May flowers

IMG_7138Ah, spring.  One explosion of beauty after another.

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.

IMG_7142You could find this sad, this puddle of petals.  Or you could read ahead and find out what comes next.

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.

IMG_7337First lily-of-the-valley of the year, in the woods near Fresh Pond,  protected by the first poison ivy.  Leave them be!

IMG_7254A whole hillside of lily-of-the-valley near Auburn Lake.  I might have sneaked a few stems into my pocket…

IMG_7371The 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.

IMG_7345First delicate wild iris blooms, at Black’s Nook, where the green heron and kingfishers live.

IMG_7386This 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.

IMG_7387Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.  Making the world more beautiful, one lupine at a time.

IMG_7360These from Lusitania Meadow. I love how they open each little blossom, from the bottom up.

IMG_7366I also love how the leaves are designed to hold the raindrops.

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.

IMG_7432Oh my. two days later.  Alleluia.



6 comments on “May flowers

  1. LH says:

    A Gemini?

    unlike you, I have not always felt blessed that I was born in the month of May. When I was 3 we moved away from a classic in town house next to my grandparents home that was surrounded by blooms all summer (including apple blossoms from their little orchard) to a plot of land surrounded by tall pines. My spring was g r e e n, many shades of green. Being a new construction site, there was mud. And there were bugs, bugs, swarms of bugs… annoying a little girl who loved to be outside.

    Living on our sweet hill in freeport with Parker’s exuberant “it’s a beautiful day!!” exclamations every morning in May, the continuous swesterly breeze that sweeps up over us from the water keeping us bug free, and my planting of lilacs, lily of the valley, iris, and more, has slowly changed my feelings about spring. It’s been slow in coming and fall still has the lead in my heart, but at least i no longer abhor the month of my birth!

    Thank you for your lovely may tribute and happy birthday wishes!



  2. andymacomber says:

    Oh my Kris,

    This was/is a lovely entry.

    Did you walk in Mt. Auburn today to see if there were enough flowers in the air for all the visitors to graves? Otherwise, it was probably a good day to stay away.

    Have you been thinking of what you want for your birthday this year? Yu must have some extravagant little addition to your addition that you’d like to have from us, your loving second parents. We did have any time to talk with you during Clark’s graduation. He was thrilled to have the attention from you and Ian and Eric and John after incredibly difficult years as a high school student. Huzzah!

    Keep thinking… . Love from Georgie and Andy

    http://white Sent from my iPad


  3. holly says:

    Your sister loves all those Spring flowers as fragrance joins the amazing colors and finally the ground dries up. I didn’t know you were a flower thief ~ ha! I thought I was the only guilty party but alas another common thread – you know I’m pretty sure ole Jean also imbibed … but she reminded us to leave the jack in the pulpit and other special’s from the woods where they grew.
    Trust your birthday was filled with all wonderful things AND a nice gift from our Sox to make is two in a row ~ TYVM we will remember the day they rebounded after such a slide!
    Great hugs from the Sierra’s
    xox – h*

  4. juliezickefoose says:

    Oh, this is the perfect post. I have to wish you happy birthday from Whipple, my dear, though I am too bad a friend to remember the exact date, know that I’m sending love abundant to your door. I planted lilies of the valley that I dug at my grandmother’s house in tiny Meservey, Iowa, long after she died. I watched the house and waited for everyone to leave, then ran in with a trowel and paper cup. Muuuch better than asking permission for a committed flower thief. Now I pull them up by the handful as they swarm over my hostas and astilbe. But I love them, and agree that that scent is right there with gardenia as Top Best Ever. Also know that Miss Rumphius was Phoebe’s and my favorite book, and that this graceful 17-year-old redhead she’s become now has a passion for cutting and arranging flowers !! and that I find spontaneous bouquets all over the house!! and for that reason just potted up 36 tender zinnia plants to set out when they get big enough, so she will have something to cut when the peonies and iris are all gone. I do go on. Love you too much. Miss you too. xoxoox jz

  5. DallasD says:

    Lovely post. I am so with you on the lilies of the valley. My favorite too. Love to put a bouquet in the bathroom where the scent will fill the space. Just let it dry up naturally and enjoy its sepia color for the year til blooming May comes around again.

  6. Nicholas von Maltzahn says:

    Glad to learn of Miss Rumphius — shall seek that out. Have a friend in Nova Scotia whose father used to sow lupins on the highway medians there; now the son follows that calling. “Lupins like apostles,” as Elizabeth Bishop has it. Thank you for sharing some of your world.

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