by Kathleen Dolan
Having moved from the west, where I've always lived, to further, farthest west, I've planted myself here on this peninsula in a small house surrounded by an acre and a half of sea-saturated greenery. The pervasive, varied greens, dominated by the somber towers of the spruce woods to the south and along the northern boundary of my property, are relieved here and there by fruit (mostly berries) or flower, punctuations of sweetness, miniature beacons to appetite, visual or visceral.
To have emerged from all this green languor! To have pushed through this green entanglement to open in such dense air seems a prodigious feat, I think, as I look around me in May, or October, or February - the emergence of colors other than green seems to suggest a primordial leap into another state of being.
In the garden itself: the white blossoms of the Rugosa 'alba' rose, undemanding of strong sunlight, the exclamatory pink of Rose Campion, the garish oranges and yellows of the rambunctuous nasturtiums, tenderly rampant across and through all obstacles, pushing against sheds, climbing the porch, edging into the road and across the gravel and threatening to smother the asparagus. The salmon pink of an Oriental poppy, the sulpherous yellow of the Evening Primrose, the pale violet of the catmint, all struggling out of the mud or sand, into the floating world, into a dream of flowering, of heat and light and fragrance.
I am trying not to move, trying to remain still in order to simply watch this beetle, this tiny delicate ping of red make her way up her pliant green tower, a tiny jewel beading the stalk of wild grass that everywhere roughens the texture of my garden. I shift my gaze to other small creatures who seem to dance in the sublit air above and between the blooming stalks which surround me, while the seed or blossom aspirant moves up from the earth into more air and light. At the same time something very small hums suspended above the poppies like a spider on a thread of air.
I remain still, watching with helpless gratitude and delight, like a humbled god watching her angels ascend or dance in the humming, dazzling air, the air alive with homeybees, yellow-faced bumblebees, dragonflies, and damselflies: River Jewelwing, Western Red Damsel, Vivid Dancer. And at dusk something new arrives, something I haven't seen or noticed before: a hummingbird moth - is that what it is? It seems too accurate and darting for a moth, too small and dusk-loving for a bird. Barely visible, methodically cruising the yellow blossoms of the Evening Primrose and nasturtium vines. Its form is vague, ghostly - only its movements are precise.
On either side of me where I meander in my own maze are mounds of earth, small, contrived herbaceous hills where once the ground was level. Hillocks, berms. The path through the garden winds between these mounds which I've planted chaotically with climbing peas, English shrub roses, corn (a failure), hardy geraniums, red runner beans, catmint, garlic, lilies, onions, and more and more peas - "Capuciner's Purple Pod" and "Oregon Pioneer" running vigorously up six-foot bamboo poles or twiggy spruce branches. Daylilies, Calla Lilies, verbena, artichokes, Queen Anne's Lace, turnips, Clarkia, Borage and rogue tomato vines whose small green fruit, like the stunted ears of corn, will never really ripen, seeds lodging themselves in the soil to produce another futile crop the following year.
Giant fennel, yarow, poppies: a) Rhoeas, b) Nudicaule, c) Somniferum, d) Orientale. In a few weeks the yellow of the emerging bronze fennel blossoms will clash wildly with the purple wand-tip of the verbena, making me wince, then shrug.