18 Morning Glories

I woke up late again.   Can’t seem to make the dawn date anymore.    When the stars and the moon and the planets are still sighing, trying to hang on a little longer to the quiet soft and peaceful realms far away from that tiny awful planet.  No matter how tiny and insignificant it seems sometimes, it is awful, insidious, evil like a mosquito.

I haven’t seen a mosquito for awhile.   Even they are leaving.  And flies.  Gone too.

Centipedes now here and there in the basement.  To annoy us.  To remind us we are not alone.  No mice.  It is still too warm and they stay outside somewhere waiting.

The trees are dropping leaves.  The Linden next door drops masses of them brown and crinkly instead of yellow smooth silky.  My Serviceberries are stilted quiet somber and too are dropping leaves, so silently like someone whispering goodbye.  The bright scarlets and oranges, maroons and yellows, are gone it seems.  Forever? To another planet maybe where there is still time for happy summer skies.

I water these trees and water and water and still they stay sullen and dull.  The birds even stay away.   They come and go in the night and the very early dawn.

My neighbors are in Wales.  Hiking up some verdant path maybe.   Drinking in a pub and listening to stories of old.   In the mist in the rain in a pale sun maybe.  In a castle or a cottage where things perhaps are green and growing still.

Their garden is thriving.  Zinnias tall as shrubs.   Their tomato plants still lush and jungly green.  The tomatoes ripening and heavy on the vine.   I pick them almost every day and eat them there and then. My tomato plants are thin and spindly and have ties around them trying to hold them up.   The stems and branches rotting and flimsy like an old person who can barely stand.  But there is fruit, lots of fruit but barely hanging on.   A squash planted itself near the Chocolate Sprinkles and is growing there part mildewy grey and part true green, and sends out large showy yellow flowers….. I should eat those too but I let them rot.  There are no squash.

My neighbor and I bought pots of colorful flowers in June.  Pots filled with massive pink fuchsia, lavender, white, and deep purple petunias, lobelia, and  verbena.  Mine are pale and spindly have a few flowers here and there.  Their pots are massive, grown three times as large with showy big monster blooms more purple and pink and white and lavender then in June.

I, who wander in and out of gardens from dawn to dusk and in between.  Pinching and watering and sighing and hovering.  My garden wanes and theirs waxes coming into a full moon of bloom brighter and deeper and more glorious than mine will ever be………..they with their casual attitude or maybe it’s just happy. Peaceful serene come what may.  They come and go and when they return their garden is happy and bright their tomatoes still waiting in October for the salad bowl.

My garden is full of grey mists and tiny lavender asters that look like fog.  White spurge that looks like winter’s breath.   Tiny leaves that have no color left.   Vincas that have stopped. Roses that have disappeared.   Caladmiums that just said I have had enough.  Black petunias that disappeared twice.  Yellow coleus that let themselves be devoured by some worm. Ah, but by the back door there is a mass of purple asters that decided to stay and the huge ash tree hiding that mansion, the forbidden ash is very big and green and will eat my house maybe soon.  I can’t wait.

I walked out early this morning,  as early as I could…..walking down the path from my back door I thought I saw black and blue birds crinkled up and dying on the gravel driveway but this was something deep something more purple than the sky, more purple than the overripe grapes still dangling from the vines, this was the purple of kings and queens the rich robes of something no one yet has ever seen and in between there was blue bluer than anyones eyes bluer than any robin egg bluer than the very sky…… I counted them these baubles these jewels these living vessels holding up some secret elixir some secret perfume some secret fallen from the sky……. looking down on that dry and dusty gravel driveway someone had scattered 18 morning glories for my weary eyes…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Walking Down Patchouli Avenue

Walking home then after the movie and symphony and cicadas.   We almost missed our stop.  The conductor or loudspeaker did not announce them.  How is anyone supposed to know when to get off? What do you do if you are blind?  Are you supposed to know instinctively?  Do you count the stops until you get off?  Can you smell or hear or see something outside the windows that says get off now?

We had to press our faces to the glass it was so dark.. and still we couldn’t see, the train was speeding by everything…… And then we were full of music and the sounds and sights of the festival and all the people there…. a kind of summer giddiness had set in….  Young and old and in between.  Happy and healthy and sick and depressed. All of us were there. Waiting to have one more fling with music and nature and other people. Ah summer, we all know it is starting to wave goodbye…..

There were picnickers with tablecloths spread out on the grass and bottles of wine and beer and coolers and lounge chairs.  Hummus, fruit, crudites and cheese and all the picnicky things people bring…. Some had flowers in vases and candles, some had tiny strings of lights that they played with like cat’s cradle…… the park is known for the showy displays of food, flowers and candles.

But, these people are loud.  Even the ones in the enclosed theater, where you pay extra for a good seat.    So loud. . .they talk and talk and rattle potato chip bags and drink from squeaky crinkly water bottles and they hold up their iPhones taking selfies … they are  obnoxious.  We sat in the theater. A big comfortable theater where the seating is graded at such a slope that everyone can see… even if someone has a big head.  I always seem to sit behind people with big heads.  I myself have a very small head and perhaps inside there is a very small brain and a very small love for humanity and a very small tolerance for their noise and filth and bad manners…….for some reason now I remember that tall Swedish blonde who kept kicking, on purpose, the back of my seat on United Airlines ten years ago…the very hour we were breaking up… the slow unraveling of that evil liaison…. just as well because all I remember now are her stupid kicking legs.

There were two young heavily tattooed men sitting behind me on the train…. they seemed nice enough and were chatting happily.. going to the same event up north as you and I….. then you found me  .. I saw you through the window in that pretty summer dress all in pale apricot and sagey green….. you had to run really fast at the stop to meet me on the second car….. I was going to tell you that, to start walking down the tracks before the train gets there, and I forgot.  I myself knew that but I didn’t walk far enough and when the train was starting to pull into the station I had to run like hell to get to the second car….running for that train reminded me of Philip Larkin and his poem “The Whitsun Weddings” and that poem always makes me feel sad….

