by Angeliska on May 25, 2011
Earlier this month, we took a journey up North, where it is still spring.
Little green fiddleheads are just starting to poke their drowsy heads up
from the dark earth. The air was sharp and green, the black branches
of all the stonefruit trees heavy with bright blossoms. Here in the South,
it is mostly already summer – our gardens suffer, stunted without rain.
It was good to have a bit of respite: an unnatural rewinding of the the
season’s skein so that we could have that little taste of spring back under
our tongues: it tastes like moss and makes my heart beat faster. Feel it?
Everywhere, wood violets congregate prettily, in purple and white flounces,
casting their winking National Velvet gazes dirt-ward, mischievous smiles
playing at the prim corners of their tiny petal faces. They look like my sister.
I saw a pair of little fox kits in the woods, and they looked like us when we
were small, and red-headed. They wore black stockings and curious faces.
I had never seen such a thing, and it moved me beyond words. Kindred.
You are brief and frail and blue-
Little sisters, I am, too.
You are Heaven’s masterpieces-
Little loves, the likeness ceases.
– Dorothy Parker
We stayed in a marvelous wooden lodge on Stone Lake,
and caroused with family, and drank lots of champagne.
Parties of morel-hunters combed the woods, and brought
back a bounty to be fried up. Fresh asparagus, artichokes,
and strawberry-rhubarb pie. Butter on black bread as dark
as turned earth. This is the way we were born to eat – like
wise peasants who know where to find all the best mushrooms.
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight:
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
– William Shakespeare
Who hath despised the day of small things?
As violets so be I recluse and sweet,
Cheerful as daisies unaccounted rare,
Still sunward-gazing from a lowly seat,
Still sweetening wintry air.
While half-awakened Spring lags incomplete,
While lofty forest trees tower bleak and bare,
Daisies and violets own remotest heat
And bloom and make them fair.
– Christina Rosetti
This little town once made these majestic woodstoves – modern hearths,
designed to sustain a family throughout a long and bitter Michigan winter.
The factory that made this vessel of iron made to hold fire, so carefully ornate,
is now a buckled ruin. A fascinating, haunted place near the train-station,
where I found this beauty. The train rushed by so fast it stopped my heart.
It only stops here twice a day now, though the station is the handsomest
I have ever seen. I envy the woman who works there, in her immaculately
preserved office with elegant bay windows, old wood, tea and the radio on.
I could hear in her voice a deep contentment with her work. She is framed
behind glass at all times, sacrosanct. Her face is dark and gentle. Kind.
The reason for our journey was to celebrate Colin’s grandfather’s 88th birthday.
Jack + Betty, in love for all these years, the two trees which have borne so much
fruit. We watched old home movies of them, standing in fields, gathered at the
old homestead, kissing deeply when they thought no one was watching, laughing,
flickering there – young and large as life for an instant, and then gone. Play it again.
At the big family dinner (which was a mostly hilarious disaster of epic proportions),
I was coaxed into singing Sweet Violets in front of the massive Biek clan, which I did.
Not well, without considering the complicated lyrics, and without the benefit of any
liquid courage to bolster me, but nonetheless I sang, hands shaking – with Marge
and Paul backing me up on Casio keyboards. I would do anything for Betty, my
beloved soon-to-be grandmother in-law. It made her so happy, she even got up
and sang it with me. It is our song, after all… Have you ever heard it? It’s catchy!
Sweeter than the roses
Covered all over from head to toe
Covered all over with sweet violets