A lapse of time

No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. ~Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

When I looked back over the year, I was surprised at some of the moments of beauty in the garden. Perhaps it was because I didn’t write about it or share many photos of it, or just that my attention was required elsewhere. My first blog of the year was in March and the second was in November, a long stretch of time without words, without pictures. It seems fitting at the end of the year to share some of the garden moments from April to October, the missing moments of the garden.

It was a turbulent year from the start, with weather alternating sharply between freeze and thaw, blue skies and gray, sunshine and fog, rain and snow. I cut some forsythia buds before a March snowstorm and brought them into the warmth to bloom.Forsythia cuttingsThe gateway to the garden changed quickly over the seasons, from a sudden snow in early April to the lushness of June. (click on any photo to see a larger image in the gallery)

Once through the gate, the steps and hillside leading to the lower garden went through the same transformation, from a hint of the garden to come to the lush growth of early summer.

The lower garden, distinctive in its concentric circles, transformed quickly in April beginning with the flowering of the weeping cherry in April then slowing down through the lushness of June and into late summer. By then, the deep transformation of the garden beds through months of pruning and removing unwanted plants left only the Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and the native Phlox paniculata blooming.

There were some beautiful moments where flowers took front and center throughout the seasons.

Drastic weather events continued in June, when a tornado ripped through our neighborhood for 15 minutes, downing hundreds of beautiful oak trees. We suffered little damage on our property, losing one tree and another one injured, but our neighbor’s oaks crashed across the road and into our driveway, hanging by the electric lines. Until the power was turned off, we were trapped in our property with live wires in our side yard. Eventually, we were able to creep through the downed trees and several days later, they were cut down by the electric company and removed by the township. We were lucky to escape with only inconvenience and little damage to the gardens; others were trapped in their wooded properties for weeks, only able to leave by foot.

The upper deck became a small sanctuary during the summer as my garden helpers and I worked on a long overdue transformation of the garden beds. The bees and butterflies found their way up to the blooms and the cherry tomatoes were a sweet treat on hot summer days.

By October, a few plants were still in bloom, the autumn crocus, some roses, but the season was coming to an end.

I had two cataract surgeries in October, restoring my sight and my ability to take and accurately edit photos, something that had been difficult this year. Fortunately, I was able to shoot photos with my cell phone and press my finger to the surface to focus! It has been a challenging yet rewarding year of sudden starts and stops, crazy weather, loss of loved ones, yet also a year of renewal and regeneration both in my garden and in my self.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.  ~Lao Tzu

I leave you with my favorite photo of Angel from this year, as she stood beneath an arbor of roses. May all good things come to you in the new year, my dear readers – thank you for your patience with my absence on these pages and your kind gift of time and attention. May the year of 2022 bring you great blessings and joy!

A quiet Christmas

There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions. ~ Bill McKibben, American author and environmentalist

The winter light is bright in the garden, starkly shadowing the browns and grays of winter, yet still beautiful to me. The winter solstice has passed and now each day is a little longer, a little brighter.

The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting. ~ Louisa May Alcott

It is that time of year that nature is brought into the house in the form of greens and berries and fruit. I have been taking my time this year to “deck the halls”, making slow but steady progress in decorating the house, baking cookies and bread, writing Christmas notes by the fire, and just . . . remembering.

The trees are the first order of decorating business, no matter that it now takes me a week instead of 2 days to light them and hang the ornaments. Favorite Christmas music plays on the stereo while I place each ornament laden with nostalgia on the trees. I remember where and when I found each treasure – many came from our travels, pressed paper ornaments from New Mexico and a rustic nativity set handmade in Peru. Some were gifts from friends and family, who knew I loved angels as well as Angel.

The woodland tree in the family room is warm and earthy in tones of copper and brown, inspired by the view of our woods from the window. It is full of feathered birds, woodland creatures, rustic Santas and sparkling glass ornaments. (Click any photo in the mosaic to see a larger image)

The tree in the hallway is altogether different, hung with musical instruments, angels and celestial bodies in white, silver and gold. This is the tree that can be seen from the front entrance, glowing in the dark of night.

