Thursday, June 11, 2009
The Moment for Peonies
The peonies have opened. It might be grey and raining here in New England, but that didn’t stop them. I remember growing up in the Midwest and being given the important job of watering the peonies every night after the sun set. We had a huge, thick display of them, running across about 100 feet of the backyard. Even as an eight year old, I loved their lush petals and intense perfume. I would carefully aim the hose near the ground so I didn’t damage any of the delicate flowers. The wet grass was cool on my bare toes.
Deep red to almost white, they were my mother's pride and joy. The light pink petals glowed in the dark green, some of them stroked with thin stripes of magenta. Now, in her 95th year, my mother is still delighting in this summer's peonies. She is very protective of them, cutting the stems and arranging them in vases that belonged to both of my grandmothers. We don’t have as many peonies here in our yard as there were in hers, but I hope to add more over the years to come.
I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s wonderful poem, “Peonies”. Here’s the part I like the best:
“the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
I love Mary Oliver almost as much as I love peonies.