Thursday, July 19, 2018

Grandmother's Pitcher

 "Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into..."- Henry Beecher (1858)
 Sweet peas are for remembrance. For as long as forever,  I have always known this. I grew up with them. Watched them thrive. Watched them die. Watched them live again....
  For as long as I can remember the Cream  pitcher with the hound handle had always been THE sweet pea holder. Grandmother's pitcher. It displays an ornate hunting scene all around its chubby middle. And the hound, like the hound of the Baskervilles leaps over the edge. Leaps into the imagination.....
 My mother used to fill it with sweet peas,  year after year. My grandmother, so I'm told, used to fill it with cream for tea time. 
 It doesn't hold cream any longer. It has the many dried petals of sweet peas stuck to the inside. The dried scent of sweet peas, long gone, clinging to it.
 Sometimes I've used an ice cream pail . Last year, Smokey-from-the -hill  followed me around while I filled it. But somehow those sweet peas made it to Grandmother pitcher. The ice cream pail never seemed right. And now Smokey is gone. He no longer lounges in front of the sweet pea vines.
 This year, when I picked the few sweet peas  I had  slinging off the fence, I missed Smokey toddling around at my feet. His brother, Spencer has taken up weaving in and out, and then padding off for a snooze on the porch. The scent of sweet peas lingering on my hands as I stroke his gold fur. 
 My mother often used mason jars, in various sizes. There was a time when the mason jars she used were ones in which my grandmother had preserved cherries. Jars and jars of cherries in the old cellar of our house. 
 Cherries that were never opened, and had been there on the dusty, cobweb shelves since the early 50's. 20.... 30 years of cherries never eaten. Looking rather ....well...mouldy.
 Long after my grandmother passed, my mother finally took a couple of those jars , dumped out the cherries, cleaned out the glass jar and stuffed sweet peas into them. But she saved the other jars. I think they made her feel grandmother was still there.
 When my mother died, I saw that row of mason jars, full of cherries, in the cold cellar that I shuddered to go into. Never knew what creepy crawlies would come slithering out.
 I couldn't bring myself to destroy those jars. I took one, emptied it out, and put it in the moving box. The rest I left. I don't know what happened to that jar. But I knew about the cream pitcher. On the top of the china cabinet.  I  wrapped it up in my mother's old wedding dress and netting. Put it into the moving box.
 And it survived countless moves across country. From the East to the West.
 For a while, it stood empty without sweet peas. Then finally when I was able to have a place to grow sweet peas, that cream pitcher was stuffed to the gills with them. There's something so unique about the scent from sweet peas. Heady, strong, wonderful, beyond description. I breathe it in like oxygen. And I can remember. 
  Last year, there were no sweet peas. Maybe a handful. The first year, in a long while. This year, definitely a bit better.The heat stagnated their growth. But finally the past couple of weeks there have been sweet peas. Sweet peas to breathe in.
 Sweet peas in goblets. Sweet peas in a mason jar.Sweet peas in Grandmother's antique cream pitcher with  hound handle and hunting scene. The hound still leaps......
  I never met my grandmother, and my mother did not talk about her much. Except that she loved sweet peas. When Grandmother was old and blind she would arrange sweet peas in glasses. She couldn't see them climbing up the wall at the old house in Victoria, but she could imagine them I suspect. 
 She and my grandfather spent many an afternoon outside by the willow tree, with the sweet peas rising above.  Sometimes sweet peas would sit in glasses or mason jars on the old round table in the garden. The  Cream Pitcher would sometimes be delegated for tea, maybe for sweet peas. I wondered if my mother would open a jar of cherries.....
 Grandmother died in the 50's, leaving my grandfather alone with my parents. My grandfather died around 1963,my father a few years later.  And the pitcher was put back on the shelf.  The cherries Grandmother had canned, never opened. Years later, I took that her pitcher off the shelf and started the tradition once more. The Cream Pitcher with the hound leaping into the mouth ,   never empty as long as  sweet peas bloom. And I will remember them.....
 "The sweet pea that has run wild. Creation's tears in shoulder blades..." -Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)
                                                  (Grandmother's Cream Pitcher)
Photographs 2018

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Garden

 THE GARDEN by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) (excerpts) One of the foremost Puritan poets he sympathized with Charles I. Marvell's father was a minister, and a relative introduced him to the great poet Milton who gave him an estate. "The Garden" made him famous. It was hailed as one of the most expressive nature poems ever written. Well worth reading in its entirety, since these are only snippets of the poem.
 How vainly men themselves amaze  while all flowers and trees do close to weave the garlands of repose....
 Fair quiet, have I found thee here. 
 No white nor red was ever seen so amorous as this lovely green.
 What wondrous life is this I lead, ripe apples drop about my head, the luscious clusters of the vine.
 The nectarine and curious peach, into my hands themselves do reach.
 Stumbling on melons, as I pass, insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
 The mind, that ocean where each kind does straight its own resemblance find
 Yet it creates, transcending these, far other worlds, and other seas.
 My soul into the boughs does glide, there like a bird it sits and sings.
 And till prepared for longer flight, waves in its plumes the various light.
 Such was that happy garden-state, after a place to pure and sweet.
 But twas beyond a mortal's share to wander solitary there, to wander solitary there:
 Two paradises t'were in one, to live in Paradise alone.
 How well the skillful gardener drew of flowers , and herbs. How could such sweet and wholesome hours be reckoned but with herbs and flowers.
 ("The Garden" by Andrew Marvell from "A Treasury of Great Poems" (1942) Simon and Schuster) One of my mother's favourite poetry books and has her signature on the inside cover.
Spencer and Smokey cat trail
Photographs 2018

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1.2.3. Sweet Peas

 "Here are sweet peas, on tiptoe for a flight; With wings of gentle flush o'er delicate white..."-John Keats

 Last year there WERE NO sweet peas. Maybe a few straggled in. But nothing much. I ripped out the dead vines by July.

Two years ago, I was picking mason jars and pitchers full

 This year they are late.
 Very Very late.....
 Five weeks later than usual.
 Until finally three popped up and bloomed.
 Sweet Peas are quite hardy.  They will grow anywhere.
 But this year they are hesitant.
 Most of the time, I have a hard time keeping up.Picking quickly so the vines will create more blooms.
 So far, this year I have found 3. 1.2.3. Blooms.
 My mother would grow sweet peas in pretty ordinary dirt. Never failed.
 Last year it was boiling hot all the time.The Sweet Peas fried.
 This year it was hot  in May. Sizzle. Sizzle. And cool in June.
 I think they got confused. I think they thought it was time for a siesta.Even the strawberries didn't seem to know it was time to grow. I got 4 strawberries this June. Count them. 1.2.3.4.
 The green growing things have a mind of their own.
 And today I still have my 3 Sweet Peas. 1.2.3. Maybe FOUR  later on this week. And  they still smell as wonderful as if they were in the hundreds....
 "Poetry is a rich, full-bodied whistle, cracked ice crunching in pails, the night that numbs the leaf, the duel of two nightingales, the sweet pea that has run wild, Creation's tears in shoulder blades..." -Boris Pasternak