Friday, June 22, 2012

Bite-Sized Days; Bloody Fun

Trimming, redesigning. Making lists. Mosquito bites.
Three on my leg, the back of the calf. One today right under the knuckle of my middle finger on my right hand, how the hell did that happen?
Then, on the other hand, while I am reading, no less, not sticking my face into the strawberry patch to gather the red gold that has not been munched by baby black slugs the size of a block-printed comma, or something larger, or turned into squish by strawberry replacement therapy thanks to the rainy period which precedes what has now become the hot spell; no, nor gathering my rosebuds where I may, a stickery sort of business though the roses are better this year than ever, so how can I complain if the thorns are also more valiant?; nor even trying to make the occasional desert bloom by some new inspiration, transplantation, or expenditure of time and money, turning my hads to dirt and leaving my ragged garden gloves to imprint in the rain an outline of their overworked selves in dirty runoff against the smooth gray of the piled-up roof slates…
No, not in any of these manners,
But merely sitting on a white plastic chair reading a novel about clouds of insects descending from the sky when the wind blows in the from the forest,
Reminding myself at frequent intervals that the place I visit between the pages
Is not the place where I live; where I live is a place that suffers three-day sieges of high heat and humidity about once on an average summer, though admittedly those non-average summers linger in the memory.
And where even then I can recline in a chair on a paved surface
And a read a book,
And somehow not notice that a rather tiny black mosquito with that exaggerated proboscis that makes this creature look like the villain in some children’s story,
As if Pinocchio could never quit the lying gig and so ended up frozen, wooden, frail and monstrously long-nosed, so pathetic that is that some exaggerated Principle of Selection shrunk his size
And offered him wings for some slight chance of bloody survival
And so he does.
And so this creature which I somehow fail to notice has already begun
To siphon off my blood
Before I notice him and put an end to his atavistic pleasure
While splashing his bloody beverage, which of course is my bloody substance once removed, over the back of one hand and the fingers of the other
And consequently when minutes later I spill a little spot of vanilla ice cream
(Have I mentioned the ice cream?) And need to mop it off my one hand with the fingers of the other
I am now tasting my own drawn blood
With that red, metallic, fervent aftertaste which seem to tell us all,
in so many words, though without words at all, that
Here is the essence of carnal.

6/20 Summer Heat, Right on Schedule

Heat. Humidity. The first oppressively hot day after three cool June weeks.
Very sudden ascent into the universe of too much heat instead of too little. It was low sixties all day Sunday as we stood around outdoors at a graduation party and people eventually gave up pretending and began sending indoors for sweaters and jackets. Fifties over night.
I wake Tuesday morning thinking, damn, I’m chilly and we’re more than halfway through June.
On Wednesday, the first day of summer, a well foretold event, the world changes completely and the government is putting up heat advisory signs. The day lives up to its billing. I have watered the night before. I work indoors because I have to, the fans on, the windows closed, and a steady stream of self-assurances that the house can always survive the first day

of a heat wave without becoming unbearable.
By the time I get outdoors some transplants are the worse for wear, though the big fat round “Little Henry” shrub I planted Tuesday appears completely at home in its new location under the oak tree where the Bee Balm finally failed last year. We have some new bee balm plants in a sunnier spot between the trees and are optimistic. This Henry newcomer was acquired largely because the owner of the garden shop said this shrub was the only one which bragged how it can put up with shade as easily as with sun, and I, easily persuaded when I’m in the mood, decided it was a good bet.
The shrub has white flowers that are probably near the end of their blooming period, but the coming attraction is the promised autumn transformation of the leaves into purple and lilac tones.
I have been trying to make over two sections of the garden, to respond to changes there and try to get more into them. The one, where I put ol’ Henry (Oh Henry? Hank, for short?) is close to the oak tree, the Ancient One, which stands guard over all this landscape. I stuck some annuals in there late last summer to make a closing statement, but they left holes this spring which nothing leapt to fill. I’m still mulling what other perennial to introduce into the neighborhood.
The thing is, a little bit to the south of this shady spot, a longish corridor of sufficiently sunny ground has grown a paired border of tall lush plants. I’d like to continue the effect.
In place of the low groundcovers, which quit blooming in May – as they always do, you know what you’re getting – I want tall spikey late summer bloomers.
The other section, in the center of the yard and going back to the fence, has the statue of the brown ceramic cat and a wall-to-wall spread of sweet woodruff, which blooms white in the early spring, but is currently indulging a 2-year period of rollback. It does that. An advance; a retreat. If the patch is voluntarily giving up territory, that creates a good opportunity to introduce more variety. In addition to the bee balm mentioned above, I have planted some new “repeat bloom” irises brought this year after their flowering period (so we’ll see); and transplanted some asters that have suffered being covered over by the ecstatic leafage of the midsummer-loving day lilies.
A day lily or two last Sunday, a few more on our next two cool days. Who knows what they did yesterday, too hot to notice, and they are pumping out the orange blossoms today.
We have added some “repeat blooming” day lilies too, a recent variety. We’re hoping to see them do their magic this year.

