Spring bouquet


Happy Easter!

Watercolor painting of tulips

Watercolor painting of tulips

Reasons to keep painting and making art:

“Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means?  Some hunger for more is in us — more range, more depth, more feeling; more associative freedom, more beauty.  More perplexity and more friction of interest.  More prismatic grief and unstunted delight, more longing, more darkness.  More saturation and permeability in knowing our own existence as also the existence of others.  More capacity to be astonished.  Art adds to the sum of the lives we would have, were it possible to live without it.  And by changing selves, one by one, art changes also the outer world that selves create and share”
     — Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World


Spring has come early to the Pacific Northwest this year, and the Skagit Valley tulips are well into their blooming.  It felt to me that there were fewer tulip fields than usual, and we speculated that perhaps some of the fields had already been topped because they bloomed early.  In a more normal year, you can spot bright patches of color dotting the landscape as you traverse the country roads.  This year, we saw just a couple of distant fields apart from the ones of the two big attractions — Roozengaarde and Tulip Town.  But these big fields were simply spectacular.






We arrived way too early for the Roozengaarde display gardens to be open.  But we enjoyed seeing and photographing the tulip beds near the road outside the gate.  Such variety and color!







The annual Tulip Festival runs throughout the month of April, but I’d recommend going sooner than later this year.



“I can’t remember
every spring,
I can’t remember
everything —

so many years!
Are the morning kisses
the sweetest
or the evenings

or the in-betweens?
All I know
is that “thank you” should appear

So, just in case
I can’t find
the perfect place —
“Thank you, thank you.”
— Mary Oliver



Watercolor painting of tulips in a vase


Tulips in a garden

Tulips in a garden

Watercolor sketch of tulips in a row

Watercolor sketch of tulips in a row

A favorite book of mine is The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz and Genine Lentine.  A large part of the book focuses on the poet’s garden in Provincetown on Cape Cod, a garden that he built from scratch and lovingly tended for forty summers.  Needless to say, the garden is full of metaphors, “symbolic of the surprises and ramifications of life itself in all its varied forms.”

One of the tasks in making his garden was choosing the paths through it.  And in this exercise, Kunitz sees its similarity to finding meaning in a poem.  “I avoid straight lines as much as possible,” he says.  “One of my principles is never to try to explain what a poem is about.  That’s a straight line to me.  The path to understanding of the poem is for me always circuitous, it’s a winding path . . . The poem holds its secrets and keeps its tensions by closing out the opportunity to explain.  The fact that it is so secret is what makes it so immediately touching and searching. . . . Art conceals and reveals at the same time.”

Closeup of tulip

Closeup of tulip

With poems and gardens, you can focus on a small part or the big scheme of things.  Both can be enriching experiences:

“Though you learn the meaning of a poem, the sense of a poem, word by word, in the end what you have is a fusion.

In the poem, there is an impulse that moves from line to line, from image to image, but complete revelation is not achieved until the poem arrives at its terminal point, at which time what has been secret before the poem begins to reveal itself, and you really have to mediate on the poem.”

In building his garden, you get the sense that Kunitz was creating a “living poem.”  He says, “I conceived of the garden as a poem in stanzas.  Each terrace contributes to the garden as a whole in the same way each stanza in a poem has a life of its own, and yet is part of a progressive whole as well.

The form provides some degree of repose, letting our mind rest in the comparatively manageable unit of the stanza, or terrace.  Yet there is also a need to move on, to look beyond the stanza, into the poem as a whole.

Often, when you finish reading a poem, the impulse is to revisit the beginning now that you’ve been all the way through it, and then each subsequent trip through the poem is different and colored by having see the whole thing.

Once you have perceived the garden as a whole, the individual tiers of the garden take on a different form because you have seen them both as a part and as a whole.  One of the mysteries of gardening is that the garden reflects the viewer’s own state of being at the time, just as your response to a poem lets you know something about your preoccupations or your susceptibility as you read it.

The garden communicates what it shows to you but you also contribute to the garden some of what you are seeking in terms of your own life, your own state of being.  One reason a garden can speak to you is that it is both its own reality and a manifestation of the interior life of the mind that imagined it in the beginning.”



Goodbye daffodils!


Watercolor sketch of daffodils in a vase

Hello tulips!


Watercolor sketch of tulips in a vase











From the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens, 2010


National Poetry Month. 24

“There is no literature or art without love and contemplation.”
— John Burroughs, from Under the Apple-Trees, ” Literature and Science”

My work table with tulips

My work table with tulips

“It is not in the act of seeing things or apprehending facts that we differ so much from one another, as in the act of interpreting what we see or apprehend.  Interpretation opens the door to the play of temperament and imagination, and to the bias of personality, and is therefore within the sphere of literature. . . . The poetic, the religious, the ethical mind will never be satisfied with the interpretation of the physical universe given us by the scientific mind.”
— John Burroughs, from Under the Apple-Trees, ” Literature and Science”

“. . . a poem, or other work of art, is fact and observation plus the man. . . . Our best growth is attained when we match knowledge with love, insight with reverence, understanding with sympathy and enjoyment; else the machine becomes more and more, and the man less and less.”
— John Burroughs, from Under the Apple-Trees, ” Literature and Science”

“Chance is fundamental to the workings of the creative mind. . . . an artist’s originality lies in seeing which of chance’s gifts might be of use.  Something that is only ‘different’ is not yet art.  The accidental discovery must still be turned into meaning, the unlikely juxtaposition made into exuberant connection.”
— Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates Entering the Mind of Poetry: Essays



Watercolor sketch of tulips from Carol's garden

Watercolor sketch of tulips from Carol’s garden



“The texture of spring flowers is especially lovely, the feel of a tulip petal is like lustrous old porcelain.”
—  Gladys Tabor, Stillmeadow Daybook

Watercolor sketch of tulips

Watercolor sketch of tulips

Watercolor sketch of tulip petals

Watercolor sketch of tulip petals