Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Moment's Perfection

PeoniesThis morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open ---
pools of lace,
white and pink ---
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities ---
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly, and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

from New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

My love for flowers has been with me since I was a child. I distinctly remember visiting my great-grandmother who, at the time, had what seemed to be a huge green yard snuggled between the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky. What I remember most about the yard was the abundance of flowers, daisies, roses and tiger lilies, one of my personal favorites. I remember one of my older cousins telling me, "Did you KNOW that if you put flowers in the freezer, they last FOREVER?" I was amazed at this valuable information, so when my great grandmother wasn't looking, I slipped out to the yard and cut all the blooms off of every flower. I went outside with a pair of scissors and a basket and filled the basket to the brim with colorful blooms. Then, I quietly climbed the steps to the back porch, opened the lid to the huge deep-freezer, and poured all the blooms inside on top of frozen foods. Once they were inside the freezer, I remember arranging them in just a way that would allow me to see each and every type of bloom.

It must have been some time the next day before my great-grandmother noticed the blooms in the freezer, but I remember vividly her calling my name and asking me "why in the world" I had cut all her flowers! I am sure I explained to her my desire to save all the blooms forever. I think she probably showed a great deal of patience with me that day, for what I remember is that she explained that if I wanted to save flowers, I should wrap them in a piece of plastic before putting them into the freezer...but most importantly, I should only cut ONE of each type of flower.

My other grandmother had peonies in her yard, and I thought those were the most amazing flowers I had ever seen. I marveled at the full and perfect blooms in pinks and whites, and grieved for them when, after such a short time, those perfect blooms died away. When I bought my first home, I was fortunate enough to inherit a 60 year old garden filled with peonies! Truth be told, I think it was those flowers that made me realize that house was meant to be mine.

This past weekend, I visited my now 93 year old grandmother, and her yard still is full of peonies. During one of our conversations, she reminded me now was the time to transplant them, and if I wanted to take some to my home in Tennessee, I was welcome to dig up a couple of hers. Out I went in the pouring rain with a shovel and my poor husband to dig up those precious treasures. Dear Husband kept reminding me how little room we had in the car for the ride home, but I had to find a way to fit them inside. I explained to him how I have loved these flowers since I was old enough to walk, and he somehow found enough room for them.

Today, I transplanted the peonies, and I can hardly wait to see the first blooms! I know that after transplanting, the plants may not flower for a couple of years...but I am hopeful. Something transplanted with so much love will surely put on a great show.


The Victorian Parlor said...


What a wonderful story! I look forward to seeing pictures of the flowers once they bloom:). Peonies are so lovely!



Miss Jen said...

Peonies are SO lovely!!!
Thanks for sharing your heart.

Blessings~ Miss Jen