Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring, Struggling - and, The Madness of Crowds

The invitation to the fundraiser for my favorite quiet arboretum has arrived. Willowwood hosts an annual lilac party, where guests can enjoy the fragrance and view of hundreds of's not until May 16th, and here the lilacs are already blooming - a month early!
There won't be any left for the Lilac Party, I'm afraid.
It is a most peculiar spring. The flowers are out way ahead of schedule, and yet the leaves are emerging so slowly, they seem suspended in time.
This sweetgum has the same strange growths I saw on a tree at the Phildelphia Zoo.
The leaves look like a miniature palm tree.
In the driveway at Wit's End, Johnny Jump Ups spread in drifts among the stones in the drive, and have been welcome interlopers for years. This spring there are noticeably fewer.
And each blossom is smaller than usual.
Daphne is blooming early, the luscious perfume wafting around the patio.
Here my little redbud is thin.
And a diminutive pine by the walkway continues to brown and shrivel.

This scene is the west side of the village of Oldwick. A portion of the orchards runs along the bottom of the picture and disappears into the valley. If you click to enlarge, it can be seen that many trees in the distance haven't leafed out - I am curious as to whether they ever will.
The farmer has pruned these apple trees severely, removing large limbs.
Incredibly, the hill above has been completely denuded of the solid treeline that was there last fall.
I don't know if it is to expand the orchard,
or if they were cleared because they are all dead.
Another westerly view includes a large tree in the foreground behind the library. I will return in few weeks, to see if things have greened up.
Now for the alien life form! I have noticed a few absolutely luridly colored, never-before seen apparitions in cedars lately - but until this morning, hadn't had a chance to stop and investigate.
The color is so unnaturally bright I almost thought they were pieces of reflective, shiny plastic that somehow became lodged high in the branches. But no, it is something or other alive - the extrusions are gelatinous, and translucent.
This thing creeped me out so much, I almost threw up in my mouth a little bit, and I was afraid to break off some samples to bring home. I did anyway, but they quickly shriveled up. I assume it's yet another fungal growth, preying on trees damaged by toxic greenhouse whatever is causing bark to split and fall from trunks and branches. I suppose the bulbous part is the parent, and the orangy fingers are the fruit producing spores for reproduction. Where is my zombie-smashing weapon??
Oh well, time to look for the cheerier side of apocalypse. When I went out to fetch the eggs, I found Joe Romm's new book had arrived from Amazon! I am bringing it to Washington next Thursday for Earth Day, in the hopes that he will climb down his lofty blogging perch, get out of his pajamas and into some street clothes, to join the rest of us Romm'n'Legions in front of the White House.
Supporters of GWEN's action will gather to petition our President to address climate change ...whereupon if I am lucky Dr. Romm might autograph my copy, preferably with a personal inscription.
This is probably the last of the magnolias for the year, a later, lush cultivar.
Phlox is blooming, as is this intense blue flower that I do not recognize.
The rest are views of tulips, interspersed with stanzas from this famous poem:
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year~old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free -
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.
The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

by Sylvia Plath
I especially like the description of the photo of her husband and child...
their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks...

Would TEOTWAWKI matter if I were free of those little smiling hooks?
At least, surely now, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will finally have to acknowledge I have had another of what is now THREE genuine sightings of His Holy Noodliness!!!!


  1. You have the best picture ever of FSM coming to earth embodied in the fungi form of Cedar Apple Rust (FSM is CDR !)

    In high Latin this is Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae

  2. Thank you for identifying this critter!

    Be very afraid....

  3. Hi Gail - I saw your recent comment about the name 'Icarus' being somewhat appropriate. I don't comment very often but I look at your blog every day. I *love* your beautiful photos of flowers etc. It's a tragedy that we seem to be responsible for the destruction of so much that is so beautiful.

  4. Hi Gail - I saw your recent comment about the name 'Icarus' being somewhat appropriate. I don't comment very often but I look at your blog every day. I *love* your beautiful photos of flowers etc. It's a tragedy that we seem to be responsible for the destruction of so much that is so beautiful.

  5. VERY appropriate, Icarus! And thank you for reading.

  6. Good morning, Gail.
    I've been following your blog for over a year, and share many of your concerns. Can I report that where I live in Scotland, I do not see the wholesale changes you are reporting, so please take that as a sign of hope. Our village will soon lose its two Horse Chestnuts, however, whether as a result of the charmingly named bleeding canker or to an as yet unnamed bacteria now thought to be associated with the condition.

    You also might be interested that the little violas that volunteer in your garden are, in Scotland, called Heartsease. And I think the blue flower is one of the colour variations of Anemone pavonia.


  7. Hello Serinde! Thank you for reading! I did not know that is a name for the little violas - it is probably true in the US as well. There is a nursery nearby named Heartsease and I never even wondered why.

    Sorry about your Horse Chestnuts...


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