LOVE

Beside our front door is a simple garden stake, twice embellished with the word LOVE. 

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When our rhododendron covers itself with spring blossoms, LOVE is an intricate work of art, like tiny panels of stained glass, reminding me that love is beautiful in every language.

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When autumn sun dips low in the west, LOVE finds a way to squeeze through the shadows to illuminate our doorstep, and I am comforted.

Don’t you feel it, too? Love has many iterations.

And it waits at the door.

Amo Ergo Sum

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Because I love
There is an invisible way across the sky,
Birds travel by that way, the sun and moon
And all the stars travel that path by night.

Because I love
There is a river flowing all night long.

Because I love
All night the river flows into my sleep,
Ten thousand living things are sleeping in my arms,
And sleeping wake, and flowing are at rest.

Excerpt from ‘Amo Ergo Sum’ 
by British poet, Kathleen Raine, (1908 – 2003)

Shall we dance?

My favorite task of the garden year is pruning back the faded blooms of my lavender plants. Each snip of the shears fills my nose with the delectable scent of lavender and spirits me back to a precise moment in time. When lavender’s in the air, the year is 1963, and I’m an impressionable five year old, worshipfully watching my mother dress up for a dinner-dance…

While I perch on the bed, she swishes around the room in her elegant gown, leans close to an oval mirror to apply lipstick and smooth waves of dark hair. She chooses a pair of pearl earrings from her jewelry box, clips a shimmering cluster to each lobe. Out comes the beveled stopper from her bottle Chanel No. 5; she sets the stopper on a mirrored tray, places a finger over the bottle’s small opening, up-ends it, then traces a droplet or two along her collarbone, a droplet to each wrist. She pulls open my favorite drawer, the one I love to peep into when she’s not around. It’s filled with dainty half-slips, full slips, and dress gloves for every occasion, around which are tucked a number of aromatic lavender sachets. From this fragrant treasure trove, she draws a pair of elbow-length, black gloves with jet black beading. She slides slender arms into each glove, tugs softly at the base of each finger to ensure a snug fit. She slips into a pair of heels, gives me a smile, gathers up her black satin clutch, and floats downstairs to wait for Daddy, who’s putting on his tux. In a state of total enchantment, I trundle down after her.

0183_Shall we dance? 2When my parents meet in the living room, they beam at one another – so happy, so in love. While Momma gives last-minute instructions to the babysitter, Daddy, ever the gentleman, cordially asks me, ala Oscar Hammerstein, “Shall we dance?” With a grin, I accept.

He offers a steadying hand as I place first my right, then my left foot on top of his size 13, black patent leather dance shoes. As we glide around the room together, my feet slip on his shoes’ shiny surface, and I can’t stop giggling. He takes small, measured steps to accommodate my much shorter legs and never once lets me slide off. For a few giddy moments, I’m the belle of the ball in my white robe and slippers.

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Momma’s all ready now, so Daddy twirls me in a circle, plants a kiss on my head, bids me goodnight, and goes out to the car. Momma blows a kiss into a gloved hand, presses a lavender-scented palm to my upturned cheek. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She drapes a stole over her shoulders and rustles out to the car. Daddy waits at her door, closes it after her, strides around to the driver’s seat, gives me a wave before sliding behind the wheel.

My small heart, filled with dreams of dancing and music and beauty and romance, feels the pang of an evening’s impending separation. I press wistful hands to glass, watch my lovely parents recede from view, red tail lights fading to pinpricks before vanishing altogether…

Time is a peculiar thing, something I don’t suppose I’ll ever get used to. It’s an astonishment to realize the evening I describe took place over a half-century ago; that I, the baby of the family, am now twenty years older than my parents were in this photo; that my precious father –my living, breathing, perpetual font of love and security– is 90. How is this possible? Moments ago, my parents were young, and I was their littlest girl…

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Nudged by a photograph, or an old song, or a certain aroma, memories of life’s loveliest moments flit through our days on diaphanous wings. One whiff of lavender is all it takes for me to dance again in my daddy’s strong arms and feel the lasting tenderness of my momma’s touch.