I went the extra mile this year, creating wreaths and arrangements of greens to “deck the halls” with color and fragrance. 

 

My favorite book of carols sits on the piano, and I play through a few each day. Music has been an integral part of Christmas for my whole life and I don’t think that will ever change. 

It’s about making your own raft of time. Your own doorway into Christmas. . . Ritual isn’t about multitasking. Ritual is time cut out of time. Done right it has profound psychological effects.” ~Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

It is in the quiet moments of preparing for Christmas that I recall memories of family, of past holidays. As I baked cookies from my mother’s cookbook of favorite family recipes, I thought often of her. She passed away this May and I haven’t fully processed that loss, but it was comforting to bake familiar treats from her book. In addition to her many other talents, she was a marvelous baker – she made bread every weekend when my brothers and I were growing up, and was a master of pies, cookies, and cakes.

 

One of the joys this year was finding a new home for my mother’s beloved cat after she passed. Through the help of friends, sweet Olaf had a soft landing with a wonderful family who loves him and he even has a new cat brother Toby. Olaf seems content this Christmas with his family and I am so happy for him. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Nogrady)

It’s Christmas Eve now, time to play carols, read stories, wrap presents, maybe watch a favorite holiday movie. Wherever you are and whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you a beautiful season full of light, warmth and love. Stay safe, my friends.

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

All text and photos ©2021 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved, except where noted.

How beautiful the leaves

How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days. ~John Burroughs

The weeping cherry glows as the last bit of gold in the lower garden, an umbrella of light in the late autumn garden.

The mild fall weather has delayed leaf fall and a few days have been warm enough to dine outside. Bill and I ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant in our local park; a mild sunny day filled the patio with diners in November.  The stillness and beauty of the lake we viewed from our table stayed with us for days.

The garden is a place of constant change. Two weeks ago, the trees were still loaded with leaves 

and the skies were blue.

What was golden

became bronze

and finally fell to the earth.

Autumn is the hardest season. The leaves are all falling, and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground. ~Andrea Gibson

The last burst of color of autumn is at the entrance to our driveway, where the kousa dogwood and azalea leaves are having a multicolored moment.

I want to send a special thanks to all of you who read and commented on my last post about our beautiful Angel – your words meant so much and helped in the healing process. One of our longtime friends sent us a sketch he created of one of Angel’s photos; we were surprised and thrilled and he promised to send an oil painting. Gus was the best man at our wedding and our drummer when Bill and I were performing many years ago in Pittsburgh as Sundance (Gus is looking over my shoulder). He retired and moved to Florida a few years ago with his wife Shirley, where he has returned to drawing and painting – his work is regularly shown at a local gallery. We were deeply touched when this beautiful painting of our girl arrived this week – Gus caught the essence of her beauty and expression and it was one more gift of friendship that is healing our hearts.

For those of you who celebrate the coming American Thanksgiving holiday, I wish you a warm and loving holiday and a joyous autumn to all.

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them—
The summer flowers depart—
Sit still— as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Autumn

 

All images and text ©2021 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved except where noted. Painting of Angel Eyes by © 2021 Gus DiPerna All Rights Reserved

Angel in the garden

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. ~Mark Twain

Angel Eyes and I went out early one morning a few weeks ago and the light was extraordinary. The slanted rays of the October sun rimmed everything it touched with a halo and Angel, being the angel that she is, seemed to glow. It was one of those timeless moments not easily forgotten, when the light was just right, the birds were singing, the air was cool and fresh and Angel was by my side. Angel in light

Those of you who have visited these pages in the past have often seen Angel as she accompanied me in the garden, my constant companion.

She loved exploring her world, sniffing flowers, watching insects, tracking down the scents of the creatures who shared the garden with her. (click on any photo in the mosaic to see full size images)

It wasn’t just the garden in bloom, she loved winter too, romping in the snow with her ball or her cousin Charlie Brown.

Angel came to us as a four month old puppy – as soon as she arrived and jumped out of the car, she ran to Bill and immediately became Daddy’s girl, remaining his lap dog forever.

