Saturday, April 15, 2006

What I think when I say "garden" to myself.

Mark Strand, from The Weather of Words

What a day for flowers we've had here. I'm still discombobulated from a week of long, hard work and small, fast sleep, and so I found myself a bit more wandersome than usual today--enabled, of course, by our high temperatures and clear weather. Whereas yesterday was humid and portentous, today was light and mild, diaphanous even, from start to finish. The tulip magnolia continues to become a different tree with each passing day, and I continue to stand under it snapping images and making my neck hurt and my eyes water. I haven't counted up all the pictures yet, but I must be well on my way to two hundred. Today petals are starting to fall to the ground; tomorrow we're meant to have rainstorms, and depending on how high the winds are, I may lose the better part of my flowers. The tree has been my focal point for understanding how swiftly spring has swept in and made itself discernible to us: as I know I suggested sometime last month, I've been feeling the momentum building for some time now, but this week has brought everything to visible life. And so (my belly still full of farfalle in walnut pesto with shiitake mushrooms, with Italian wine and Loudonvillean bread, with crème brulée and tawny port, my mind still full of our hour's drive home with a slightly waning moon rising over our left shoulders) I struck out into the streets repeatedly to see what I could see, and to meditate on rites of resurrection and on riots of color.

First off, someone has moved the dragon, which has me feeling a little apprehensive for his safety. However, he still looks cheerful about it, and blue and green do suit him. So I will remain vigilant but not paranoid.


On my way home from a film screening that my students and I dutifully conducted even though it was beautiful outside and the film was eminently silly, I continued to admire the diversity of ways our trees regenerate themselves. I'm glad the beautiful flourishes are the ones that somehow made it through evolution's indifference.


And I tell you, this tulip magnolia makes me feel downright pagan.


But some of my really pleasant surprises came as I wandered to the village market (that's what it's called, for serious) for a bottle of wine and then took the shortcut through the woods to get to my friends' house for dinner. For one thing, my neighbor's trees (which you saw back in January, when I wrote about how trees produce new growth) are now in full bloom.


For another, once I had the wine and had seen some tulips, I found not only a star magnolia but also a tree for which I don't have a name but that I think might be a weeping cherry; the latter was in a colleague's yard, and he said he didn't mind if I crossed the little footbridge from the road and photographed it. What I couldn't quite catch in this last image: the vista that will soon be obscured by leafy trees, the view out across our valley to more hills in the distance, and the contrast between that vista and the floaty verticals of the tree's blossoms.

By this time, it was getting on toward sunset ("the golden day is dying beyond the purple hill," sing Hem, "and soon beyond the meadow the silver moon will swing"; you should see our silver moon swinging tonight), and I was getting on toward my friends' Easter eve dinner (all three of us unobservant, religiously, but all three of us marking something, somehow, even if only the mingled deliciousness of lamb and good company and spring-sleepy dogs who love you). And it all kicked my mind back to the happy surprise of poems taped to the wall of the stairwell at work on Thursday, in honor of Mark Strand's visit to campus. Strand has come and gone, but the poems are still there, and I hope they've inaugurated a new tradition. My excellent poet friend (who is responsible for our new word/wallpaper) decided to hang up "A Poet's Alphabet," from The Weather of Words (2000), and it was a terrific choice. Each letter gets a musing that's just long enough to give one pause on the stairs but just short enough to pick up and take along to the second floor, or out the front door if one is heading down and out. "G is for garden" is an excellent one, as is "L is for lake" ("for a body of water, give me a lake, a great lake or even a salt lake, where water can be still, where reflection is possible, where one can kneel at the edge, look down, and see oneself. It is an old story"). But I might like "A" best (click on the image for a larger, readable version):


And finally. Finally. I know I'm throwing it all in tonight, but really, doesn't it feel as though it's about time? This morning, I checked the New York Times on the Web and found that Bill Cunningham's "On the Street" feature for tomorrow was up already. I love "On the Street" more than almost any other thing in the Times. Maybe more than anything, period. When I visit my beloved Brooklynite, I am always not so vaguely embarrassed that I reach for the Sunday Styles section first, when her husband brings up the paper, because I love to see "On the Street" in print. Just in case you don't follow it: every week, Cunningham takes pictures of people and their fashions, out on the streets, usually out on the Manhattan streets but occasionally in Paris. Apparently, he often frequents a single corner and just waits to see who and what will come by, and he often comes up with images that epitomize for me the difference between living in Manhattan and living anywhere else in the world. For this weekend, though, he's done something more outlandishly lovely than anything I've seen from him in my years of flocking to his work as soon as it's available. Behold, and I think you'll see why I loved this one. (And yes, my badass friend, the dog in coat is for you. I mean, not that I created this image. But you know that I would have tried to include a dog in a coat for you.)


source for this last image: The New York Times on the Web fashion & style section, 16 April 2006.

7 Comments:

Blogger Poking-Stick Man said...

You -- and by "you" I mean both Dr. S and you whose eye for detail prompts you to read the "comments" section of blogs -- I say again, you might be interested in checking out Christian Bok's Eunoia. Chapter "E" is available online at http://www.ubu.com/contemp/bok/eunoia_final.html in what I understand to be a Bok-authorized form.

p.s. to Dr. S: are you sure that you aren't a closeted Romanticist (or Romantic)?

2:13 AM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

All one needs is the time and the place for walking, guy. I suspect you're right about the Romantic/ist. I'm planning to read Dorothy W's journals this summer, and it's possible De Quincey will be my prose muse.

2:22 AM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

If anyone wants to read all of Bok's Eunoia, go here.

10:02 AM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Reading and even looking at your blog feels amazingly like having a garden outside my window.

12:12 PM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger ttractor said...

darling, yes that is a weeping cherry. magnificent, no? they always always stun me.

8:08 PM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

You know that this year is the 25th anniversary of the cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, no?

8:59 PM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger KYlitprof said...

Thanks. I'm missing my partner in badassedness as things get hectic here in April. So sorry, once again, that I missed the birthday feast.

Much as you were inspired by how a friend of yours saw things, your observations of your surroundings seem to be shaping my relationship to my garden and my neighborhood. I don't take as many pictures though, because I lack the venue for sharing them. Springtime in Lexington is truly lovely.

11:07 AM, April 17, 2006  

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