Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Vibrations

or Sympathetic Resonance

Sometimes you just wish you could have been Ella Fitzgerald.  If you could sing like that even for one song—if you could have a voice with that range and agility and athleticism, that mastery and confidence, the sheer exuberance, that joy—you'd feel like you were really living.  The longest I've ever managed to sound like Ella is for one note, and that with the aid of a certain shower stall, which happened to resonate nicely at a particular pitch where I did, too.  Whenever I hit that pitch just right the shower turned my voice from ho-hum sweet to Fitzgerald fantastic.  But only at that particular pitch, alas.

Sympathetic resonance has such an amazing power to turn the ordinary extraordinary, at least while the moment of resonance lasts.  I've been thinking about that this week while enjoying the patio after work.  Most of the season's chores in the garden are done, ahead of the summer heat, and for now I am free to relax in the Adirondack chair, feet up, the neighbors' intermittent cat in my lap.  The afternoons have been golden ones, with easy breezes and wonderful skies; they have unfolded in slow, shining spans, with time to enjoy iced spearmint tea, to linger over Dylan Thomas' poetry (thanks for the suggestion, Girl Sprout!), to wave honeybees gently on their way.

The sun has moved far enough north by now that some parts of the "dry riverbed"-ish sort of bed beside the patio are sunlit in the late afternoon.  Even the areas that don't receive direct light have an extra glow, reflected off the terra-cotta colored walls.  Just beyond the reach of direct sun but well within that ambient glow is a patch of 'Mersea Yellow' pineleaf penstemon.

A cheerful mess of flowers

It's not an altogether pleasing patch—the plants have a haphazard untidiness that bothers me, although they might be less untidy if they didn't have to wrestle quite so often with the neighbors' kiddie pool, which blows over the wall during serious windstorms—but I do love their soft, evergreen leaves and the Art nouveau curves to the bud stems.

Generally speaking the flowers are a fine but unremarkable yellow; when that afternoon glow sets in, however, they turn radiant.  They catch onto the diffuse terra-cotta orange and sun-gold, and the sympathetic resonance between them all brings the flowers to life.  They're not "lit from within," but they gleam with the light around them.  Looking at that living color, those vibrant golden tongues, I find myself craving fresh mangoes, and I wouldn't say no to a peach.

My photos don't do the color justice; the flowers just look everyday yellow.  I shall have to learn how to adjust the light balance in my camera beyond "cloudy" and "sunny," so that it doesn't wrest the colors back to its own idea of normal.  But I know that half the reason these afternoons have seemed so golden is that the penstemon beside the Adirondack chair, while picking up the light around it, has also resonated with my own mood of enjoyment.  I'm not entirely sure which has produced which.

I just know that both are more intense for the resonance.


  1. I might have to listen to "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book" at work tomorrow. The foliage photo reminds of the Matisse painting, La Danse. Many thanks for the link back.

  2. Nice photos...beautiful flowers. Your post makes me want to sit in the garden and read some Dylan Thomas' poetry as well.

  3. Dylan Thomas is one of the few poets that I can hear ... that I can hold his words in my mind. Especially Under Milk Wood!

  4. Girl Sprout, Ella Fitzgerald at work can only make the day more enjoyable.

    TSB, thank you--gardens and poetry go together well, I find.

    Diana, aren't the rhythms and resonance in his work amazing?

  5. Beautiful. Sigh....... so restful. Thanks for sharing!

  6. A lyrical post. I felt like I was right there with you. I'm not familiar with that variety of penstemon, but it's beautiful. Mmm. mangoes ...

    I, too, struggle to get the camera to capture the beauty of what I'm seeing with my eye. It doesn't seem to respond the subtleties of light the way I do. But I'm still working to train it (or myself) :)

  7. Elaine, I'm so glad to think this gives you a moment of rest!

    Sheila, I hadn't encountered the pinifolius types of penstemons until I moved here, but they seem fairly adaptable. Mmm, yes, mangoes... :)

    There does seem to be a difference between "taking a good photo" and "capturing a moment," doesn't there? Like I think you're suggesting, our own expectations sometimes come into play in ways that aren't always helpful!

  8. Stacy, I'm nuts for yellows, and your photos didn't look ordinary to me! I've been dividing my time between sitting on the deck in that relaxed state enjoying the weather and the garden and furiously trying to complete all those spring maintenance tasks in my Maine garden. -Jean

  9. Lovely Stacy! I too have been known . . . in the past . . . to sing Ella tunes and to read Dylan . . . both being rather blue . . . golden moments and how I envy you having garden work finished . . . I must have misread that . . . mine is never done. Your yellow Penstemon is up-lifting and beautifully captured with your eye.