******

This post is the last in a series of five in a 5-day Photo/Story blog challenge, to which I was invited by my friend, Kristine, who blogs regularly at candidkay. (Thank you, Kristine; this was fun!)

The challenge: Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph, and each day nominate another blogger to the challenge.

Rather than nominate a particular group of bloggers to this challenge, I prefer to open it up to any who would like to participate. If you’re interested, step right up, and give it a whirl!

a heart made of light

0170_love, as light

I was looking out to the woods this morning, absorbing the leafy green gloriousness that is early June, when all of a sudden, I saw something I’ve never seen before and may never see again. As I looked on in half-disbelief, sunbeams spilled across the surface of our sturdy backyard oak to create a perfect heart, a heart made of light.

A heart made of light – an image so beautiful, so brief and unexpected, a moment so poetic and metaphorical, I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe it was meant just for me, but I’m posting it here because it might have been meant just for you.

a petal in the grass

My earliest memories of spring are a shower of petals – along our curb, confetti-petals of bridal wreath; in the turnaround, clustered petals of highbush cranberry; beside our garage, white-petaled boughs of mulberry; at wood’s edge, aromatic petals of mock orange; at our back door, fairy-winged petals of honeysuckle.

Five decades have bloomed and faded since I was the little girl who pored over the perimeter of her woodland world in a pair of blue Keds and white anklets. Yet, still, I witness each spring with a child’s wide-open eyes, my senses alert to the littlest things: flick of a tail in the underbrush, a robin’s song of impending rain, petals in the grass. I can’t help but marvel at spring’s faithful unfurling. In May, when beauty blossoms and petals billow, each moment is poignant, impermanent, and I don’t want to miss a single one.

Last weekend, I potted flowers and herbs to heart’s content, then crossed the front lawn towards the garden spigot to fill my old tin watering can. In the dappled shade of our river birch, I paused to let a cool breath of wind sift through my hair. As I stood, savoring spring, my eye caught peripheral motion. I turned to witness the calligraphic flight of a single petal that came to rest at my feet among the grassy roots of our river birch.

I looked closer, then stared. This was no petal, it was a tiny moth, smaller than a dime. Peering closer still, I noticed its wings had pink markings and twin wing spots.

Not daring to disturb this diminutive creature, I spoke softly to Jeff, who was working nearby, and asked him to bring his camera.

Here, with many thanks to my dear husband, is an up-close opportunity to study this breathtaking moth. As is often the case, this little beauty’s common name is just that – common. (And, I might add, wholly unromantic.)

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Behold the female chickweed moth.

(If she were male, she’d have feathery antennae.) She’s a member of the geometer family, (Geometridae), meaning that in her previous incarnation, she was a humble inchworm who measured her world, millimeter by millimeter. Since she dines primarily on chickweed, she’s considered beneficial to the garden. Unlike most moths, she flies by day and spends much of her time hidden among the grass.

These are the facts that govern her existence. But to me, she represents more.

Her wings, like brushed suede, are a work of art, lovely as any butterfly’s. I marvel at the delicate perfection of deep pink fringe that edges each gold-dusted wing. She sports symmetrical wing spots, but these spots don’t look round to me. Call me a dreamer, but I see a pair of diminutive hearts inscribed here. . .

As the modern world gathers velocity, the seasons hurry by. It’s increasingly easy to be swept up with what we perceive as big things, too rushed and distracted to be mindful of little things.

Yet love never tires of disguising itself as the little thing. It hides in plain sight, waiting to be noticed. Like a tiny moth, it flutters near.

