Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Midsummer Magic

Watering the borders
nepeta (catmint) and cotinus (smoke brush)

Do you think that a responsiveness to nature is a genetic gift like any other?

Are some people born more attuned to the ebb and flow of the natural processes all around us? Are they more inclined to notice the beauties around them? Are they more likely to feel nourished by what their senses can absorb?

And why do some landscapes speak to us, while others don't -- or at least not so much, or in the same way.

I've never felt that I was particularly responsive to nature, but there is something about England that makes me feel like a tuning fork which is vibrating to the perfect pitch.

Last night I was watering the garden in the early evening . . . and there was this magical combination of hot sun, cool earth and the smell of water soaking through herbs and flowers. I wish that I could capture it in words: the deliciousness; the sensual quality of pure notes of rose, thyme, lavender and basil.

I always feel keenly aware of that moment when the sun reaches its peak, and then begins its slow, but inevitable, decline again. It has that gorgeous repleteness, but also that shadow of decay, like a ripe piece of fruit or a full-blown rose.

Another kind of magic:
the first ripe raspberries

Last November, we planted raspberry canes in the dull wet ground. They looked like lifeless sticks, and it was hard to believe that anything would or could fruit from them.

All through the spring, my daughter plotted the progress of rough green leaves and then tiny green beads and then, in late June, ripe red fruit. (It is midsummer, but autumn's apples and blackberries are already emerging, raw, hard and green.)

I wonder if gardeners find it easier to accept that the nature of life is constant change. Being new to cultivation, I am constantly surprised how quickly plants flower and fade or just lose their shape. Last week, the nepeta which was a perfect mound all spring had to be cut back. It had sprawled, and grown leggy, smothering a rose, a fuschia, a heuchera.

Today I read: One morning, Polly saw a crimson rose show its heart to the sun, only to fall in a cascade of petals by the end of the day. (from Love in Idleness, by Amanda Craig) Only a few days of sun and the ground has baked hard and dry. The roses fall apart in my hands.

Every clear, warm night we eat outside now. We try to follow Herrick's advice.


herhimnbryn said...

Keep on gathering those rosebuds, Bee lady, just keep gathering.

Catalyst said...

A lovely garden, raspberries and poem. Thanks!

ArtSparker said...

Not to mention Andrew Marvell.

I love the fragmented cloud appearance of the top photo - as if you could see the atoms.

Nimble said...

I think there are certain landscapes that sing to each of us. And perhaps one advantage of being past 30 is the ability to think in terms of seasons and years to appreciate the lifespan of plants.

Here's a vid of a peony opening that I found via Nag on the Lake: http://vimeo.com/4216438

Although I think it's lovely to watch, I felt sorry for the flower opening in the studio away from the sun. And I wondered if they would show past the full bloom, the shrivelling (they don't).

spudballoo said...

Oh now I think we might have been separated at birth Beth! I was thinking pretty much the SAME thing today!

This is our first 'full' Summer here. We used this house as our holiday cottage, but we moved here permanently at Christmas. The garden here is the first proper, mature garden I've ever had and it's been a true joy to watch it bloom and change. Every single day something new is happening, and the speed at which thing appear and wither and die amazes me.

Today I was thinking about the elderly couple who lived here for decades before we moved in They planted nearly all of the trees, shrubs, flowers that beguile me now. As I walked around looking at them today I thought of the passing of time, and how we leave our mark beyond our passing. That the flowers they planted now please me, and my boys, and will do for those who come after us.

Phew, long response! And this is the first time we've planted seeds, and now are eating their fruit.

And, yes, our apple trees are ready for autumn already. Hopefully this year we'll eat more of them than the deers!


spudballoo said...

Sorry, still thinking, had more to say...

I'm not sure if there is something which makes us less or more responsive, perhaps. But I do believe there is somethng special about England in June! I spent 10 years working for an international law firm and spent all my days working/socialising with people all over the world...so many people told me that there was nowhere more beautiful on the planet than England's countryside in the early summer.

You're right, it's the 'smell' of the warm soil, the light, the gorgeous and subtle colours.

Let's not talk about the rain ;-)

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh, your garden looks gorgeous! And those raspberries! Ours aren't ready yet, but we have a huge crop we're looking forward to! :-) I can't wait for them to look like yours!

blackbird said...

Ah, but the rain is what brings it all about.

If there was a genetic connection- then siblings would share a responsiveness to nature. I think that it is partly a matter of time and place. You need to be in nature to observe it and make it part of you. And when you have experienced it- you will long for it when you are shut away from it- in a city or a room.

