Sunshine on a cloudy day

Spring is being to seem like the “skipped season.” Winter stalked us right through April. Since then, the temperature has been fluctuating wildly: high 80s one day, then plummeting 20 to 30 degrees the next. I hate those wild swings. They’re as hard on my temperament (sorry, everyone I love) as they are on my bones, joints, and sinuses.

But who’s complaining? Our early rhododendron were the loveliest they’ve ever been. I had to replant rosemary and parsley, but all of the other herbs soldiered through the winter and are looking just fine. The Irish yews in the back, the ones Hubby calls “shrimpies,” are bolting. The roses are budding and stretching out across the trellises. The hostas are gorgeous. Everything in the pots looks happy and stable, at least so far.

Here in the US, the second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day.

We spent it with the kids. The plan was brunch, then an excursion to see the azaleas in full flower at Jenkins Arboretum. It was raining—not pouring, not storming, but the kind of slow, steady you’d beg for in mid-July. I wasn’t overly anxious to tramp around in the rain, but the kids convinced me. We’d been there before on Mother’s Day, several years ago, and I remembered well what a lovely place it is. We pulled out the umbrellas and set out.

Azalea Hill, it turns out,  may have been ever lovelier than it is on a sunny day. First, we practically had the arboretum to ourselves. Other mothers, apparently, were not as willing to tramp around in the rain. Second, sunshine, much as we all crave it, can be a distraction. More than one gifted photographer I’ve known has expressed a preference for the subtle light of a cloudy day. The colors were not only beautifully vivid against the gray sky, but also impossible to miss.

Note to self: Even the grayest day holds pleasures. Don’t be an old you-know-what.

Note to readers: Jenkins Arboretum is a stunning, calming oasis. If you’re within a few hours of Philadelphia, check the link above and plan a visit.





Simple gifts

I believe it was Helen Keller who said, “”Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” Helen Keller, of course, couldn’t see at all—at least not with her eyes. Still, it’s pretty good advice, don’t you think?

A field of sunflowers is uncommon in my little corner of the world. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that hundreds of sunflowers had burst into full bloom in a nearby patch of  field,  little more than a stone’s throw from my house.

Everyday I see people of all ages stopping by to take pictures or just have a look as these wonderful flowers turn their faces to the sun. In fact, girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, and tournesol, the French word, mean exactly that: turned to the sun. The local restauranteur who planted the field hadn’t expected such an over-the-top response to something she thought would just be a fun thing to do. Even the local TV cameras showed up. Turns out that, without much expectation or even intent, she gave a fairly priceless gift to the whole community.

In a world that seems reliably crazier every day, the simplest gifts count the most.



It won’t be long…

Bedecked, festooned, adorned. Pick your favorite over-the-top adjective. Come summer,   there are flowers everywhere you turn in Québec city. And, just as I’ve often observed in Maine, the perennials seem more vivid, more lush. Perhaps because they know they’re appreciated more when summer starts late and ends too soon???