Sunday, March 29, 2009

Watering the plants

Watering the plants this morning
watching the stream of water

pour out from the hole
in the bottom of the pot

watching until it started

to break up into streaks

and then drops

individual, shimmering,
radiant spheres,
drops that are so,
so beautiful,
I can’t even tell you,

so beautiful.

May 24, 2008

Thursday, March 26, 2009

With Thanks to William O. Douglas

Sau and I took a walk on the Canal near Old Angler’s Inn on Saturday, where the tree branches are still bare and the only true sign of spring was the number of us homo sapiens out digging the sunshine.

‘The Canal’ I’m referring to is the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal on the north bank of the Potomac River, which begins in Rock Creek Park, Georgetown in Washington, DC and ends 184.5 miles later in Cumberland, Maryland. Built in the early to mid-19th century, it was used to transport goods on barges pulled along by mules on the bordering towpath and guided through a series of locks that closed and raised the water level 75 times to bring the barges up to grade. Ingenious!

It nearly vanished, between the many floods that have washed over it and the plans to convert it to a parkway-- but was saved in 1954 by the conservationist Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and eventually became a National Historic Park.

Douglas believed in the concept of legal standing for nature. He talks about ships having legal stature in maritime law, and says,

“.... So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes - fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it."

From the landmark environmental law case, Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972)

Don’t worry! I looked up ‘water ouzels’ already, and found out that this is another name for the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) reported on the website Yosemite Explorer to be John Muir’s favorite bird. There is a charming description of the bird’s unusual behavior—apparently it dives straight into rushing water hunting insects—and includes videos and still photos if you are eager to see:

Sau and I walked on the Canal towpath for hours, laughing and discussing our dreams, as only dear sister-friends can. We saw a blue heron flying, striking with its unusually wide wing span and long, skinny legs trailing out behind.

Sublime day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Procession: The Bishop's Garden

The Bishop's Garden, for those of you who don't know it, is a cloistered garden tucked into the Close of the Washington National Cathedral, beyond the south facade. It was constructed in the 1920's under the aegis of Florence Bratenhal and Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. (who also did Central Park) and was conceived an "an urban oasis". Mission accomplished. The bones of the garden are so fine, it is exquisitely satisfying even in dead of winter, when husks of herbs and bare branches stand out wonderfully against the evergreen boxwood and yew. There's a hortulus with a Carolingean font amidst the lavendar and rosemary, a lovely shadow house, lush perennial borders in the summer, indeed, a discovery with every step. Go of an afternoon with a book and find a bench in the dappled sunlight. Daily worries be gone, in the sanctuary of the garden.

Images from a chilly Saturday, March 14: white-flowering quince (chaenomoles) in front of a stone wall; Heinz Warneke's Prodigal Son near a pinkish-white star magnolia (magnolia stellata 'Rosea'); and near the shadow house, an autumn flowering cherry (
prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'), which by rights should be called 'spring & autumn flowering cherry', since it flowers in two seasons. Note the fellow visitor, who was so enthusiastic he/she was eating the magnolia blossoms!

To learn more about visiting, click here.

Spring 2009: the Procession Continues

Walking home from work on March 6: on Ingomar Street: 'Pickwick' crocuses and 'Ice Follies' daffodils. On Belt Road, prunus incam x 'Okame', Okame cherry tree.

Call and response

Across the quiet of a Sunday morning
bright chirping of sparrows
deep notes of the dove
call and response.
The winter wind intervenes
a strong gust silencing the birdsong.
And yet the first chords have sounded
the magnificent procession
of spring.

February 10, 2008

A Sortie through the Season: Spring Arrives

In Washington, spring is a very long, elegant season, a stately progression, with the first harbingers in January, and continuing into May. Shortly after President Obama's inauguration, winter flowering jasmine, jasminum nudiflorum, opened its golden trumpet-shaped blooms, followed closely, and certainly before Valentine's Day, by Chinese witch-hazel, hamamelis mollis. The later is beloved of botanists for its early and fragrant flowers, golden threads that roll up like party favors when threatened by frost, to emerge unscathed on a better day. The fragrance is a combination of citrus and honey, light and delicious. Many early-flowering plants are fragrant- a reward for surviving the dark days?

This year, I'm photographing the forward progress of spring, first installment herewith. Above, see a Chinese witch-hazel photographed in the serpentine garden next to the Smithsonian and a pink
flowering apricot, prunus mume, one of two in front of the Air & Space Museum, on March 1st. Note a dusting of snow on the ground!