But, I think it also takes time. Time to observe, time to savor and time to learn. Children learn about nature from a young age if they are outside- playing, walking or just sitting. But, inside of a house watching TV or stuck in a classroom with a blackboard- they don't.

Some people don't stop to look around themselves but dash from here to there. With nature, the more you learn and observe- the more you see.

I love the water drops. And have to go to England in the spring and summer.

Beth said...

I’m a very lax gardener but I do love experiencing the colours, scents and luscious growth every spring and summer. In terms of appreciating the cycles of nature, I think that’s why I love living in a country with four very distinct seasons. Each one is beautiful in its own way and also a reminder that life is constant change – and that there is always hope for renewal!

Star said...

Your post made me very nostalgic Bee! I love the smell of the wet earth in England. That's something I don't get here, where it stays hot till and past bedtime. Do enjoy your plantings. The old fashioned roses do shatter after one or two days. They also have a wonderful scent.
Blessings, Star

Alaine said...

A lovely post and I enjoy the same senses. Now that I have slowed down and have taken time to 'smell the roses', I absorb it all; the growth, the colour, the perfumes, the wonderful produce for our table. The daily habits of our birds is an ongoing source of enjoyment also.

David Cranmer said...

I grew up in upstate NY and I feel like I'm more responsive to nature as a result.

Btw great post, great photos!

♥ bfs - Mimi ♥ said...

Yes, I do believe in different strokes for different folks. Some flowers and landscapes make me weep, when others may pass them by without a backward look.

I also notice fabric on people, even when speaking in public. I notice things, smell things, and feel things that most say they don't.

I know what you are talking about, and I loved this post, Bee.

♥ bfs - Mimi ♥ said...

And as for your description in this post, what a wonderful gift you have.

Beeswax said...

You know, here in the desert, summer is just a thing to be endured, so that we can enjoy our winters. Except, of course for the lovely monsoon storms (which I love, and are my favorite weather).

But after spending the last couple of weeks on the California coast (near where I grew up), I remembered how wonderful summer can be! I am hungry for raspberries now.

willow said...

There's something very soothing and therapeutic about watering the garden, isn't there?

We've been eating outside most evenings, too. Except when it hits the 90's. Bleh.

Chairman Bill said...

Ah - England. Not too hot in summer, bnot too cold in winter. Nothing of an animal or insect nature in the garden or the countryside which will kill you.

Generally a nice place to live, if it wasn't for the English.

julochka said...

i'm finding i notice nature around me so much more now that i carry a camera everywhere. seeing through the lens helps me see in general. it's been a bit surprising to me how that works.

i've been spending lots of time in the garden this week (since i found out my wireless reaches out there, no problem). it draws me in...

B said...

I do think the English countryside is special. So beautiful it makes you stop and look. And there is a great gardening tradition here as well.
I think appreciating nature is about being in the right moment at the right time. When you are, suddenly it hits you, and you can't help but admire it.
I always thought I was a city girl, but lately, I've been more and more drawn to the countryside.

Dave King said...

I think responding to nature is a natural instinct, almost a reflex one, like sex - in fact I have heard that it is an spin-off from the sex instinct, which is why it doesn't really develop until puberty. When you respond to, say, a tree, there is a sexual element in the response. Hope that doesn't spoil it for you!

Margaret Gosden said...

A very satisfying read in many ways, thank you!

PG said...

Call me biased, but there is nothing like a freshly watered English garden in the summer.
I had a little bet with myself as to what the Herrick poem would be and I was right, funnily enough I read it this morning in a book as I was tidying up.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

I envy you your garden. You know how everything bakes here. I've been misting my fern several times a day and it is still turning brown. The poem tied in perfectly. I hadn't read that one in a very long time. Beautiful post.

Bee said...

Herhimnbryn - YES!

Catalyst - Thanks :)

ArtSparker - If there were world enough and time . . .

Nimble - We have spectacular peonies, but they don't last very long at all. The color fades very quickly . . . (thanks for the link)

Spudballoo - My teenage daughter says that my recent interest in gardening is proof of creeping old age. I prefer to think of it as mature appreciation . . .
In reference to the couple who planted your garden: I put in a rose hedge last year, and now I can't bear the thought of moving before I see it mature!

As for England in June, if the weather is sunny -- yes, it is the BEST.

Kelly H-Y - I just made some meringue ice cream to go with the raspberries. Yum.