I was starving as usual…. forgot to eat again… My stomach hurt all that day….I was busy watering and weeding the garden… all I had were two or three cups of coffee.. I remember mom’s friend, that very thin attractive woman who was a nurse… she died of stomach cancer…  she drank coffee all day long and smoked…she had that loud repulsive husband who was a drunk and he used to drink with dad until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. at night and we could never sleep…. he was one of the most annoying ones…. just the sight of his drunken obnoxious face turned me off.. there was something slimy about him too, the way he looked at women… he had a very hoarse voice and looked like an uglier version of that actor…. what was his name….. who played “Zorba the Greek”. Why is it I can’t remember anything anymore, the names of trees or people or flowers…. the stars…. just as well they are gone too now…

I felt like being on a beach instead of a concert… as soon as I sat down and sensed the two people behind me staring at my neck I could almost feel their breath… they were both eating chips and nuts and had water bottles that made a lot of noise….all through the movie they were rattling their crinkly plastic wrappers…… I wanted very badly to turn around and slap them violently in their fat faces……

I’m hungry again sitting here… realized all I had was coffee and a piece of that tart I made for Jill and Tad… that Jacques Pepin tart I have been making all summer for friends and people at church… I used plucots, black plums, peaches and apricots in the filling and glazed it with apricot preserves ..the tart has a lot of butter in the crust… one and a half sticks in one tart… and then you dot it with butter just before baking it…and sprinkle a small spoonful of sugar on the filling and crust.

I left the tart out all night because I don’t like the taste of refrigerated tarts…. I’m supposed to give Tad and Jill and Jen a couple of pieces later today and now I’m worried it may be poisoned from sitting on the kitchen table all night… so I ate a big piece…. flaky buttery pastry with a slight density like short crust, the filling the texture of velvety jam.  Not too sweet…tiny pieces of almonds amid the fruit… there is a layer of sugar/almond meal at the bottom. The whole thing tasted like what?  Summer I guess.   What is summer? What is a plucot? I wondered if I should have peeled all the fruit ….as it is it took about an hour to wash, halve, pit and slice the pieces up…. No, I didn’t need to peel them,  the peels just melted down almost to a syrup….  I ate it two hours ago so if it was bad I’d be dead already.  I’m not.

My neighbor is out gardening.  Fixing her flowers, watering, deadheading… she is not wearing a hat and it is very hot and humid out.. she is very blond… she has a very pleasant face… what does that mean?… her voice sometimes reminds me of my mother… that kind of low almost alto soprano but it’s definitely high but not screechy.  Why is it I can’t describe anything anymore?  My neighbor has a good heart and sometimes when I look at her I feel like crying.  We’ve been through sicknesses and deaths and all sorts of horrors together over the last few years…… my neighbors are too good for me….why is this even important… in case I die in case that tart really will kill me and if she reads this  she’ll know I really liked her after all……

The dishes are half finished.  Baking makes such a mess. The table and chairs and floors are dusted with flour.  It even gets on the paintings on the walls…. on the boom box sitting on the counter, on the dial even.  I was playing Leonard Cohen all day yesterday and kept pressing play over and over again.. and noticed there was a thin line of dough even there. Then there are the baking sheets that have baked on fruit juice all over them, and all the mixing spoons and bowls.  It takes two hours just to clean up after baking and I keep baking and baking and baking… and I keep listening to Leonard Cohen more and more.

A friend bought me The Complete Studio Albums Collection for my birthday.  I adore Leonard Cohen.  What does that mean anyway adore?  Well, I adore him, even though I don’t know what that means anymore. More than just about anyone.  I could listen to him forever.  I was afraid to even put on the CD’s.  I just started listening to them yesterday… over a month since I got the gift.  Once I put on a Leonard Cohen CD, that’s it, that’s the end I just listen and listen and listen and listen until I am in another world.. in a sort of trance…stupor….daze…. torpor… but a good one.  I forget everything and remember everything and I want nothing and I want everything.   I love him like I love trees.  Leonard.  He seems so solid. Solidly beautiful and sad and depressing and jubilant and mind-blowing everything.  I can almost smell him.

Dear Leonard I am very sad you are dead. Thank you for your ever perfect music.  And, I truly love your voice, with or without the beautiful women back up singers.

Really it’s like I told you last night as we were walking through the dark and leafy streets from the train station… I wish I could walk fifty miles now in the dark in the dark night among all these tall elms and chestnuts and crabs and lindens and beeches, what else is there? What else is left.  I have walked these streets now for almost two decades and should know each and every tree and all the names by now.  Of all the trees and all the flowers and all the shrubs. I suddenly felt a need to feel something tangible something real something good.   I walked up to a huge tree trunk and wrapped myself around it… It felt like what?  It was a tree.   Hard old wood.  How could something that hard be alive?

What was that smell there in the dark as we walked by that last house…. deep and dusky and slightly patchouli like… I never liked patchouli, always reminds me of slovenly hippies.  No offence against hippies.  Some hippies are my best friends. You know what I mean… that smell from the 70’s and 80’s… but it always smelled slightly delicious, mysterious, intense and sexy… slightly musky….  When it was about a block away. Then just as it was disappearing forever, you decided you loved it.

It’s the boxwood you said.  I never heard of boxwood having a smell. This was church like, incense like, like the burning roses and ashes at my father’s cremation… this was like the ghost of Buddha, this was like that small church in Ukraine in the woods up in the Carpathians where we waited and waited and waited for the priest to come by ….. he came finally and we sat around his wooden table and drank cherry wine with his Rapunzel like wife and children… he played the accordion for us….  no this smell was like life and death and dark clouds like it may have come from that huge cloud we saw last Thursday remember?  The one that looked like Hiroshima… the one that was a huge white almost neon mushroom cloud like the one they raised in New Mexico was it 1943?  When was it?  Well it came back. Thursday.   I got so excited I couldn’t find the iPhone then, and when I did it was so frightening I couldn’t take the picture… the other side of the sky had an oval painting drawn by that 19th century Japanese landscape painter …what was his name?  The one who painted that famous mountain…

So we kept walking you and I in the dark, the beautiful all forgiving secret passage of night… our own little night train… speeding and yet still and speeding again and everything went all fuzzy suddenly… my head hurts on the right side… the bone there, a piece of my skull is frightened half to death of something… that coming you know.. like…”… by the twitching of my thumb….. something wicked this way comes…..”     yesterday upon the stair I saw a man who was not there…. I saw him there again last night… I wish I wish he’d go  away….” I can’t quite remember that passage…. a poem someone wrote a long time ago and I heard it in some B horror movie… it has such a strange and beautiful rhythm…

I keep smelling that smell and I tell you it is not incense it’s something coming something about to explode it might be very loud or it might be very silent.. like these trees these trees I can almost feel their hearts their minds… I think they have a soul… I can smell them… you said that you know that there are fairies and elves who take care of our gardens at night… you are not a person who would say something like that…I think of you as being very pragmatic, very scientific almost, you are after all a highly trained musician, but ah, yes you are a gardener, a very magic gardener… so yes you must see these fairies or elves or sorcerers in your garden… working their magic….