Bill posed her in his studio one day and dubbed her “Sound Dog” because she would lay under his mixing board for hours while he worked. She once ran over to greet a friend of ours she had never met because she recognized his speaking voice – she had listened to his singing voice while Bill was editing his CD and made the connection! She loved music and often went to outdoor concerts with us, barking with joy every time the audience applauded the musicians.

If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them. ~Pam Brown

A few years ago, dear friend and gifted photographer Mary Pegher put together a wonderful photo book of dogs who graced our local park. Angel had a grand time at her photo shoot, leaping and chasing her favorite pink ball while Mary worked her magic with the camera. When the book arrived, we were delighted to find that Angel was featured in her own two page spread – many friends and relatives got a copy of that book for Christmas that year!

I had sensed this spring that this might be Angel’s last year in the garden. She struggled to move at times but still looked forward to our mornings walking the paths together, however slowly we might move. Although she was 90 in human years, she was still beautiful and sweet and joyful. You may have guessed by now that Angel is no longer with us. She passed away peacefully in our arms, in her favorite spot on the sofa, and surrounded by those who loved her so much. 

I still expect to see her face at the door when I come up the driveway and I continue to reach out to pet her before I remember that she’s not there. I think it will be the hardest next spring when I look up the stone steps and she isn’t standing there at the top, waiting for me to put my camera away and join her exploring the garden in the morning light.

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Khalil Gibran

Hope is the thing

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

Angel and I stood out under the almost full moon last night. She was restless, so was I, and the moonlit woods beckoned to us, mysterious and full of the sounds of night creatures awake and moving. I stood and watched the sky while she investigated every rustle and sigh – it was nearly midnight before we returned to the house. We were up early this morning to catch the sun.

Spring is here and the world is growing greener. I’ve been walking the garden every day, starting with the morning sun and ending at dusk and still I wish for more. Angel, at age 15, is a little gimpy, a little slower – we make a fine creaky pair as we circle the garden beds and pause for a closer look at each new flower that appears. 

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size. ~ Gertrude S. Wister

I finally had to admit that if I wanted to keep my garden, I would have to hire help for the heavy lifting. I called my friend Bill, who built the stone walls in my garden.  

He and Ron have been weeding, pruning, moving shrubs, and mulching garden beds for me for the past few weeks. Finally, the garden that was slowly going to ruin has now re-emerged, its bones intact and eager to grow. 

The bones of the garden

I can take pleasure in the easy stuff of gardening, knowing that I have able and knowledgeable help for all of the tough jobs that I no longer can manage. I designed, dug, planted and maintained this entire garden by myself for twenty years and now wonder how I managed to do that. But being forced to slow down has its pleasures. I’ve long enjoyed the contrast of the white daisy-like flowers of Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ against the dusky purple foliage of Euphorbia dulcis‘Chameleon’.

For the first time, I noticed the pink and purple tones of the anemone’s flowers and stems when its petals close for the night, entangled in the purple arms of the euphorbia.

Nearby, creeping sedums (S. rupestre ‘Angelina and S. spurium purpureum) have mingled together in a jazzy gold and burgundy combination.

White forsythia (Abeliophyllum) has pink buds before it opens but I’ve never noticed them before.

White forsythia buds

Delicate as a ballerina’s pink slipper, the buds eventually give way to the sweet-scented white flowers that gives this early blooming shrub its name.

White forsythia flowers

I had the pleasure of watching daffodil ‘Verdant Meadows’ open as a yellow and white flower before it slowly paled over a few days in the spring sun, eventually becoming creamy white.

My sisters-in-law gave me a lungwort (Pulmonaria) from my mother-in-law’s garden after she passed – its first bloom of the season opened this week on her birthday, a lovely synchronicity. 

The weather is mild enough to sleep with the window open; what a joy it is to awaken to the pre-dawn bird chorus. The garden is awake and this gardener has hope that she will be able to tend to it with ease and joy, and revel in nature’s beauty. May you also have hope and beauty in your daily world as spring works it magic.

Cornus mas blossom

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

~Emily Dickinson