A Poem for the First Day of Summer

Hot Shots: a poem

In the full New England sun
I’m bleached into a ghost, a limp winding sheet
Do not even imagine
The tropics

The flowers are hot and bright
Some cool green things wilt beside them
– which am I?

I try to capture
On the lens of my brain –
Not to mention the Sony Cyber-Shot
I am dragging around each day to memorialize the radiance
Of my best students, my garden stars
Like heroes on the gravestones of time

-- the quality of air
when no two-leggers are afoot
Even flying things seem quieted
Bees have no buzz for this perfectly sweet
and soporific afternoon

The birds are down to
a few scattered postprandial cheeps

And the echoes of man-made engines hovering above
sound merely like the pleasant burbles
of some contented deity at his afternoon nap
dreaming of lazy, self-indulgent days
Will I ever learn such wisdom?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Roses in the Rain After four days of rain and more wind than I want to see again any time soon, the sun comes out unexpectedly this morning. Then, while the sky’s still half filled with sun, it starts to rain. A little while later, the rain clears and now the sun is shining full on. High clouds, but big patches of blue sky. A pefect cool June day, temperature around sixty. We send the hardy gardener (my all-weather self) out there to survey the effects of the weather and make a casualty report. Peonies, on their way out when the wind and rains started, have now spread thick coatings of the dense white petals that make up their flowers on the ground and spatter the brick walk they overhang. Stalks of foxglove flowers, the biggest loss because these are biennials, have gone horizontal from the flattening winds. Foxgloves pick their spots, and half the time I forget where their summer location plans are, but if they’re showing in the spring it’s pretty easy to pick out their leaves and try to clear a spot to make sure the flower stalk develops. This year it’s the white ones with pink centers in their horn-shaped blossoms that are showing. Last year we had deeper colors. This is still the season for spiderwort, a vigorous perennial with crooked leaf spears and round purple blooms. Some of these have been blown flat, but I expect these will pick themselves back up. Not so my flattened foxgloves; those I fear are headed for cutting and vase work indoors. All the rain has made for a lot of green growth everywhere I look, and that means a lot of overgrowth. So now everything needs weeding and cutting back. All these past-flowering violets, to take a conspicuous presence – maybe it’s time for you to go. When the clouds hold off for a few hours, I go back out later in the day to see what repairs I can make. I notice a few strawberries turning red enough to eat. So I pick a small bowl. Many more care oming, but not nearly so many as in past years before the raspberry bushes started eating up their space. But the roses are holding up, shining through the rain, and blooming a red fury when the comes out. With the air finally dry I spray the roses, they’re sparkling in four different places, the June bloomers already peaking. Rain doesn’t stop them from bleeding. I even manage to stake a couple of downed foxglove flower stalks back up, using odd bits of string scavenged from last year’s stakings. Finally I give in to the pleasure of simply sitting among the plants and trimming beds and picking weeds. It’s not warm yet, but it’s delightful to be out of doors, fighting the bees to pay attention to the blossoms. I examine the laurel bush too. It looked weak earlier this spring, with nothing but old leaves showing, but it’s had a great burst of new growth over the last month. Some of the new leaves cover the flower bunches, but I’m gratified by this evidence that the plant is doing well. The day lilies are about to bloom, significantly ahead of the old late June schedule. The spirea buds are out, and showing color. One of the blue Ansonia plants, one of last summer’s class of newcomers, is blooming a pretty light blue color. Things coming, come and gone, and to come: it’s pretty much pleasure in any direction that you look.