To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
A small, not particularly interesting glass bottle nestles among the fallen leaves in my garden—one of the "interactive features" I wrote about some time ago. It is filled with dried foliage and flowers from the summer garden—the musty, honey-scented leaves of catmint and creeping germander, the mild apple of chamomile blossoms, and the clean bite of spearmint. As I was meandering around outside over the weekend I paused to open the bottle, and like a genie released from confinement, the essence of summer drifted out to greet me. It spoke dreamily of warm, leisurely afternoons, the feel of a breeze on bare skin, the hum of honeybees in sage blossoms.
I suppose it was the way the dried leaves acted as an aide-mémoire—and possibly the thought of bees—that called Emily Dickinson's recipe for a prairie to mind and set it spinning the last few days. In her poem a whiff of fragrance, a sound, and inner resource come together to create a vast, fertile expanse of a world, a world as large as the Great Plains with their skies and their meadowlarks, a world of small, secret lives and endless growing grasses. (Dickinson does not seem to be interested in making a January sort of prairie.) I love her confidence in the power of reverie—and not only her own but her readers', too. She fully expects you to be able to create a world from within; she offers you the prompts of clover and bee, but knows that you don't really need them. She distills prairie life to its essence and then tells you that even that is superfluous.
To create a summer, on the other hand, a little bottle of leaves and the occasional photograph are quite helpful. Perhaps the process of buying seeds and looking ahead to the growing season is to blame, or maybe the way the dried leaves and seed pods in the garden (the "four-season interest" ones) are starting to get weathered and misshapen, but suddenly things look more than brown here—they look dreary. The old is ready to give way to the new, or rather, I am ready for it to do so, but patience is still in order. In the meantime, I suppose reverie will do.
Because bees are few.