The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- April 2000

4 April - morning

A gorgeous and cold morning, probably one of the last really cool mornings of the spring. It was 38 degrees in my garden last night. Heavy rains over the course of the past few days (2 inches) have finally saturated the ground. The leaves of the plants throughout the garden are lustrous and plump. The tips of the branches are heavy with new buds - promising a vigorous burst of growth in the coming days.

I've already been to a breakfast meeting and have a busy day ahead of me. I was going to just rush off to the office after picking up a few things from home, but the garden caught me off guard. Gardens are good for that... forcing you to adjust your schedule, to slow down and pay attention. As I came back into the courtyard I heard a Mockingbird singing. It was perched on the top of one of the Savannah Hollies in the garden, and was celebrating the sunlight that was warming its wings (and vocal chords!) Few animals are as exultant as a Mockingbird- when you hear one in full song it is usually a pretty good indicator that it is a day to be thankful for. I am thankful for its reminder, and for the adjustment to my schedule.

12 April - morning

The flowers of early spring are all nearly gone. Despite the cool in the air, and the rain during the night, we have moved into a new season. The tall flower spikes of the gulf coast penstemons are tilted at odd angles, weighed down by their seed pods. The Louisiana iris have closed their faded petals upon themselves and line the stalks like wilted fists. The last of the winter annuals will soon be tossed into the compost bin. Summer is not quite here, but having lived in Austin for over twenty years, I find myself counting the days, knowing that intense heat, and possibly drought, are waiting in the wings.

This is a time of transition, and fortunately, there are some late season bloomers coming into their own: the first daylily has made its appearance; the star jasmine is beginning to perfume the corner of the courtyard where it tumbles out of its container; and the amarylis is putting on a show. I haven't seen any signs of bloom yet from the crinums, but they are bound to swing into action soon.

A single Easter Lily, a grocery store purchase by one of my neighbors, is also about to bloom. They are suprisingly tough, and the flowers last much longer than the daylilies. Their big white trumpets were associated with purity in medieval and renaissance art, and are included in nearly every depiction of Mary's "Annunciation." I think they would be spectacular planted en masse amid a ground cover of oxalis or purple moss verbena. They make a fitting choice as a symbol of Easter, the plants fade quickly after they flower, and then reappear with the spring rains.

I recently read a quote from the Native American holy man, Black Elk, saying "The power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round." This time of transition before Easter traces a small arc , just a sliver of our circle through the seasons, enjoy it while it lasts!

24 April - morning

I haven't had as much time for the garden as I would like over the past few days - I have been busy shooting a video documentary, "The Painted Churches of Texas." The "Painted Churches" are a group of Catholic churches built largely by Czech immigrants around the turn of the last century. Most of the churches are located in two of the most beautiful counties of south-central Texas, Fayette and Lavaca. The churches are noted for their interiors which are highly ornamented with impressive altars and elaborate painting. It is moving to talk with the people of the tiny communities around the churches - their deep love for the structures is rooted in their family histories and a faith enriched by the spirit of place. It is a wonderful illustration of the power of spaces that are lovingly created and deeply vested with meaning. Our gardens can be just as meaningful if we tend them in the same mindful way.

A haiku from the Dubina cemetery -

bells echo off the

headstones - an easter lily

trembles in the breeze.

26 April - morning

Yesterday, while tending to some chores in the garden, I had my first visit with a hummingbird this spring. I had just finished staking up some red yucca bloom spikes, which were blocking a path through the garden, when the impatient little bird ( a female ruby-throated hummingbird) zeroed in on the coral-colored flowers. She whirred from flower to flower, her back shimmering in the sunlight. I marvelled at her presense, thinking about this tiny creature migrating thousands of miles, and somehow finding her way to this garden in the middle of a bustling city. I hope she meets up with some male and sets up camp in the garden for the summer.

The male hummingbirds are incredibly territorial and are always on the alert, ready to chase intruders off of their turf. The Aztec's god of war, Huitzilopochtli, was associated with hummingbirds. Within their tiny hearts beats the drum of a warrior - clear a path indeed!

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