Time to Break Out

March 27, 2017

Magnolia buds

Magnolia buds, just about to break out into blossom

“Jailbreak”
by Maya Spector

It’s time to break out —
Jailbreak time.
Time to punch our way out of
the dark winter prison.
Lilacs are doing it
in sudden explosions of soft purple,
And the jasmine vines, and ranunculus, too.
There is no jailer powerful enough
to hold Spring contained.
Let that be a lesson.
Stop holding back the blossoming!
Quit shutting eyes and gritting teeth,
curling fingers into fists, hunching shoulders.
Lose your determination to remain unchanged.
All the forces of nature
want you to open,
Their gentle nudge carries behind it
the force of a flash flood.
Why make a cell your home
when the door is unlocked
and the garden is waiting for you?

Cherry tree, about to blossom soon

Here in Seattle, it’s too soon for lilacs.  But with our lat spring, we await the blossoming of the cherry and plum trees.  Any day now!

 

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“‘T would ease — a Butterfly —
Elate — a Bee —
Thou ‘rt neither —
Neither — thy capacity —

But, Blossom, were I,
I would rather be
Thy moment
Than a Bee’s Eternity —

Content of fading
Is enough for me —
Fade I into Divinity —

And Dying.  Lifetime —
Ample as the Eye —
Her least attention raise on me –”
— Emily Dickinson

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Watercolor sketch of apple blossoms

Watercolor sketch of apple blossoms

National Poetry Month. 25

Big Leaf Maple

Big Leaf Maple

Learning Trees
by Howard Nemerov

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees.  That’s done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves —
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform —
And their venation — palmate, and parallel —
And tips — acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly.  The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, “an average leaf.”

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it’s not catalpa?  Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

Map for Green Lake Tree Walk

Map for Green Lake Tree Walk

Today is Arbor Day, and in celebration of trees, I took a tree walk around Green Lake.  The City of Seattle offers downloadable maps and tree identification keys to several Tree Walks around the city.  This was my first time using this resource.  Armed with my map and camera, I set out to identify the trees of Green Lake.

Red Horse Chestnut

Red Horse Chestnut

Yellow Buckeye

Yellow Buckeye

Yellow Buckeye

Yellow Buckeye

Austrian Black Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Empress tree

Empress tree

Incense Cedar

Incense Cedar

Black Walnut tree

Black Walnut tree

Japanese Red Pine

Japanese Red Pine

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar

Oak Hill

Oak Hill

Elm leaves

Elm leaves

Crabapple Row

Crabapple Row

Approaching Crabapple Row

Approaching Crabapple Row

 

Katsura tree

Katsura tree

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

European Larch

European Larch

Bald Cyprus (I think)

Bald Cyprus (I think)

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Tanyosho Pine

Tanyosho Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Oriental Spruce

Oriental Spruce

Big Leaf Maple

Big Leaf Maple

Zebra Cedar

Zebra Cedar

Kwanzan Cherry blossoms

Kwanzan Cherry blossoms

Empress Tree

Empress Tree

The Trees
by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old?  No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Poetry Month. 20

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” . . . a poet is a poet for such a very tiny bit of his life; for the rest, he is a human being, one of whose responsibilities is to know and feel, as much as he can, all that is moving around him, so that his poetry, when he comes to write it, can be his attempt at an expression of the summit of man’s experience on this very peculiar  and, in 1949, this apparently hell-bent earth.”
— Dylan Thomas, “On Poetry,” from Quite Early One Morning

Red birdhouse with blossoms

Red birdhouse with blossoms

“It is a great relief when, for a few moments in the day, we can retire to our chamber and be completely true to ourselves.  It leavens the rest of our hours.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

” . . . [The home is a] microcosm in which man can search and unfold his personality, unobstructed by his demanding fellow man.”
— Heinrich Engel, The Japanese House:  A Tradition for Contemporary Architecture

“Sorry the man, to my mind, who has not in his own home, a place to be all by himself, to pay his court privately to himself, to hide!”
— Michel Montaigne

“Home is where the heart is . . . A house can be a simple shelter, but home is the carapace of one’s inner life.”
—  Diane Ackerman, Dawn Light:  Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day

National Poetry Month. 11

Blossoms

Blossoms

“Poetry is the kind of thing you have to see from the corner of your eye.  You can be too well prepared for poetry.  A conscientious interest in it is worse than no interest at all.  If you analyze it away, it’s gone.  It would be like boiling a watch to find out what makes it tick.”
— William Stafford, from Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms and Poems by William Stafford, ed. Vincent Wixon and Paul Merchant

 

 

“Let the sky rain potatoes.”
— William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor

Rows of purple potato blossoms

Rows of purple potato blossoms

I love road trips for their unexpected, accidental findings, such as this field of purple in the Skagit Valley.  Now, I’ve gone many times to the Skagit Valley to see daffodils and tulips in bloom, but those fields of color are April splendors, not mid-summer spectacles.  So what was this purple field that stopped me in my tracks?

Potatoes!  How fortunate to be passing by when the potato fields were in blossom.  This field was one of 2000 acres one farming operation put into Skagit Valley potatoes this year.

Deep mounds, home to a new crop of potatoes

Deep mounds, home to a new crop of potatoes

View from the end of the row

View from the end of the row

I'd never really looked at potato blossoms before.

I’d never really looked at potato blossoms before.

Skagit Valley potato field with red barn

Skagit Valley potato field with red barn

Skagit Valley potato field in blossom

Skagit Valley potato field in blossom

I leave you with one poet’s ode to the versatile potato:

A New Potato
by Ted Kooser

This is just one of the leathery eggs
the scuffed-up, dirty turtle of the moon
buried early in spring, her eyes like stars
fixed on the future, and, inside its red skin,
whiteness, like all of the moons to come,
and marvelous, buttered with light.