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

In a quiet time

There are few machine noises these days, just the occasional car in the distance or neighbors working in their yards. The bird song has been astounding, as if they can now hear each other clearly and are no longer struggling to communicate through a wall of manmade sound.

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. ~Rumi

I was weeding near the ‘Snow Fountains’ Japanese cherry tree yesterday when I heard a loud buzzing sound. It was the first bumblebees of the season as they dove through the branches and nuzzled blossom after blossom.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
~ Kobayashi Issa

I love the quiet moments in my garden. Did you know that scientists have discovered that as we isolate and stop our frenzied pace, the earth itself has become quieter?

waterbowl

Spring holds hope for a new beginning and this year is no different, but perhaps it is more important and more longed for in these strange times. The sun shining through blossoms of the spicebushspicebushbranch

and the light on the footpath lightonpath

seem to promise renewal and fresh beginnings at a deeper level – I hope so.

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. ~Rilke

The daffodils and Virginia bluebells are opening . . .

along with late blooming double hellebore ‘Rose Quartz’. hellebore1

Life is uncertain yet we can still be kind, still be thoughtful, still be loving. Each step in the garden reminds me that Mother Earth and her creatures are flourishing even as our human world is turned upside down. My greatest hope is that we will find a way to live in harmony with each other and with the earth. Many people are in desperate need now – I encourage you to do what you can in your own way to help, whether it is to call a friend or contribute to your local food bank. If you are in need, please reach out to others for help – we are all in this together.

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring. ~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Thank you for walking with me in the garden. I wish each of you gentle silence and peace of heart.

Listen to silence. It has so much to say. ~Rumi

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

 

Building structure

Physically, gardens must have boundaries. Mentally, they can reach to the limits of the known universe. ~Tom Turner

The first significant snowfall of the season brought out the beauty of the garden and its bones, its structure. Devoid of color, the 4″ of fresh white snow highlighted the shapes of fences and arbors, benches and shrubs, the lines of tree limbs and last year’s grasses.

You mustn’t rely on your flowers to make your garden attractive. A good bone structure must come first . .  no matter what time of year. Flowers are an added delight, but a good garden is the garden you enjoy looking at even in the depths of winter. ~Margery Fish

The patterns of paths and plantings were a mere suggestion where the snow fell most heavily. circlegarden

The weeping cherry tree marks the center of the garden of circles. cherrycircle

Even as I begin to plan this year’s garden and plant the seeds of flowers, the structure of the garden speaks quietly to me in the depths of winter – “build . . . build . . . you will not regret it.”

A garden is half-made when it is well planned. The best gardener is the one who does the most gardening by the winter fire. ~Liberty Hyde Bailey

This coming spring will mark 19 years of making this garden, but for the past few years, I have struggled with  natural disasters that have rearranged the garden structure as well as struggling with mobility issues of my own. We had our our small upper deck rebuilt last March – we knew it needed repairs but the builders discovered that it was built improperly and rotting within. The rebuild was perfectly executed and we were able to add an attractive cedar ceiling on the underside of the deck, an unexpected bonus.

In July, lightening struck a massive white oak near the house, damaging it beyond saving and wreaking havoc on the electrical systems of the house. It took months to repair everything and the dying tree was removed in October. (Angel inspects the oak tree in happier times)angelsnowtreeThis month, we enclosed the space where the oak had stood and extended the tall fencing almost to our property boundaries, adding privacy around our patio and a safe entrance from the house into the enclosed woods for Angel. Later this summer we will add another arbor to mark the entrance gate like this one on the other side of the house.

Snowy arbor

My own physical structure has required some rebuilding as well. Arthritis and bursitis has kept me out of the garden for the past two years and at times I wondered if I would ever really garden again. Fortunately, physical therapy and multiple lifestyle changes have restored a great deal of my mobility over the past few months. I realize now that the garden and I have moved through de-struction and re-building together, partners of a sort. It has been a challenging journey for us both but one with lasting rewards . . . and just in time for spring.

All gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Robert Dash

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