Monday, May 28, 2012


Irises belong to bygone summers.  On my walks to the playground, I passed rows of these tall spires. The blossoms glowed in deep purple, yellows and browns, blues, whites, shades of orange. I picked bouquets from the gardens of my childhood and gave them to Nana, Great-grandmother Belden, Aunt Maida and Uncle Bill.

Now I read about the many varieties of iris.  I'm most familiar with the bearded iris, Iris Germanica, found among the old New England homesteads.  The books say this is probably a species bred and created, not a native to this New World soil.

It's an ancient flower, revered by Egyptians, Greeks, kings and artists. You find its glory painted by Van Gogh and emblazoned as the fleur-de-lis, symbol of the might of the French monarchy.

Iris was the Greek goddess who bridged earth and heaven with her rainbows.  She was a message-bearer and the one who led the souls of dead women to the Elysian fields.  Her namesake flower honored women's graves.

The flowers are famous for perfumes and dyes, orris root, old remedies for illnesses as well as for keeping kegs of beer from going stale.

All this history and story is embodied in the stately flowers now blooming in my wild, hillside garden.  If I once dismissed irises as more suited to "old ladies' flowerbeds", I apologize.  I stand corrected.  I stand in awe of all I do not know about the power and mystery and lineage of this natural world --- its flora, its fauna, its geology, us.

So before they plant irises over my grave, I make a promise to myself and to the future. I pledge to love the pleasure and power of learning.  I will look for wonder and discovery in things big and small. I will write and share my stories, mindful of my voice and the truth of what I witness.

I promise to be forever curious, a seeker of what I do not know.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Suddenly It's Green
In this corner of New Hampshire, the biggest changes in the landscape happen between April and May.  In a matter of weeks, we go from stark, leafless browns and grays to the singular green of Spring.

I've been worried lately that we are finally living in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.  It's been too quiet.  During the long, hot dry spell in April, we lost the vernal pools in our woods.  We didn't hear wood frogs or birdsong at the usual times.  We were harassed by brush fires and the threats of more damage from careless cigarettes, camping, or lightning.

Then, it rained.

Last night we listened to the peepers.  Two barred owls argued over territory and mates.  Their calls filled the woods by the house.

Earlier in the day we heard the robins and phoebes.  Small warblers flit from branch to branch.  And this morning the transformation grows -- indigo buntings, more warblers,  birdsong -- everywhere, birdsong.

Spring is silent no more.