Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Bess -- What lovely word pictures you paint! Virginia sounds like heaven on earth when you write.

By Anonymous diann, at 10:38 AM  

Virginia in the spring sounds glorious seen through your eyes and hands!! And BTW, there is maybe a teensy possibility we will get up there this summer, but the good news is that I have talked Bill in to a trip to the FFF at Montpelier for October!! Yeah!!

By Blogger Carolyn, at 10:33 PM  

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Monday, May 30, 2005  

It’s as if all the gods and all the fairies and all the fates have decided to give us a glimpse of paradise this weekend, as clear blue skies cap an emerald world, sparkling with sunbeams and shadows and the flitting color of red and blue birds darting through the canopy of the forest. We have had 2 years of augmented rains, oh so welcome after several years of droughts so bad the trees dropped their leaves in August. This heavenly elixir seems to have encouraged everything to grow, to expand, to recover lost ground and claim new territory. Couple this with a slightly cooler spring, free of those devastating heat waves that leave even the early blossoms gasping through the night, and the glory of heaven could hardly surpass the glory of this Virginia spring.

Slipping into the woods by the home path you walk through the skeletons of trees felled by the hurricane in September of 03. All around is the succulent green of sunshine’s babies; pokeweed, fat, luscious and promising to stain your shirt come autumn, little blackberry tendrils, too young to produce berries this year, but just you wait a year or two, and the huge leaves of yearling trees, their wide flat surface drinking in the sunshine that is their major source of nourishment. It shan’t be long before all is forest again, but for a while we walk as giants, looking down on the treetops.

In the dappled sunshine at the edge of the forest are swaths of Enchanters Nightshade and Devil’s Walking Sticks. The nightshade will be misted with tiny white blossoms soon, but BD snaps off the walking sticks. They are the serpent plants of our particular Eden and they’ll rip the flesh from your body with their wicked thorns. They are true devils, because they’re so beautiful as plants. In any season they offer beauty and pain combined, their thorns so evil and so prolific, their swaying branches so tempting and their lavish berries offering a promis not worth redeeming.

A walk down the path to the swamp bridge takes you through maturing forest, with little undergrowth, but the swamp is full of life this year, so rich with surprises. I’ve lived here 30 years and this is the first spring the little islands in the swamp have been covered with violets. They have to have blown down the path - which is no small distance, perhaps 1500 yards of curved forest and river bank, from the old vegetable garden I mulched with topsoil dug up from the flower garden way to the west of the house. It’s an enormous right angle through the woods, where the minute, fertile seeds could find a home in the moist ground of tiny little high spots in the swamp. The islands look like places where elves or pixies might hold a party. Lizard’s Tail are beginning to send up budded shoots and Clethera is already telling us it will perfume the whole swamp in a few weeks.

The major understory plants in our woods are mountain laurel and holly. The holly has been extra fragrant this spring, but their days are almost at an end. All along the woods paths is a carpet of tiny cream colored blossoms, like a dusting of snow, inviting you to stir their lingering sweetness with your footsteps. The mountain laurel is so heavy with blossoms their branches bow to the ground. Each huge pompom of clustered flowers looks like a bride’s bouquet - or at least, what a bride ought to carry in her bouquet. The more sunshine these flowers get, the pinker they become so that along the creeks they glow a clear pink, almost darkening to red. Deeper in the forest they are pure white with only their veins that vivid cherry color.

Wild animals abound in the forests and streams as well as wild and beautiful flowers. They live in the trees and under the ground, still as landscapes, immobile in their defenses, until a little dog sniffs out their secret. Then the world explodes into a chorus of splashes and crashes, dives and chases, leaps, yelps and panting. Old dogs with years of practice still find it almost impossible to take a prey; younglings merely watch and follow, experimenting with the ancient, instinctive scent of food and the cool splash of mud on soft puppy fur. There is an old beaver mound, hollow and rotting away, but still strong enough to hold two people, just in case they might want to step deeper into the wetlands of Jacob’s Gut. The beaver left a while back, but not before they had re-engineered the entire area, their shallow pond killing all the trees in the great cycle of birth and death that is nature. In their place, young growth is getting it’s chance; among them, several dozen cypress trees, planted by the boy darlings.