Blackbird - Thanks for pondering these questions with me. My younger daughter is much more responsive to nature than my older one. She loves growing things and observing seasonal change. It intrigues me. (And I don't mind some rain; the garden could use it now, actually!)

Beth - Yes, hope for renewal; also, I'm also heartened by the fact that we always seem to be "ready" or open for what each season brings . . . they all have their good points.

Star - Yes, the damp cool air seems to rise from the earth as the sun goes down . . . no matter how hot it gets. So different from the southern U.S.

Alaine - I wish that we had more birds. Our cat is a menace! (Thanks for visiting.)

David Cranmer - I've gotten to know NY as an adult; such a beautiful place. Thanks for the kind feedback.

bfs Mimi - Thanks so much for your kind words. I don't respond much to deserts (for example), but I know that other people love them.

beeswax - I agree; a dramatic thunderstorm can be lovely . . . as can a desert sunset. I grew up in a place where summer had to be endured, too.

Willow - Mmm, yes; especially in the evening.

Chairman Bill - Thank you for adding you customary levity to the discussion!

Julochka - I totally agree! I look at things more closely, and then also appreciate them afterwards.

B - I've never met an English person over the age of, say 50, who didn't become interested in gardening.

Dave King - an interesting theory. And do you suppose that it can come to replace sex as one's chief sensual pleasure? :)

Thanks, Margaret.

PG - I always think of those lines "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," but I had forgotten how perfect/suitable the poem was in its entireity.

Kate said...

Here's my thought, Bee: you're a writer and writers naturally/inherently are more observant than the general population. You have a gift and I'm so happy that you share it with the Blog world!
Some people (non-writers) see a raspberry and think, "Ew. I hate fruit." But you, and writers like you, see that raspberry as Nature's gift and feel compelled --even obligated, if you will -- to find the words to describe its existence.
I know I've written this many times, but will you publish a book already?!

Bee said...

Catherine - You know what I don't miss about TX lawns? The constant noise of leaf-blowers! It really kills my nature buzz.

Kate - Thank you from the heart for that very dear comment. xx

Fantastic Forrest said...

Indeed. Gather ye raspberries while ye may. Yum, yum, eat 'em up!!

You are just a current day John Muir, you are.

La Belette Rouge said...

I love the questions that your garden inspired.

Raspberries on a bush! I fear if I had a raspberry bush I would sit in front of it and keep eating until there were no raspberries left. Something about those berries bring out a very selfish and unsharing part of myself that I can usually keep under wraps. Perhaps I was a bear in a past life.;-)

Elizabeth said...

How was I so slow to come upon this magic post.
Midsummer in England is so glorious
(and Herrick inducing)
all those long long light evenings
and your raspberries.....
I weep from wet Mahhattan.......
still raining.

Yvonne Anderson said...


Thanks for stopping by my blog. That is not our house in the valley. That is the view from the back door. We look onto the valley.

Next up for my husband and I is to start our very first veggie garden so I will be stopping by for tips....

Polly said...

I spent all my life so far in the city but recently I feel more and more drawn to the country. I love the smell of freshly watered ground. And English countryside is particularly charming with its abundand greeness.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a great post and what BEAUTIFUL pics, wow.

I know what you mean about the landscape of Britain. I always feel important somehow, when my feet touch that land. I'm significant. I matter to God, to the world. It's so interesting.

As for responding to nature, well, we are part of nature, so being responsive includes responding to our own needs, desires, thoughts and dreams.

I think you do a GREAT job dancing in alignment with the rest of the natural world. You garden agrees with me completely!

Happy summer!

Bee said...

FF - I just Googled John Muir, and my goodness I am a mere gnat compared to him! But thanks . . .

La Belette Rouge - Child of the suburban supermarkets that I am, I still feel a sense of wonder about actually being able to GROW food.

Elizabeth - I wish that I could send some sweet peas and strawberries! Soggy summers are just not fun.

Yvonne - Good luck with your garden! My first tip: Don't grow a lot of veg that you will not want to eat in quantity.

Polly - I know; it's very soothing -- all that green.

Reya - I can't believe what a satisfying thing it is to create my own little Eden.

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

I've never felt that I was particularly responsive to nature, but there is something about England that makes me feel like a tuning fork which is vibrating to the perfect pitch.

Wow, beautifully said!!

linda said...

such a lovely post, I can practically feel the cool spray of water, smell that delicious fragrance of roses....which reminds me how much I love the roses on your sidebar--you are giving me all kinds of ideas with my yard!

