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

A quiet season

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. ~Mary Oliver, Snowy Night

Late last night, Angel and I ventured outside into the deep snow. It had been snowing for two days, a wet heavy snow not easily moved aside with a broom.  As we stepped away from the porch lights, the world glowed in the dark, everything covered with a thick white coat that gleamed in the starlight. It was the quiet that struck me, though. There was not a sound to be heard, no distant cars, no breeze moving the trees, no voices. As we stood there drinking in the silence, a Great Horned Owl sang his deep hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo in the woods behind us. It was just me and Angel and the owl, sharing the silent night. 

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~Lewis Carroll

My life has been quiet for the past several months. Retiring in August triggered a need to turn inward, to catch up on years of lost sleep and the energy drain of too many projects. Instead of writing, I began reading. Instead of pushing through the mid-afternoon slump with coffee, I took long naps. As I drifted through the days and weeks and months, I was content to stay home and spend my days in quiet introspection. 

Winter is a season of recovery and preparation. ~Paul Theroux

As Mother Nature moves into her quiet season here in western Pennsylvania, I finally find myself refreshed and slowly turning back to the world. I sent out Christmas cards for the first time in years. Decorating the house was a pleasure instead of a chore. I’m wrapping up my Watershed CD project and will be making the music available publicly in a week or two.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The snow continues to fall here, creating a winter wonderland that is all the more welcome since I have no place I need to go. Whichever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you peace and joy. Stay safe, have hope, and enjoy the quiet of the season.

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. ~Terri Guillemets

New beginnings

Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings. ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

This week, and the last few months, have been about endings and beginnings. I am nearing the end of the mixing and mastering of my Watershed CD , a three year effort. We hope to send it for duplication in a week, thanks to the engineering wizardry of my husband/sound engineer Bill. We spent the last half of the spring semester teaching from home because of COVID restrictions and realized how much we liked being home all of the time. I spent hours at the piano, sketching new ideas while looking into the green woods.

piano

Angel was delighted to have us home 24/7; we snuggle a lot on the sofa.

The garden got some extra attention too – early summer was beautiful, in spite of  the late hard frosts.

Heat and drought were hard on the garden in June and July; although some plants bloomed, the flowers were short lived. It rained last night, with loud thunderstorms and heavy downpours – this morning the trees and plants are green and glowing and the garden looks lush again. gardenafterrain

We liked being at home so much these past several months that when the chance came to retire earlier than expected, we both took it.  Bill and I are now officially retired from our teaching jobs of 30+ years. We have been celebrating with cake, cake

with wine,

pianowine

and with mornings on the deck complete with guitar music. billgtr copy

All the things I love the most are here – the sound of the wind in the trees, the dance of a hummingbird at the flowers, the ebb and flow of the seasons, my piano, a house full of books and of course my husband and Angel. I am leaving a large part of my life behind with no regrets – it was a good ending – and now I am ready to begin the third act. I am still a composer, a gardener, a writer, a photographer – but now I have time to reflect, to explore, and to be more present on this page.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. ~ Steve Jobs

whiteoak

I hope that you are all well in these most difficult times and that you are able to stay safe, full of hope and surrounded by love.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

So loud and clear

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer. ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

Spring has suddenly unfolded herself, transforming from a few bright flowers lost in a brown sea of last year’s leaves to a rich tapestry of green punctuated by full bouquets.colorfulhillside

Green leaves of every size and shape have sprung up, fresh and new.

New flowers open every day, making the morning stroll through the garden a journey of discovery.

gardenarch

The earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

springgl

After a long winter of dreary days and muted colors, the textures and forms of spring make me feel as if I’ve stepped into the land of Oz, from a black and white world into a land of vibrant color.

Near a birdbath set into the ground,greenbirdbath

I found a tiny bird nest – it may have blown out of a tree during yesterday’s wild winds. tinynest

On May 1, two of my compositions will be featured on our university’s weekly A Little Friday Night Music concert series on YouTube. If you are free on Friday, May 1 at 7:30 P.M. (eastern daylight time), please tune in and enjoy the concert performance of selections from Watershed and Arcadian Tone Poems, both pieces inspired by my love of nature. I will be there in the live chat to answer questions and comments during the concert. The video will remain on YouTube thereafter, so you can tune in anytime.

May you enjoy the sights and sounds of spring, wherever you find yourself. Stay safe, stay well, stay strong.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. ~Rachel Carson, Silent Spring