Today is June 2 and I am sitting in my garden about 4:45 p.m. I am drinking my second glass of La Joie de Poulpe, a wine made for enjoying summer, sun and octopus (from the label notes). Calamari! Angulas! Fritto Misto! All the golden, fried, crispy tidbits of the sea. Crunch, salt, fat and this bright, fresh and cool rose’ that tastes of “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
I would rather be here, with this inexpensive rose’, (but so good, even for those who do not like rose’s), than in the most palatial mansion, even one facing the sea in France, Italy or Spain, with Kristal and caviar, or goose, duck, Kobe beef, or the newest most breathtaking, foraging, hunter, molecular wonders of the world cuisine…. Here in my own garden with the freshly mowed lawn…
Oh how, how do I explain the transformation in a garden when the yard men come, the mowers of the grass, the magic carpet weavers… The grass when it is just mown, and all the ragged tangled edges clipped all around the flowerbeds, almost steel edged clean, and the whole magic of the garden appears,suddenly, like a freshly bathed child, like a newly shorn lamb, a perfect smooth egg. The lawn emerald glass, a green moon, a sea you can walk on, the shadows of the trees and shrubs falling in lacy patterns all over the dappled sun filled garden, like lazy dancers moving oh so slowly, almost dragging themselves on as though drugged with pleasure, with happiness, across the waltzing floors.
The raging winds, the damp cold air of April and May finally gone. There was even snow in April that covered all the flowering shrubs and trees, dusted the daffodils and crocuses. The furnace always on even in May, the windows closed. Then one fine day, one fine day someone blinks, winks, smiles and shows the pearly teeth of June.
Peonies, that have a scent so indescribable, so delicate, so faint like someone calling you from another universe, another past, another moon. Irises that smell like lemon, grapes, and root beer. The lilacs gone already, because lilacs in this town are fast, fleeting, transient, and heartbreaking, telling you tales of Walt Whitman and Lincoln, singing for a sweet instant and then a poof of lavendar dust. They like it cool, fresh and breezy, a perfect sixty five.
My mother used to bring me huge arm loads of lilacs from her garden. As soon as she stepped inside the house the whole room exploded with the scent of their perfume. What maniac mind created a scent so overwhelming, so full of unsolved mysteries so sweet, fresh, and rainy clean yet almost scathing as it enters into your twitching head, its spice permeating the immense clusters of tiny flowers, like stars, like baby teeth, like ghostly murmurs from the past, the scents of ladies in waiting, fanning themselves against the wall, yearning for the tall bearded men to take them in their arms, and swoon in the white rooms of clustered chandeliers while the grapes are ripening outdoors.
Oh lilacs, you want to devour their scent you want to drink it in like a banished madman wandering the Sahara desert looking for water but you are looking for lilacs lilacs lilacs. How many times have I almost swooned just thinking about them, or spying them from a distance cascading over someone’s ancient wall. Decades ago I saw a young woman weep with joy at the sight of them and I joined her there in a misty City park, weeping, the two of us, totally bereft at the wailing wall of beauty.
You have to bury your whole head into them, everything has to go… mouth eyes ears nose and even then it is not enough. The season of lilacs is never enough and then it’s gone even before you have your first taste…You have to be vigilant to catch them, hold them tight and try to remember them on days when you remember nothing or want nothing ever again.
When the lilacs go there is still the grass. The miles and miles of grass, green air, green water, green sun. Soothing calmness to the eye, the hand, the tired feet, the poisoned lungs. It whispers sweet nothings and makes you fling yourself into it, make your bed in it, and spend the night dreaming there while you smell the earth, the green scent of its perfume, the clover the dandelion the dirt and even shattered worms stirred up in a scented broth of cucumber and melon, tarragon, parsley and thyme. You even smell the tiny fear of fleeting rabbits feet that you chased for miles and miles, trying to banish those frightened things from their enchanted home.
Balm of Gilead, shorn heads, a waterfall, a crystal bowl, a water glass. The yellow roses gleam, the smoke bush melts into pools of amber. Sun hitting off the lawn, hazy ocean waterfall, drowning dreams where suddenly you wake up, cool glassy marbles, kids on sidewalks playing badminton.
That woman Charles and I saw years ago. At the opera. Her blonde French twisted hair suddenly cascading down her lovely head and the tiny emeralds on the long golden chain wrapped around her young swan neck and gently dripping down her ivory back and shoulders. Yes, my garden is like that young woman so long ago wrapped in emeralds, a gift from her lover, who didn’t know, she was just a flower.