Everywhere and all around, in the swirl of our passing days, love is within reach, like a petal in the grass.

its ever-widening circle

Last week, a dear friend and I visited a charming garden center, tucked miles away on a winding county road deep in the midwestern heartland. We spent blissful hours together among the plants and flowers, loading carts with choice annuals and perennials. Knowing I couldn’t carry the entire garden center home with me, I walked around to snap photos of flowers I had to leave behind.

I’ve long admired verbena’s cascading blossoms but have had trouble keeping it happy in summer’s extreme heat. So, alas – whenever I spy an appealing display of verbena, I’ll smile, sigh, walk wistfully past.

But not so last week. As one who takes perpetual notice of hearts in nature, I was stopped in my tracks by this delicate face – Verbena, Lanai: Twister Pink.

With sweetest simplicity, this flower’s inner circlet of deep rose hearts forms an image of my ideal world, a place where hearts unite with shared joy, love, friendship, peace. This blossom’s simple eloquence reminded me of a quote I cherish.

I’ll just leave it here for you. . .

0161_the oasis, the little cell of joy

We can, to a certain extent, change the world;
we can work for the oasis,
the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.
We can throw our pebble in the pond and be
confident that its ever-widening circle will
reach around the world.
We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love,
and, dear God, please
enlarge our hearts to love each other. . .

~Dorothy Day, (1897 – 1980)

A Poets’ Tea

In the fall semester of 2010, our son and his fiancée met in a college English class, and they’ve been writing a sweet love story ever since. Soon, they’ll speak their wedding vows; later, in a storybook mansion, they’ll glide across the floor in their first dance together as newlyweds. With a sentimental glance back to that fateful English classroom where our two lovebirds first met, their reception will be literary-themed, the tables stacked with vintage books, flowers, pearls, lace.

The day before Easter, my husband, our daughters, and I hosted a Poets’ Tea bridal shower for our darling bride-to-be. Since April happens to be National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share a few photos from our special day.

As we brainstormed on ways to decorate our home for our guest of honor and assembled family, my husband came up with an idea to fill each of our existing picture frames with portraits of the great poets. Here’s the result of this marvelous idea:

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A few of the teacups I’ve collected over the years sit in front of four of the nine poetry vases we created with pages from an old book of garden poetry. From left to right are Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Frost, Louisa May Alcott, William Butler Yeats, and Carl Sandburg.

 

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On the wall from left to right are Ralph Waldo Emerson, e.e. cummings, Robert Browning, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; on the table, Henry David Thoreau.

 

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Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

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Maya Angelou

 

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My mother’s college poetry professor often compared her poems to those of A.E. Housman, pictured here.

 

0158_A Poets' Tea 6

Lewis Carroll strikes a thoughtful pose as Sara Teasdale’s sad eyes seem to search for a silver lining.

 

0158_A Poets' Tea 7

Poets’ Corner: on the wall are Robert Burns and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; on the table, Langston Hughes and Jane Kenyon. (Other poets on display but not pictured here are Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Kahlil Gibran, the Brontë sisters, William Shakespeare, John Keats, and Lucy Maud Montgomery.)

 

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Because I wanted to create a poetic keepsake to give our guests before they departed, my husband helped me decoupage stanzas from e. e. cummings’ “i carry your heart with me” to papier-mâché eggs. I framed the words with palest pink flowers (to reflect the color the bridesmaids will wear) and finished each egg with delicate ribbons.

Our Poets’ Tea, which was great fun, is a treasured memory now, the teacups washed and put away. But the marvelous faces of the poets still grace our home.

All my life, I’ve papered the walls of my innermost heart with poetry. What a joy it is for me now to sit here in our quiet home with my beloved friends, the poets, and to feel, with Robert Browning, that “all’s right with the world.” Soon, we’ll gain a lovely daughter-in-law, and our dear son will be a married man. There is so much to look forward to, so much to be grateful for.

In honor of our precious, soon-to-be bride and groom, I’ll close with one of the most exquisite love poems ever penned.

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

~e. e. cummings