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,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open,
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 softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?”

I love Mary Oliver almost as much as I love peonies.

13 comments:

Trée said...

Victoria, I only recently discovered Mary Oliver and have fallen head over heels in love with her poetry. Thanks for bringing a smile to me this morning. Beautiful post.

detroit dog said...

I adore peonies, and have a vase of them sitting on the patio. Am hoping that my white peony finally blooms next year.

Lovely photo.

Dark and very rainy here, too.

Callie said...

I love peonies! But don't like that bog black ants that seem to love them as well. They smell so good!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Your peonies are beautiful. Ours at the farm are starting to bloom too, they are one of the loveliest flowers aren't they.
The Mary Oliver poem is a wonderful tribute.

Kate said...

Mary Oliver is truly wonderful, particularly about the natural world. Thanks for including her poem in your post - your flowers are lovely, and I bet they smell wonderful, too!

deejbrown said...

Between your lovely photos and Mary Oliver (this is also one of my favorites!) I can smell the "honeyed sweetness" of yours and your mother's peonies....

billie said...

I haven't had peonies for many years, but they are so lovely. My cat Yuri was buried beneath a favorite peony bush. He used to lie under it and all you could see were his eyes.

Hope you get some sunshine soon!

marymartha said...

What can be better than Mary Oliver and peonies?
Thanks!

Strawberry Lane said...

Thanks for the visual treat ... peonies! Brings back wonderful memories of my grandmother's garden.

JanB said...

Amen to marymartha's comment!
I'm new to 'blogs' but I LOVE yours. Will be reading from now on. We have a lot in common including peonies and drainage ditches.

Esther Garvi said...

Beautiful flowers! Make me think of my grandmother..

John and Regina Zdravich said...

Peonies are so beautiful...they are about my favorites. I even love them when they start to fall apart -- they have a graceful way of losing their petals.

Janet Roper said...

I love peonies, thank you for brightening my day with the pics and Mary Oliver's poem!
Harmony,
Janet