I feel lost and hungry now.  All the tarts are gone, given away to friends– two of whom I may not see ever again, or for a very very long time.  They are moving 2,000 miles away.  I think Fukushima might be poisoning us or maybe it’s the government.  My phone was making a funny clicking sound the entire time I was talking to my sister. “What’s that?” she said on and on during the conversation while I told her not to be so paranoid……stop it I told her.   Stop being paranoid.  She is very paranoid…  And now here I am again in the garden sitting here in the grey humid garden feeling the entire loneliness of what is to come….it started to rain a little while ago,  just a few drops… the beautiful lush green garden of just two days ago seems different, there are patches of yellow everywhere that the tiny rabbits have made, the voracious little ones are out now and they eat everything.

The infernal Japanese beetles that I used to hunt four times a day with my sudsy jar… I thought they were gone but they are back with a vengeance… hundreds of leaves on hostas buddleias hydrangeas viburnums all have those jagged edges and holes. The beautiful pink old roses that I wait months for!…. didn’t even last a day.. those insidious creatures ate them from inside out and it was too late before I found them.

A panic has set it in,  panic of nothing done panic of things to come panic of disorder and order and setting things back and front and inside out and upside down again.. I rushed to the dining room window and looked for the spider that has been there at night looking at me through the glass dancing two feet away while suspended in his web….. the spider is gone, may be out hunting. …. but the web, the finely woven intricate web is there and I see now some tiny little prisoners ensnared inside…

The panic setting in and I hear Leonard Cohen singing “Dance Me to the End of Love”…….. “dance me to your beauty with a burning violin dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in.. lift me like an olive branch… be my mourning dove…. dance me….”……… …I’m caught here, caught like the tiny little things in the spider’s web, alone and panicked and feeling everything and everyone in the garden… so I have to close my eyes now very tight and see myself walking down that street again, that street full of tall old breathing trees and smelling that incense of some far away eastern church turning maybe into Patchouli and I’m walking down Patchouli avenue with my old friend Leonard Cohen to those blazing violins that are coming now to comfort the dying and the dead…..

Trance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Your Roommate is a Hummingbird

You might find me weeping today in the garden.  Today, on a day of immeasurable beauty.  No man or woman or child has ever seen, made, or been to such a place.

It started last night after coming home from a party… all I wanted to really do was flee to the garden, to the night, the moon and the stars, hidden now by these blazing cities of  light.   Even neighbors have their floodlights on, aimed at the garden so it looks pretty to them sitting there in their living room and looking at if from far away… they are lighting up the beds of birds and squirrels and raccoons, skunks and moths and caterpillars, tiny scary spiders and goodness knows, even those despicable possums.. the sad little demons of the underworld who look so sad, and are, because the world hates them so….. now even they cannot sleep because they cannot close the blinds against these infernal human nights.

My garden is dark … I let the trees and shrubs grew wide and tall and maybe they are a little too wide and too tall….. but not for me. They hide the houses and the lights, the wires and the windows, the TV’s blaring screens….. they hide all the small restless animals who also need their sleep and dreams, and I hear them there in the quiet velvet of the night, and they feel and see and hear me too, while I wander there in the dark thanking God for every leaf, tree, shrub and flower that graces this small world of mine… smaller than small, insulated, internal, lonely, maybe solitary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The wine tastes better in the garden, the coffee, the tea, even water from a tap.  But the wine this dark and breezy evening… the breeze like some enchanted temptress in the dark, the ruffles of that breeze scented with the black earth still slightly damp from Wednesday’s storm, the small pieces of cut grass drying from Francisco’s mowing Thursday, the air delicious from the roses dying on the arbor and the petals falling on the lawn… the grapes still green and hard but ripening, the goldenrod starting, just starting, the Japanese anemones in full bloom across the street in the park… and outside in my front garden they are growing miraculously inside a huge arborvitae and decorating it like some kind of summer Christmas tree…. and inside the tiny tired birds are sleeping….

There was a spider weaving its intricate lacy web outside my window… I saw it ten o’clock last night while I peered outside to see if there was a star or moon or night bird out there weeping… I thought I heard them moaning, a slight murmuring of ancient sadness that we have sometimes in late August, when things are starting a little bit to  open up their mouths as though to say something, or sightly raise the leaf or hand as if in greeting but they are really saying goodbye.

There were strong gusts last night, strong enough to bang the hanging pots against the house walls and windows, the doors were rattling, and the evergreens  were scratching the guest room windows upstairs like an angry someone clawing to get in… the spider in its own web was dancing, moving up and down and side to side and the moon was rather bright and I could see that spider dancing there… I counted and saw it had eight legs….. up and down and sideways it was slowly dangling and even dancing, and then the spider turned completely upside down as though to show my startled googly eyes ..”.oh look at me and see what I can do!”….. it was so strange and so unique I had to turn away because I could have watched that spider into eternity…

The things we see when we are alone… the things we know.. the things we hear….the things we taste so desperately…. so breakfast…. and it was good.. the potatoes, peppers and onions, the chicken sausages the size of my little fingers… oh what delicious sausages!  Like a farmer like a lumberjack like a hunter like the old-time fisherman I am not… I ate that breakfast as though I worked hard labor for ten years, as though I worked for 24 hours straight, as though I was a fireman or policeman saving helping dousing everything with Balm of Gilead…..thank you Ms. Amy Lou…. the soft scrambled eggs with cream and butter, the herbs fresh from the garden  (though the chives are growing in a thicket of weeds and gravel and dandelions… but no one needs to know).

