June 13, 2013
” . . . twenty clusters of wisteria are hanging right outside my bay window, each one a tidy tumble of gray-purple faces with lavender bonnets. I think they look like turn-of-the-century ladies seated in church pews.”
— Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing
The wisteria is now past its bloom. I took these photos last month when Seattle’s yards and gardens were graced with the purple clusters. I wanted to try my hand at painting them, and I just now got around to it. Enjoy!
May 25, 2012
There have been so many different flowers coming into bloom these past couple of weeks. I feel compelled to jump from one bloom to another. And for sure I had to do a post on wisteria and golden chain before they fade. I lump them together not only because they bloom at about the same time, but because each glory under the prodigious weight of hundreds of dangling blossoms — a living curtain. If I squint my eyes as I look at them, they remind me of impressionist paintings.
Among the impressionist painters, Claude Monet is perhaps most famous for his paintings of wisteria, which grew over the foot bridge in his gardens at Giverny.
Monet Refuses The Operation
by Lisa Mueller
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
May 23, 2011
The wisteria is blooming, displaying cascades of purple.
May 2, 2010
The Old Neighbors
by Katha Pollitt
The weather’s turned, and the old neighbors creep out
from their crammed rooms to blink in the sun, as if
surprised to find they’ve lived through another winter.
Though steam heat’s left them pale and shrunken
like old root vegetables,
Mr. and Mrs. Tozzi are already
hard at work on their front-yard mini-Sicily:
a Virgin Mary birdbath, a thicket of roses,
and the only outdoor aloes in Manhattan.
It’s the old immigrant story,
the beautiful babies
grown up into foreigners. Nothing’s
turned out the way they planned
as sweethearts in the sinks of Palermo. Still,
each waves a dirt-caked hand
in geriatric fellowship with Stanley,
the former tattoo king of the Merchant Marine,
turning the corner with his shaggy collie,
who’s hardly three but trots
arthritically in sympathy. It’s only
the young who ask if life’s worth living,
not Mrs. Sansanowitz, who for the last hour
has been inching her way down the sidewalk,
lifting and placing
her new aluminum walker as carefully
as a spider testing its web. On days like these,
I stand for a long time
under the wild gnarled root of the ancient wisteria,
dry twigs that in a week
will manage a feeble shower of purple blossom,
and I believe it: this is all there is,
all history’s brought us here to our only life
to find, if anywhere,
our hanging gardens and our street of gold:
cracked stoops, geraniums, fire escapes, these old
stragglers basking in their bit of sun.
May 17, 2009
Whenever I see wisteria, I am reminded of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. On a raw, blustery, gray and wet London day (so like many of our Seattle days), Lottie Wilkins reads this ad in the newspaper:
“To Those who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.”
Like Lottie, I am drawn by the allure of wisteria. Lottie pools her funds with three other women, two of them strangers, in order to afford a magical month in Italy. This year, I will be transported to sunnier, enchanted destinations in my imagination only. The wisteria in my neighborhood will have to work its magic right here.
I am not complaining.
April 24, 2015
“It was another miracle. The flowers were turning into bean trees.”
— Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees
Ever since I reread Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees for my Armchair Arizona blog post, I am reminded of her novel when I see wisteria. In the book, Taylor’s little daughter calls wisteria “bean trees” because the seed pods do look amazingly like hanging beans. I like how Kingsolver looks at this plant with fresh eyes and calls it “another miracle.”
August 3, 2013
May 25, 2013
After almost two weeks together, my sister and I parted ways. She returned to the kibbutz in Israel, and I flew to Nice, France for the next leg of my journey, a five-day guided hiking expedition along the trails in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence that featured several land art installations by the artist Andy Goldsworthy. I had long wanted to see some of Goldsworthy’s work, especially after seeing the movie Rivers and Tides about his unique vision. When I ran across some newspaper articles (here and here) about the Refuges d’Art and Goldsworthy sculptures along a trail in France, I added this experience to my wish list of things to do before I die.
So I was very much looking forward to the France part of my vacation, although I did not have many details about the hike itself. I did not know who else might have signed up and I knew little about the area. My guide, Jean-Pierre Brovelli of etoile-rando.com, was taking care of all meals, lodging, transportation and logistics. All I had to do was to show up in Digne on the morning of our first hike.
I took the little scenic train, the Train des Pignes, from Nice to Digne, enjoying the warmer Mediterranean weather, the blooming lilacs and wisteria, the green grassy pastures, orchards of white blossoms, and villages (Entrevaux and Puget-Theniers looked especially interesting) from the train windows. I arrived in Digne in the late afternoon, and had time for a short walk around the town before turning in early. I wanted to sleep well before the hiking started the next day.
In the morning, I was met at the hotel by Jean-Pierre and then the rest of our group made introductions. There were five other hikers, all French, four women and one man, and I was heartened to see that they were all roughly my age. We would be lead by Jean-Pierre and his fellow guide, Eric. I felt we were in good hands.
The Baha’i Garden in Akko was a quiet, open and contemplative oasis after the beehive of activity in the Old City’s port and market. This garden, along with the one in Haifa, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of pilgrimage for followers of the Baha’i faith. The general public was allowed entrance only to the large formal garden; the mansion and inner gardens were off limits.
June 24, 2011
While we were on Whidbey Island, we stopped at the Bayview Nursery to see the laburnum in bloom. They are stunningly displayed in two arbors. To walk through the golden arches is enchanting.