Where Jacob’s Gut crosses the lane the culvert has hollowed out the dog’s swimming pool. There’s never a walk that doesn’t take in a stop to cool the belly and wet the lolling tongue of a dog. Once it was Holly or Tuck and Dan, then it was Tru, then Pokey, then Ike. Now it’s Priss and Socks and Jack. But always, it seems, there’s the little snake, twined among the branches of his leafy overhang. The sandy creek bed stirs up a cloud when little dogs dive in, but the heavy grains settle quickly and the water runs clear by the time we walk to the mailbox and back.

The crops are late this year. Cool rainy days and almost frosty mornings have kept the corn low and spindly - their rows gapped here and there where germination failed. Barley is only just now turning gold, but what a gold it is, rippling with breezes or quaking as a mighty hunter skitters down the narrow grassy aisles, nose close to the ground. Then the miracle occurs - the wheat dolphins appear. Legs curled beneath their bodies, brown fur or golden soars high above the feathery carpet of grain as the big dogs scan the fields for movement. Priss is the most beautiful when she leaps, her lighter body and stronger legs lifting her high and forward in a bound so long she looks as if she were flying. Socks is the bigger dog, though and sometimes merely stands on hind legs to claim her vista, her golden yellow head the exact color of the ripening grain, looking like some aboriginal corn goddess stalking through her temple. Jack is too small still to do any real hunting in the grain fields, but he boldly leaps in after the aunts and each day he ventures deeper into the jungle. He’ll dash down a row some few dozen yards then hop back out, proudly claiming praise from his humans, who generously bestow it.

Along the lane Toadflax and Venus’ Looking Glass fringes every field with purple. In the sunshine, the leaves of the sorrel turn brown, while in the cool dappled shade of the garden they stay softly green. Either way, their blossoms are sunshine yellow and deliciously sour to the taste. The cooler nights have kept the wild daisies fresh and perky, their pretty white petals stretched out almost as wide as the hybridized Shastas. Blackberry, that most painful of the rose family, is in full blossom and if you sniff closely you can still get that hint of wild rose fragrance. Like everything else this spring, it seems more lavish and abundant than years past. I have already marked several patches I will monitor and visit come July. Ditto for the blueberries and huckleberries. The competition for them is fierce and the birds all have the edge on me, since I have to go to work most days, but with a little effort, and some very tough shirtsleeves, I ought to be able to have a few jars of huckleberry jam and a few more of blackberry. And if I grow too lazy or forgetful, I can take pleasure in the thought of woodland creatures smacking lips and or clacking beaks over juicy meals.

Black mud coated white puppies are the very ones who decide they don’t care to go for a swim once we reach Robert’s Landing. Yesterday the sun was warm enough to tempt me, though and shoes and socks were soon doffed. The creek bottom at Robert’s is a soft sand, not an evil, secret hiding muck, and there has been enough sunshine to take the worst of the chill out of the water. In shorts I could wade over my knees, where the water is deep enough to clean off cute little baby puppies if they follow Mama. I stood a long time trying to decide if I wanted to strip off the rest of my clothes, but in the end I decided I would wait a few more days. It will still be cool enough to wrest a gasp from me next weekend, especially since we are promised rain for the next several days.

There is something particularly blessed about walking across a fruitful landscape on a Sunday morning. I don’t subscribe to any particular religion, but I have a deep reverence for the sacred gifts of the earth and my life on it. Two hours outdoors in the glorious springtime goes so swiftly. My ears fill with the real sounds of the earth and the remembered sounds of Handle’s great hymns, the uncontainable colors of the fields and skies and forests, the remembered colors of the holy paintings of the masters. All of it - the magic, the truth and the promise, pulses around and through a body till I can let go of my humanity and become one with it all. The very pores of my skin open up, my mouth tingles and my head seems to have no top. Roots grow out of my feet even as I walk.

These are the times to savor and store, experience and hoard, because these are the real facts of life that keep me sane and healthy and walking the true path. They are the signposts along the quest that reassure me and guide me. They lift my head out of columns of numbers and self-imposed duties. They wake me from the sleep of routine and siphon off all sorts of hidden tensions and anxieties.

It may be that God rested on the 7th day, but he is God, and I am merely a human. I like to savor. And give thanks.

posted by Bess | 11:33 AM