I am a wanderer in my garden in the night I am a wanderer in the world now without light I live in solitary confinement here in my small circle of trees and shrubs and flowers and grasses… that I water, weed, lament and complain over.  Oh these weary feet of mine now have walked up and down these paths for almost twenty years… I have seen trees cut down all around me houses going up like mammoths all around me.  Sometimes I just want the big dinosaurs to come and eat it all up again. Everything –the houses, the garden and all the tree-killers, all the speeding noisy cars and their exhaust… and please please me…… even those yapping little dogs everywhere day and night that are never silent…..

I am so tired now. Exhausted.  Exempt. Deleted. Erased even from my own memory of what I was, am, and what I wanted to be.  The lack of clarity the lack of understanding anything anymore, even wanting anything human any more… can wear you out… oh but now I remember the tiny delicious happiness of the lingonberries…

I found a small round jar with a beautiful label, even the lid was all swirly and curvy and pretty.   I opened it and served it with the toast for breakfast.  Oh My God!  Why do we invoke God the supreme being to express our joy at something so simple, a piece of pie or cake a chocolate chip cookie? A ham sandwhich.   But these preserves… they had tiny tiny tiny little berries the size of peppercorns, they were plump nuggets of silent juiciness…. bright cherry red and they popped in your mouth and your mouth exploded in red juice that was tart and sweet and mellow and slightly acidic and was better than strawberries, cherries, raspberries put together, or maybe it was all of them rolled into one… and the juice, the bright slightly jammy juice was like a luscious summer elixir created by little fairies just to put on your Trader Joe sprouted wheat toast.  Oh My God Oh My God my breakfast friend probably thought I was bereft of reason and finally tasted the lingonberry preserves too… silence…..he thought it was good,  but I thought in my solitary lonely departing summer requiem that it was SENSATIONAL…. oh my mouth was singing oh my mouth was thinking how delicious it would be on vanilla pudding tapioca pudding custard ice cream blinis little pancakes sponge cake with whipped cream….. Oh Sweden Thank you!  Thank you all you happy little icy blonde healthy Swedish ones dancing around the maypoles in Bergman’s garden …..

I digress from the loneliness of this August summer day…. I have not even finished the breakfast dishes I talked to my sister who lives so far away for over an hour I looked at the same two butterflies floating in and out of my garden for an hour…. I listened to three little dogs shrieking outside my front garden and told them and their owners to shut up…… I walked back defiantly down the long gravelly driveway while they told me to shut up silently………actually the driveway is not that long….. I wish it was a mile long I wish it was a century long I wish it was a whole galaxy long and we were all away from each other….. and walking down the driveway I saw the big pots of tomatoes that are a little sad too because August has not been hot enough the morning glories I let them grow now  on the gravel driveway and they turn their purple heads to me and say enough is not enough….. and the big squash that I transplanted a few weeks ago is growing next to a miserable tiny tomato but it seems very happy and then I remember earlier what was there and it was so tiny and so solitary even more solitary than me…

Earlier there was a humming bird in the garden… just as we were sitting down to have coffee there… sitting in two chairs that I placed right outside the back door so you can watch the birds bathe in the bird bath and they won’t get scared….. birdsong all around and those two butterflies flying… one monarch and the other the deep dark black one with yellow and five indigo blue dots …..there it was the humming bird way back in the garden and I called out its name and it flew in and out and then quickly went away…

The garden calls out again the monarch is hanging upside down from a dark lavender Buddleia flower joining all the other solitary dancers singers trapeze artists in the tiny sanctuary there….. and now I remember after everyone was gone and I went back again and sat there in the garden drinking the cold coffee from those small white cups with the circle of gold around the rim… the ones my mother so excitedly gave me one Christmas Eve… there it was the hummingbird, come back closer and closer almost to my very chair entertaining me with all sorts of upside down and sideways flying and dancing and it was a  very very tiny hummingbird tinier even than most, and it danced and danced away all by itself in my garden and it knew and I knew we both knew that we were solitary partners now in this solitary garden that will never ever go away…

 

Solitary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nabokov Summer Day Part II

Steamy it was, but a good kind of steamy.  It’s August now and I didn’t think the “dog days” were coming because suddenly late July was so cool.  I read somewhere that dog days don’t refer to hot and muggy days but to the dog-star that rises and sets with the sun.  Most people can’t even see stars anymore.  But I feel just like a tired dog right now… so for me dogs days are hot and tired days, hot and steamy days, or maybe just a tired, foggy brain.

Dropped to fifty degrees one night and the tomatoes aren’t happy.  In the morning they looked rather surprised.  Frozen, stultified.  One just stopped growing completely. Doesn’t even set out flowers.  It was very small from the beginning, but they all were.  But this one plant stays very small, yet has a few tomatoes growing right at its wobbly little top.   One ripened a couple of weeks ago.  I ate it.  It’s called Chocolate sprinkles.  It didn’t taste like chocolate at all.  One plant started yellowing and the leaves got brown but it had about two dozen tomatoes turning orange and then bright yellow.  Tiny little things. I came home from work the other day and ate them all.

Suddenly those sharp pangs again.  Worse than real pain.  Wanting to be alone far away in desolate fields or forest or a deserted Robinson Crusoe kind of  beach … a nice beach with tame lake or ocean so I could swim. And no cannibals.   Or a farm.  A real farm somewhere with real crops growing.  Real food.  The corn must be getting high now.  But the corn may be confused too.  It’s been hot and cold then warm.  Hot nights, humid nights, and very cold nights.  A lot of rain fell and then none.  The corn is not happy.  There is no real corn in the stores.  A farm far away then, where the corn is growing. It’s sweet.  You can eat it raw.  Yes, I would like to be in the middle of a corn field where the corn is ripening and the sky above is true blue and cumulus clouds are sailing by in the shape of ships and whales and dinosaurs.

