’s poems.
To me the meanest flower that blows [Wordsworth writes in the Immortality Ode, the greatest of the nature-loving English Romantic’s poems] can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.