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

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

Serenity in the garden

We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. ~Sri S. Satchidananda

The garden is waking up and I am a frequent visitor. When I cannot bear another word or warning of the world’s calamities, I step outside. A month ago, the world was white with snow. FebSnowgate

Then the March winds came and turned the sky blue. marchskies

The robins and a pair of mourning doves are regular visitors to the birdbath and their songs ring out in a quiet world that has begun to bloom. The snowdrops appeared first, tiny clusters of white that nodded in the early spring sun and shrugged off the snow. The Tommy crocus (Crocus tommisinianus) appeared soon after, to the delight of a few early insects.

Now the hellebores are stealing the show. Some are named varieties with strong colors and sometimes doubled in form. (click any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

Others are chance seedlings of a few plants gifted to me by a friend many years ago. They seem to have crossed with the fancy ones and made some pretty color combinations.  A few even lift their faces up to the spring sun.

Forsythia and Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) are bearing their cheery yellow flowers while a few daffodils come into bloom.

I leave behind worry each time I step into the garden and embrace the serenity that I find there. May you find inspiration in the beauty around you and dream beautiful dreams.

My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. ~Abram L. Urban

All photos and text ©2020 Lynn Emberg Purse, except where noted

Browsing the autumn garden

The slant of the autumn light is making for dramatic mornings in the garden. Sunlight sifts through the dark leaves of the oak and maple trees, reminding me that the autumn equinox is only a week away.

treelight

The herb garden glows in the low morning light, highlighting the flower racemes of Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’ in the thick mix of natives Eupatorium rugosum and Rudbeckia triloba in the herb circle. (Click on any photo in the mosaic to see a larger image)

Sedums and autumn crocus bloom along with a few vibrantly colored annuals.

But parts of the autumn garden have been pruned for me unintentionally. A few weeks ago, the tall phlox began to disappear, the hostas were cut to the ground, rose branches were stripped of flowers and leaves, the Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ was greatly reduced in size. Even the branches on the weeping cherry were stripped bare. cherrytreedeer

What could be doing this in the protected garden safely enclosed in fencing? Was it the work of the 17 year cicadas that appeared this summer or perhaps a very large rabbit? As I was eating a late dinner at dusk on the deck, I heard a creature in the garden but saw nothing. I went down the steps to investigate and watched the head of a beautiful male white-tail deer emerge from the woods and happily finish off the remaining hostas.

MPdeer1
(Photo courtesy of Mary Pegher ©2019)

Creeping quietly around him, I discovered that someone had opened the back gate of the garden and left it ajar. This beautiful creature had been making nightly forays for at least a week into Lynn’s Gourmet Deer Cafe as I was busy teaching evening classes instead of working in the garden. The last time a deer entered the garden, it threw itself against the fence in panic when Angel gave chase. To avoid that catastrophe and to stay safe in the face of a healthy 6 point buck, I chose to open the gate wider and coax him quietly out. I spoke gently and made the encouraging noises I would use to coax a dog to my side. Intrigued, he stepped hesitantly towards me until he almost reached the gate, then paused. I quietly entered another gate behind him and told him firmly that it was time to leave. He looked at me over his shoulder, then trotted out out of the garden while I hurried to shut both gates. Only after he disappeared into the woods did I realize that I hadn’t thought to photograph him.

Every creature was designed to serve a purpose. Learn from animals for they are there to teach you the way of life. ~Suzy Kassem

My friend Mary Pegher takes amazing photos of the denizens of North Park, a 3000+ acre county park near our house; she graciously let me use her pictures of a healthy 10 point buck she had photographed this past week. Our deer fence serves to keep these wild creatures out of my garden but I cannot help admire their beauty. And like the deer in Mary’s photos, the one that ate my garden looked very healthy indeed. I’m sure that the nutritious food I provided will make him a favorite of the ladies this fall. I find myself amused rather than upset – the garden is entering its last phase of the season and will take no permanent harm. There is plenty to share and I truly feel graced by a gentle encounter with a magnificent animal.

Wildlife in the world can only be protected by the love of compassionate hearts in the world! ~Mehmet Murat Ildan

I admit that I worry about the wildlife in our changing world. Housing developments continue to spring up everywhere, displacing the creatures who once lived there, and climate change  also disrupts sources of food and migratory habits. In spite of maintaining an organic garden and providing protected space for many different creatures, I see a dramatic drop in bees and other pollinators. Every chance to live in harmony with the natural world seems a small win for us all.

MPdeer2Photo courtesy of Mary Pegher; you can see more of her work on Facebook at MLP-Photography.

If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.  ~Steve Irwin

The golden hour

In photography, the golden hour is the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky. ~Wikipedia

We had three glorious days of sunshine this past week, probably a first for this year. The garden reveled in the sunshine and bloomed gloriously at the height of daylily season. pinkhems2

The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. ~Marcus Aurelius

Pink daylilies bloomed with abandon

as did the purple and plum colored ones.

Flowers with eyes seemed to follow me with their gaze wherever I went in the garden

while the deepest colors added bass tones to the floral orchestra.

Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there’s shadow – no, not just shadow, but fullness. You’ve got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that’s real. ~Amy Grant

According to local weather tracking, only 29% of the days this year have been without rain or other precipitation. Like any gardener, I treasure rain but it has been a dark and gloomy summer. After those few glorious days of sunshine, the rain returned with a series of furious storms that pounded the garden with wind, water and spates of lightening and thunder for most of the day. Dozens of roads were flooded in the area; after a summer of heavy rain, the soil simply could not absorb any more.

The rain began again. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfilment of its own nature, which was to fall and fall. ~Helen Garner

dewyroseleaf

In late afternoon, the rain stopped and the sky lightened. By early evening, sunlight unexpectedly sifted through the trees and turned the garden into a golden land.

treelight

While many of the flowers were battered and sodden, their color sang to me from below as I stood at the top of the hill.  The battle with weeds and soggy garden beds were forgotten. The world was glowing.

I stood transfixed as the garden seemed to turn to me and say “See? We are fine. Stop worrying about neatness or perfection and join us as we revel in this golden hour.” rosedereschtrain

Once in a golden hour,
I cast to earth a seed,
And up there grew a flower,
That others called a weed. ~Tennyson

All text and photos ©2019 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved except where noted.