Dick said...

Beautiful. You have an English soul, Bee!

Bee said...

Lover of Life - Oh, thank you.

Linda - I know that pictures from the garden are boring to some, so I appreciate a fellow rose lover!

Dick - And here's the proof: this morning I actually welcomed the gray dawn and misty skies.

A Cuban In London said...

I totally agree with you. There's a dstinct feeling, probably even in-built response to certain landscapes. Maybe self-suggestion plays a part; I have always felt that I know New York and that I will like when i go (because I will go someday). But this is only becuase I used to be keen on Woody Allen many years ago. The case you so clearly explain might be due to the fact that most period dramas take place in the British - and mostly English - countryside and therefore we fall under their spell.

Still, that image is beautiful and the post evocative. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Anna said...

Bee nice post, you know I was with nature when I was a kid, and then there was break, growing up, school, etc. and now as I matured again, I feel more in tune with nature and I love it, and I love those raspberries too. Anna :)

Sarah Laurence said...

This is a beautiful post in both words and images, the opening one especially. I would have put you as a very "responsive to nature" person. Remember how happy you were on that sunny summer day and how miserable you have been on a grey winter days. Perhaps in Texas you took blue skies for granted and England's variability makes you appreciate it the more.

Shauna said...

What a lovely garden and those berries right out of the garden are enough to make me drool.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Maybe it is genetic. I am overwhelmingly responsive to nature. It speaks to me with a bullhorn.

And I adore raspberries!

Lisa said...

Oh how I love that Herrick poem. I was trying to think of his name just the other day. I'd caught a snippet of the poem somewhere and couldn't remember the poet's name. Perfect timing for this post. Thank you.

Just today we drove by a field of sunflowers who had their golden faces turned toward the sun. It was stunning. I wanted to stop and take photos, but MathMan had other plans. "We can do it tomorrow or the next day," he tried to assuage my pout.

"It won't be the same," I sighed.

And it won't. Just like the poem and the rose dropping its petals.

Lucy said...

I think perhaps it is something you grow more aware of as you grow older too, something to do with a sharpening sense of time passing, and the magic that while it goes on in a linear way like that, it's also going round in circles within that...

Perhaps Wordsworth was right though, and children have it instinctually but then lose it and it's only when we come to know what we've lost that we treasure it... Yet small chldren are really remarkably unaware of seasons.

Lovely post Bee, and the pub one. I do miss an English country pub!

julie king said...

this is my first visit to your blog and i feel so at home here! your photos and your words are just wonderful!

catmint said...

This is also my first visit to your blog. It's a wonderful blog, congrats.

Why and how we respond to nature is a fascinating question. It could be, as Lucy says, part of growing older. But it is also necessary to transcend a kind of cultural imperative that wants to compete with, instead of cohabiting in and with nature.
Many years ago we got someone to chop down a tall tree in our garden. A displaced possum climbed up his leg. At the time I thought it was funny. Now I think of it with pain and compassion.

Bee said...

A Cuban in London -- Your comment could inspire another post . . . and how funny about Woody Allen, because I just re-viewed Annie Hall. (I certainly think we are pre-programmed to romanticize certain landscapes. Oh, definitely.)

Anna - Yes, I think you are right. The landscape I grew up with is much less beautiful than England, but the awareness of smells and textures . . . yes!

Sarah - Weather is such a part of nature, and I've always been very sensitive to it. But I was trying to reach for something else here . . .

Shauna - I ate a handful of berries as I watering the veg patch this morning.

Pamela Terry - And have you always felt this way? Because for me, it feels like a sudden awakening (in my 40s!).

Lisa - I hope that Mathman lets you stop the car next time, because it will never be the same . . . not even in a few hours, when the angle of light changes. When Sarah and I had our lunch the other weekend, we stopped the car to take pictures of a splendid field of poppies. I'm glad that you liked the Herrick poem. It is one that occurs to me frequently. How wonderful to write such memorable lines -- capturing such recognizable phenomenona.

Lucy - Your comment is very beautiful and graceful, too! I think that perhaps Wordworth was right. Perhaps we are too consumed with the self (and our own emotions)in those middle years? An interesting subject to explore.

Julie King - I'm glad you feel "at home" here. Thanks so much for visiting me!

Catmint - Yes, we move something and we alter something (often without knowing). What a lovely blog-name . . . I've got lots of it in my garden.

小貓咪 said...