The park just now.  Intense silence made more silent by the mass shrilling of cicadas but not shrilling.  Shrill is a madman or madwoman angry, stupid or confused. This was mad delirium in the park, this was scintillating conversation,  the rustling of ten thousand wings of pleasure reminding you they are alive … this was the personification of the steamy warm fogginess of air, the perfumes wafting… Where was it all coming from?  I thought it was the Joe Pye weed six or seven feet tall now in lovely rosy masses.  I put my face in it but nothing. Then I saw a small low shrub with fluffy cork shaped flowers, and  bent down to put my face in them.  The shrub was at the edge of the Joe Pye weed growing in a patch of dirt.

That tiny flower was the source of the fragrance and I stayed bent down until I could bend no more…… the whole park smelled like this flower. White, pure, rare, part dried grass from the mowing yesterday, part dirt, part what?  Air? Cloud?  Heat?  The blue sky?  All the gasps and whispers, shouts and cries of children playing?  The smell of the long-haired blond girls sitting idly on the bench by Mom’s memorial tree?  Staring at their tripod looking like a wicked grasshopper…..was it the ball they were kicking so lethargically rolling on the newly mowed lawn, like hooves of thick furred lambs wandering, their padded feet mingling with tiny leaves and grasses, the sun and lingering dew churning them into some new pasture?

It’s foggy because I really don’t see, foggy because I really don’t hear, foggy because I really don’t know… what is that flower?  I used to have it in my garden and watched and watched and waited every spring until those frothy cork-like things appeared…and I remembered that smell from almost twenty years ago.  The little shrubs are now drowned out by other flowers, shrubs, and trees but somewhere deep down in the earth they are releasing their fragrance still..

No birds out there today, not one.  Just the new world cicada symphony playing, screaming, hey daying, shouting, reveling, celebrating this hot and steamy day, and the grasses are expiring, exuding some scent of dying green that turns to summer hay..

What was in that park that for the second day running I can’t explain…  Heat.  Silence.  Cicadas.   Order.  Disorder.  The shearing of the grass… the fog …  the grass’s second coming….   Grass perfume grass air grassy fields like green wheat like green seas like green dreams like green beds to finally rest in.   Rose colored flowers tall as trees.   Black eyed Susans wide as fields.

A hissing steaming bubbling simmering sound like someone making a potion. Something is missing and something will be added.  Footsteps that are searching and searching and smelling like an alchemist trying to turn it into gold.  A cook looking for that special herb tasting and tasting and not knowing.   The receipt is gone.  The recipes all gone… ingredients too… .. it’s Richard Harrison singing ” someone left the cake out in the rain…. ohhh noooo…….. and  ….I’ll never find the recipe again…ohh noooooo…”

The turning and twirling of things, those old willows that are gone, but maybe the old roots are still churning, maybe the old heart is still burning, the ground about to collapse or shoot up like a geyser, the whole park an upheaval, turned upside down all the flowers of all the past seasons, all their tiny little ghosts smiling shining as they are expiring..

The great alchemy it is ongoing, and the great perfumer too, already knows the day is waning, and even though high summer is just only starting, it is already ending too…. …and these cicadas now that you are hearing and they are singing madly singing wildly singing oh so very loudly, listen and you will hear them screaming screeching madly begging……  oh go on go on already… go go go away….

The river near the bus stop as I was leaving… the water is low and the water is muddy brown and cloudy, long seaweed hairs like mermaids underwater swimming, going far away and never coming back, some things that look like clam shells gleaming, but the river is not a river anymore, full of plastic bags that are shining, fallen golf balls from tired old golfers dying….from vast manicured lawns rolling in and out of the muddy rocks…. and gum wrappers are glinting at the bottom with the other bric a brac while dull and sullen eyes are watching… the last pieces of red and blue neon paints are glaring….

Give me the frosty icicle river with pools of shooting stars, with foam frothing, with whiteness gleaming, with fresh ice flowing, a thousand glinting gold and pink diamonds sparkling, and the water high the trees bare the sky grey and trees like black fingers poking through the air… and the air sharp and clean and bright, like peppermint patties in your child mouth melting….

So the park this noon this high noon as I was walking and the whole screaming cicada sky charging as I stand still as a dead bird like the one in the garage rotting…. where is the sun where is the sun where is the fragrance where oh where oh where is it all coming from?

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A Thousand Eyes

You would need a thousand eyes to see it all.  The garden.   And a thousand ears to catch it all.  Every trill and whistle, every tiny peep, croak,  starting and ending note of every lullaby and every morning song…… Every tiny happy sigh or startled gasp from the tiniest bird or insect flying, crawling or sailing through the leaves and grass, and roses  that are breathing again, at last…

Woke up late.  So late again!  Six a.m. and the world already starting.  Turning.  A little  bit of crazy twirling.  The sky was so blue and the sun starting to come out and didn’t know whether to turn the puffs of sailing clouds peach or apricot or some other baby hue….

I rushed out to water because the rain didn’t come again.  First a deluge and floods and torrential rain that sounded like 10,000 soldiers marching… on my roof.. and the hail, like baseballs…the lashing  and crashing and running to the basement again and then all around the house and basement up and down the stairs to see if it was all still there…

And then, that day walking through the park, just before the storm that evening… walking and it was so still so eerie hot and quiet and even the flowers and the grasses and the big old trees were holding their breath, and the air had that glassiness that seeing things through a foggy mistiness,  seeing and hearing something hidden and dark and where were the birds hiding?  It was a glistening… I was the only one walking all the frightened people were hiding, and the park was mine mine mine alone… like the summer day in that small Russian town in the Nabokov story… that story I read somewhere and cannot find.. for years and years I have been searching for that story, because he captured it Nabokov did…. the perfect summer day in all its sad and lovely bittersweet fleeting beauty and glory.  He captured every sight and sound and human feeling, even that of every rock and weed and evaporating cloud, he captured it even like Chopin, Beethoven, Grieg and all the other musical geniuses never did….. not even Debussey…..and maybe that’s why in the end the favorite thing he liked to do was play chess with Vera in that apartment high up in the clouds in Switzerland….

