Hmmm. I seem to always be starting these posts with apologies for my lack of keeping to anything resembling a reliable blogging schedule. It’s embarrassing to realize that I went through chemo and radiation without ever missing my self-imposed post-per-week assignment, and now…well, I have only the dusty corners of my house to look to, when I wonder where the weeks have disappeared.
Honest to goodness, between furniture purging and freezer kill-off dinners and puzzle and Lego donations, I’ve started drafts for four posts since the last one. Let’s see, there’s a draft about my complete incapacity to recall birdsongs, particularly migrating warbler tunes, and another about how ill-equipped I am for leaning in, Sheryl Sandberg-style. I had an idea for a post about the things I will miss, just a little bit, when our kitchen and bathroom renovations are complete; and one more about … help! I can’t even remember what the fourth one was. More free lessons gained by showing up at remarkable events around my fair city, perhaps. A couple of them have expiration dates (the spring warbler migration is nearing the end of its crescendo, as I type) and some will keep, I hope. That, or roll over as the seasons turn round and round, and we’re back here in the carousel of springtime, once again. And I’ll still be wondering how it all just keeps happening so fast, the shift from the sadness of darkness at 4PM, to twittery little sparrows waking me up at 4AM–every spring, every autumn, every year, year after year.
The thing that’s kept me sane through this endless clearing of the decks has been getting myself out of doors, every day. My daily walks have been good for clearing the cobwebs, or more accurately, the dust bunnies, out of my system. And it’s May, which is brings its own particular joy. May is my birthday month, and May flowers are the very best.
I’ve long thought I was the luckiest duck in my family, to celebrate my birthday in May. Because, let’s face it: Lily-of-the-valley wins the Best Flower of the Month contest by a mile. Truly, is there a lovelier scent on the face of the earth? I live for it. And yes, I have been known to snatch lily-of-the-valley blooms from places that are public and overflowing with my birthday bloom. I never steal them from anyone’s garden. I have been known to help myself to some of Harvard’s more obscure patches. I confess, I am a lily-of-the-valley thief, and my only defense is that They’re My Flower.
The last of my Mother’s Day lilies, along with my purloined birthday blooms. On the kitchen floor that I will miss for its graphic elegance, but not for its capacity to look dirty about 15 minutes after being cleaned…
Then there’s iris. They come up later in the month, which means they tend to be blooming when my birthday finally rolls around. (And no, I’m not angling for birthday greetings here. Just know I always get a Memorial Day break somewhere around my b-day, which means I get to celebrate for the entire of the three day weekend.) Iris aren’t fragrant, but something about their delicate shape, their slender foliage, and the spectrum they inhabit, from yellow to blue to purple, that has always appealed to me. I love that they grow wild and free in woody wetlands, as well as big and showy in well tended gardens. Sadly, they want more light than my shady front yard can muster, so I find myself admiring them in south-facing venues all over town. And I leave them be. You can’t hide an iris in your pocket, after all.
This is what you get when you google Van Gogh Irises. The painting in that top row lived in Maine, at the Payson Gallery of Art in Westbrook, until it was sold in 1987. The whole of the State of Maine wept when it left.
And finally, lupine. I was all grown up before the classic picture book about Miss Rumphius hit the bookshelves, but I became familiar with it through my oldest sister and her boys. Heidi was living in Maine when her sons were little, not far from the town where we’d grown up ourselves, and just down the road from the spot that writer and artist Barbara Cooney called home. Cooney’s lovely book was published when my nephews were still of the age to have bedtime stories read aloud to them, and this was a family favorite. Here’s a quick summary: As a little girl, Miss Rumphius admired her grandfather, and vowed that she, like him, would travel the world, then settle down near the sea. Her grandfather told her that was all well and good, but she must make sure to do one more thing: “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Spoiler alert, if you’ve never encountered this lovely story: in the end, it’s lupines she uses to make the world a more wonderful place. I leave it to you to read how.
I think of Miss Rumphius every time I circle round my reservoir, around this time of year. Because for whatever reason, more than the lilies, more than the iris, it’s lupine that reminds me how there’s always the next thing to be looking forward to. Don’t cry for the tulips and daffodils that are faded and gone, for the cherry tree petals in the gutter and the flowering dogwood trees, with blooms gone brown around the edges–wake up early and see what’s blooming next! And rejoice in the wonder of it all.