The front garden how to describe it.  I can’t.  The golds and lavendars and pinks, the mottled yellows with rusty red.  I can’t.  The blues, the whites, the winey black bordeaux claret sun blooded wine rusted dahlias spreading themselves out like exotic slaves on the grassy boudoir floors… I can’t.  And the almost roaring of the purples… just that one lone morning glory sitting at the top of the Delphinium’s second blooming…..

And the sky.  It was blue and I needed to water.  And the sun was yellow like faded lemons.  Then bright again like an Aztec medallion… then faded into nothingness into a swampy mist that covered the entire sky… then the sun came out again.  Then the sky grew higher and higher and was covered in wide and thin grey mists as though Scotland was just born on your lonely little street….. and the sun completely disappeared… I watered and watered and watered for the life of me and the life of things…. oh grow my roses!  Grow and grow and grow and fill the air with your perfume that no other blossom has or has ever known…..

I watered and watered, dragging the long and heavy old green weathered hose like an ancient snake. Dragging it through gravel and stones, rocks and grass, and still the birds hid and then came out on the sidewalks and driveway and the grass and the trees and the shrubs and drank the flowered water…. the phlox are everywhere again.. in every shade of pink, dark and light and mottled and shady and dusty and dusky, and bright as your tiny little baby eyes….. and everything sparkles now it gleams and glistens and it’s moist and fresh and clean and renewed and young and supple and growing and growing again… and the air.  The air!  How can you describe the something nothing that is and isn’t there?

You would need a thousand eyes and ears and a thousand noses to breathe in all the perfume all the water and nectar and mist and tears and juices flowing now from grape and grass and flower from sky and earth and every tiny leaf…

Wordsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson, Burns and Auden, Keats and Byron and even Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill”,   William Butler Yeats in the “Lake Isle of Innisfree” did not capture it, and cannot, no one can and ever will …capture all this beauty .. because you would need a thousand eyes a thousand ears a thousand noses and hearts and souls and minds and you would need at least a thousand years to live and understand this one perfect day…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Thunder is Happy

I woke up late.   Late like the rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”.   Was it a rabbit? I don’t know.  I never read it.  All I know is that it’s very late waking up 7:30 a.m. on a summer morning.

I like getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. but I don’t make that much.  But I am up  by 5:45 a.m. .   At that time the birds are singing.  The sky is opening.  The flowers are sighing.   The dew is on the lawn and on the leaves of all the shrubs and flowers and trees.  The cars almost don’t exist.  I hate cars going by the garden…..  Like soldiers off to war.

For me it’s always war.  That is how it is.  The news this morning. Awful.  Always awful, and then the images stick in my head for days weeks and months.  Sometimes years.

The only place war doesn’t reach you is in the garden.   But then there is a different kind of war there.  Of mosquitos, bees and wasps, carpentar ants eating your garage, rabbits and skunks and dead mice, mold, wilt and rot. Not enough water, too much water, not enough sun, too much sun.   The wrong colors the wrong shape or size.  Too tall too short too dark too light.  The deep cherry red and yellow and dirty white petunias sort of didn’t work. Sorta Kinda Maybe.  My new mantra:  sorta kinda maybe wishy washy mish mash.  But then…somehow…it all works.

Late and running out with my instant coffee.  Instant coffee, what an abomination.  A “perk” from work.  We got a jar of instant coffee after our session, and like the greedy little person I am I took it.  And then one morning there was no real coffee in the house, no food no real bread even,  and I boiled some water and put the crystals in the cup and walked out into the garden.  Late.  Instant coffee sometimes works.  Remember Maxwell House?   Good to the last drop……

If you wake up too late there is not enough silence and the cars go by and your neighbors see you with your messed up hair and no makeup and your old robe and your purple plastic sandals and your puffy eyes…staring into the garden.. into all the flowerbeds to see if the roses have new buds, to see how tall the zinnias are that you planted a month late (they are about 5 inches high and looking green, wide and happy)….the Russian sage is sending out clouds of lavender and is starting to cover up the path to the house so you have to walk through its musty pungent sagey silver grey leaves filled with bees to get to the front door … unless you have the wits to walk around it and just go on the grass and catch up to the path further on… it’s amazing how many people come to the house and think they have to walk down the entire path … they wave their hands around their heads frantically swatting the killer bees they think will take them down… and they might….

I walked out into the garden then, and it was humid, quiet and gloriously green and fragrant with the scent of grass, leaves and flowers….. so quiet.   The pale apricot day lilies were opening up all around the service berry tree.  The fruit on the trees still hanging on for weeks now and staining the grass with deep purple and blue smashed berries.  The birds seem to have missed them and left them on the tree for me to eat.  I have.  With my gin and tonics, with my morning coffee, with nothing… The tree is filled with masses of berries as though heaven opened up and showered down crates and crates of them.  They hang down heavily on the branches almost as big as marbles.. I have shoved whole branches of berries into my mouth greedily and ate them with my gardener Francisco, and his son, my neighbor Lilly, my friends Alan and Frank and my sister… and the squirrels.. and the chipmunks and the smart birds that know that they are ripe now.. this year most of the birds liked them raw and were attacking the tree late in May when they were just pale pink….

It started to rain small drops that felt refreshing and cool, and then suddenly a hard shower that sent me scurrying inside like a frightened mouse… then the thunder started far away in the distance… calling, calling for everyone to run and hide but I did not want to run away from the garden, I wanted to wander still and look out at the balloon flowers and the masses of larkspur like a frightening blue sky frightening because it is so blue so beautiful like a fragment of someone’s dream. The larkspur is next to a day lily called Big Smile that my friend Madeline gave to me almost a decade ago.. my darling friend Madeline who recently died so suddenly, so unexpectedly, like this summer shower….

Oh Madeline how I miss you now, and think about your breathless voice that always sounded a little like Marilyn Monroe when she was singing Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy… maybe from all that walking and hiking and gardening and chopping and pruning and planting that you did in that garden far away from mine… your tall, slender figure, that mop of ice blonde hair and your dark lobelia eyes…..you always had rosy cheeks like the Wisconsin girls in the state fairs, you always looked so fresh and milky clean and smooth… telling me to be calm and not fret and worry and just sit in my little garden and look at Big Smile and now the big smile is you and the larkspur has jumped from the gravel walk and grown into a magic pool of blue bluer than the color blue, dancing in the sunlight and treading into lavender, purple, lilac and sometimes even black that black hole of nothingness and everythingness… oh Madeline sometimes I think I feel you smiling down from the summer skies…

The thunder kept on but I stayed in the garden not afraid of thunder or lightning, not afraid of anything at all….

The thunder sounded friendly, the thunder sounded happy, the thunder was a slightly roaring king, his throaty steel grey sky happiness telling me it’s fine this one day to wander in his garden and walk in the rain and get soaking wet and shriveled  up and wrinkled and totally disheveled and disarrayed…after all… thunder in the garden… if you die in the garden struck by lightning or get hit in the head by the roar of thunder’s call, what a way to go, falling down onto the wet ground smelling the watermelon grass, staining your cheeks with the purple berries turning into wine, and landing, maybe, near the pool of larkspur and Madeline’s Big Smile…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The White Trees of Easter

There was a sea of madness surrounding me or maybe I was the sea.

Then morning, how still, how white, how blue, how beautiful it all was.

Why did I go and buy all those flowers the last minute on Saturday…  white hyacinths, blue hyacinths and a big bunch of yellow daffodils in a pot.  Because there weren’t enough daffodils in the garden, or hyacinths.  There are never enough flowers…

Even after six days of shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning, there was still too much to do and I made everyone work.  Peeling potatoes, wiping spots off glasses and dishes, chopping pickles, mixing sour cream and yogurt for the dressing. Chopping shallots. Cleaning strawberries….   We forgot the mayonnaise in the salad and it was all done already.  There in the big blue and white Italian bowl that I bought for one dollar from a wealthy neighbor.    Such a beautiful bowl.  I would never sell it.  Not for a dollar.   The one with the sea shells on it.. from Jean, who is now living by the actual sea far away…..

I always make the potato salad last so that it is only slightly warm, the dressing light and creamy with just a hint of coolness.  Finely chopped celery, scallions, and even the paprika was already on top.  But we forgot the mayo.  Maybe because by 4:00 p.m. we already had too much of the Sauvignon Blanc, which I especially  bought to go with the asparagus saffron soup. We were already finishing the bottle…. You wanted to just drop the gobs of mayo in but I said ‘ no no no.’  We must take a small scoop of potato salad and mix it with just a few tablespoons of mayo and put it all back in as though we remembered. Sneak it in.  Furtive.  Secret.  As though the potato salad didn’t know.  Then we forgot the sweet pickles, that have to be chopped very fine, almost minced, but not to a mush….

I love those sweet bread and butter pickles and started eating them out of the jar like potato chips.   Ellen said she loved them too and her mother put up dozens of jars when she was growing up.  On a farm.  In Iowa.  That’s where I wish I was, on a farm just waking up and smelling the air… but they would throw me out because I could never get anything ready on time….They had their own pickles and corn, cucumbers, potatoes, all kinds of berries– strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, even gooseberries… and lettuces, sweet fresh chartreuse tiny lettuce… zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, garlic, squash and watermelons… I dream of farms like I dream of cowboys, clean streams and air…..

I had to stop eating the sweet pickles that were starting to ferment in my stomach with the Sauvignon Blanc…..There was still the other salad to make– tangerines, red onion, arugula and fennel…  I had to make it very quickly, I was running so late…

Earlier you had asked if you could take the bowl of potatoes and peel them in the garden… because the garden was greening the buds firming, birds singing, the white trees starting….some of the leaves already fully formed, speckles of real life, small elongated leaves that could actually ruffle in the wind…. the earth was letting out the dampness from all those weeks of rain, that was now coming out in small whiffs of perfume…that perfume you can never explain never name you have to just go down and crawl around on the ground to smell it like the robins now burying their beaks in the earth looking for worms….oh to be a robin just looking for worms…. The serviceberries had tiny oval buds like sunflower seeds,  the other one was blushing pink…

“No, you cannot go in the garden to peel the potatoes”  I said… as though I didn’t have enough work to do and then have to go and get the potatoes from the garden and find another bowl for the peels which I am sure you would drop all over the grass …..though my mother did that probably, in Ukraine, peel potatoes outdoors, while the freshly washed sheets floated like holy ghosts in the wildflower wind…….. I grated the horseradish in the garden… Good Friday….  so very warm, almost 80 and windy.. and the gardener came unexpectedly and made so much noise for a Good Friday…. While he was out weeding, seeding and mowing I was grating the horseradish on an old-fashioned grater, feeling rather happy, rather free, then feeling ashamed that we were making so much noise on Good Friday…..But the garden has to be beautiful for Easter Sunday.

This morning though.  What a morning.  The earth slept and woke up calm again, after three days weeping… How would you feel if people were staring at their iPhones while you were being crucified?  The woman sitting in front of me at church,  was staring at her iPhone that Friday night … she sang along with the choir and shocked me with the beauty of her singing.. her voice like an angel…. then she would stop during the reflections and check her e-mails……. I tried so hard to concentrate.. but spent a lot of time wondering how my babkas would taste and if they were too dry…. it started raining during mass and I walked home in the warm rainy night alone while everyone dashed anxiously into their waiting cars…..I felt a little something, heard a little something…. smelled the great sky exploding.. sensed something holier than I had a right to feel see and hear….

How cloudy white how terribly old how way too fast everything is budding, like a million multicolored balloons everywhere….. flowering bridal wreaths already…. all of May’s white crabs, pears and dogwoods blooming.  Even the pink ones starting… the forsythia is so confused it decided to stay….I haven’t even started my spring reveries and the time for reveries is over……

But early this morning when I went out, disheveled, asleep, debauched, unkempt, wrinkled, old and tired  There it was  Dylan Thomas’ “.. spellbound horses walking warm Out of the whinnying green stable….” the garden… the misty ghostly garden that more and more is like a fading dream going forever from these promised lands….

There was also the moon.  We spoke of the moon all night long.  That woman in the moon with lips pursed,  sometimes a wobbly O in astonishment, or maybe she was just smelling the flowers in her midnight garden…

Tight buds everywhere like chubby brides popping out of their wedding dress.

And my two trees, they were hurried on by the heat almost drenched in the white froth and then they just froze like the lady in the moon.   They stood like elongated pears bursting inside with some secret fragrant nectar,  tipping into the whiteness into the misty shrouds, the fog of flowers… drinking in long draughts of cool air like water….

The ants came out just as I was finishing the salad.  Why did they come out just then, why?  You said that ants seem clean.  Yes, they do seem clean I always thought that too.  Sometimes when I’m cooking if I get one or two on my hands or in the salad plate and I  accidentally eat them I don’t mind. But when you are having an Easter dinner and the sink and counters are crawling with  hundreds of ants they don’t seem very clean… the worst part is you have to go and start killing a lot of things just before you sit down to eat….

Why did they come out just then?   Why is the world so deeply green why is the river gushing out of my house why am I always in the middle of Noah’s flood why can’t I be the whale that got away… the whale not being always slaughtered but floating far away instead of  drowning in the ocean’s blood?

Guests come and gone, laughter, wine, and sparkling water, Arancina and clementine  Italian soda….. there were no hors’ d’oeuvres it is not traditional to do hors d’oeuvres for Ukrainian Easter….but they probably wished there had been hors d’ oeuvres.. just a little something because some people had gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to read and study and dress and be at church… we couldn’t care less about that we were too busy guzzling all the wine…..

There were babkas  (a bit dry and there was not enough grated orange rind… though I put in two oranges worth…. I should have put in orange juice like my cousin said…..) .. There was sweet butter and Brie, beet-horseradish relish, asparagus soup with saffron, and ham, a big gorgeous juicy ham from some bucolic Wisconsin town, potato salad,  harissa-maple syrup roasted carrots with caramelized lemons, French green bean salad..sausages … big plump garlicky sausages but I cheated and got them from Trader Joe’s instead of that upscale butcher who lied to me about nitrates and gave me a lecture one day on how everything has nitrates…. I took the casings off and fried the sausages and they got golden sizzling brown almost crispy and left pools of fat all over the pan..

It was all good but not good enough… there was Ukrainian modern  (modern meaning less work) cheesecake with strawberries… I was going to cook them to make a strawberry sauce, but my sister said not to cook them but to sprinkle them with a little sugar to release the juice.  It worked.  They almost tasted like real strawberries, but no not really, not like the strawberries my grandmother ate…..

That Moroccan carrot dish would have been fabulous but I cooked it four hours early and got distracted when I was complaining to you about all the work.. I pulled it out just in time but the lemons were charred.. almost black. Then I put it in the oven to warm and forgot about it again when I was frantically making a last minute salad… they were ruined, but one of the guests liked it the best and asked for the recipe… my Ukrainian Easter dinner was not a real Ukrainian Easter dinner.  I cheated at every twist and turn, but in the end it’s always about Mama.  She’s not here anymore.  There is no Ukrainian Easter without Mama.

You told me that you saw all the families in the old neighborhood walking by with their Easter baskets Saturday, walking to church.  All dressed up, polished, brushed and gleaming.  The baskets full of Babkas and paskas decorated with flowers, birds and braids… pysanky.. those intricate Easter eggs… I still have a dish of them from Aunt Irene and forgot to take them out.   Forgetting something that basic that Ukrainian!  I took them out at the last minute and hurriedly placed them on the buffet.  No one even noticed them in the last minute chaos..

I see them now walking to church, the real Ukrainians….. and smell the fragrant yeast raised breads so yolky golden, some with 30 eggs… the real Ukrainian sausages from that grouchy old butcher, butter with delicate etchings of flowers and herbs, magenta beets, long sausages curled up like anacondas….the embroidered cloths from someone’s baba in Ukraine.. some still have their mamas and babas and papas…. the incense.. how I miss the incense at 4:00 a.m. at the old Ukrainian cathedral and coming home with Mama and you.. icy cold vodka at 8:30 a.m.. How hungry we were!  How sleepy!  How grateful!  How bracing and fiery the vodka was and how Mom’s cheeks glowed… How delicious was that holy babka of hers and only now, fourteen years later, do I know.

Then 11:00 p.m. food all put away, suddenly a deafening silence everywhere…. I walked outside for a moment and saw I think a full moon, I think I saw some stars…   Ten or twenty stars, maybe thirty if I looked hard at this 21st century sky.. and went back inside almost collapsing on the chair…  flowers everywhere.. yellow alstroemerias surrounded by huge Casablanca lilies about to open…  the sun surrounded by snow, egg yolks swaddled in their shells,.  There were bouquets of daffodils  everywhere quietly exuding secret scents of longing in tiny puffs of baby’s breath…… I told my neighbor next door that daffodils smell nice and Saturday afternoon we walked around all the daffodils in the garden and stuck our faces in them…. we smelled licorice, lemon, orange, tarragon, mint, someone’s icy apple breath, …. I remembered my mother and how one late spring she walked me around her garden introducing me to all the pansies and touching their little blue and purple heads to show me their faces….

The radio in the kitchen was on all evening and this year all the music was sublime… “Fur Elise”, ” Clair de Lune”,  Chopin Etudes even the rain one .. old recordings of Paderewski playing…. and then Bach and the low voices of the FM radio announcers like  a kindly doctor telling you you’re going to die …

I thought I felt thunder smelled lightening but it was the strong dizzying scent of the Easter lilies opening up just then during a Bach cantata.. just for me, just for me in that sad and terrifying confusion… because something was missing all night long… all week long… something was lost and something was running away and something was closing all the doors and something was trying to open all the windows but couldn’t get in… and something was banging again all night long and something was calling and I didn’t answer…the house still smelled of wax and candle smoke.. the scent of lilies overpowering and the Bach cantata almost roaring through the empty smoking rooms, while the White Trees outside were getting more white more ghostly more beautiful and I could feel them swaying to the music glowing under the moonlight drinking from the heavenly waters falling from the sky…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Always the Garden, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Ukrainian stories, Uncategorized | 16 Comments