Butterflies never really seem to have a plan. The monarchs and other migratory species must have one, deep down, to be able to make it between points A and B every year. Generally, though, linear progress and butterflies don't seem to go together. At first glance it's all flutter and drift with them, even when they're feeding, sometimes even when they've come to rest. I was surprised the other day, then, to see a cabbage white flying in circles around the garden—purposeful circles, even if they were a little ruffly. Normally they flutter in over the wall, flutter back out on a puff of wind, flutter in, lay eggs on the arugula, drift for a few seconds, flutter back over the wall. This one, though, made six or seven strong (if ruffly) laps before alighting somewhere near the rue and disappearing in the foliage. I still have no idea what that was all about.
Later that day, a hummingbird made the rounds from one desert olive to the others, circling each tree before moving on to the next. No ruffles or drifting for him, no sirree: this was all aggressive reconnoitering, as if he were looking for rivals; he came close to assaulting a goldfinch before remembering himself. (Hummers: not easy neighbors for the small fry.) He, too, made several laps, but then kicked into warp drive and winked out.
|Cotula 'Tiffindell Gold'|
We've probably all sung rounds at some point in our lives: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or "Hey, Ho, Nobody Home." Singing them is a kind of sport, like kicking a ball around with a group of friends.
|Only usually without lives hanging in the balance.|
Rounds can be artistically satisfying, too. I love the sense of growth as one voice "waterfalls" into another, and the liquid seamlessness once all the voices are engaged. I also love the sense of sharing, as you exchange parts of the melody and hear how the same tune sounds from another voice. Rounds don't really go anywhere, of course, except back to the beginning over and over, but you can stop whenever you like, and in the meantime the harmonies that result are sweet.
|Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)|
Time in the garden moves in circles and lines. We look forward to the seasons' turning and the return of old friends among the flora, and enjoy the ritual quality of seasonal chores: trimming back dead growth at the end of winter, tidying away the faded tulip leaves in spring. But we also want to see signs of progress: to see gaps fill in and trees mature, to have our gardens bear fruit and ripen.
|Western sand cherry (Prunus besseyi)|
I've been thinking about cycles and progress, rounds and growth, as I embark on my third year of blogging this week. Tomorrow Microcosm will turn two. The passage of another year astonishes me. The first felt like a gigantic milestone; this one hardly feels like a marker at all. Maybe having written about the garden twice through the cycle of seasons, I'm not keeping each one as straight in my mind. Or maybe, having shared ideas and gardens and comments with readers and with fellow bloggers, it's harder to remember where one voice leaves off and another begins. All of those actions blend seamlessly together.
Individual posts of Microcosm remind me more of ruffly butterfly circles than they do of obsessive, no-frills, take-no-prisoners (except for maybe an accidental goldfinch) hummingbird flights. Garden blogging as a whole, though, reminds me of singing rounds—complex ones, like "Sumer is icumen in", with its multiple canons sounding at the same time. In both forms ideas come around again as the seasons or the phrases turn; they share a sense of exchange, and of unexpected harmony resulting from separate melodies. They also share a sense of community that is a little apart from "real" life but that still reaches out to it.
|'Mesa Verde' iceplant (Delosperma 'Kelaidis' aka 'Mesa Verde')|
Garden blogging follows the cycles of the garden, of course. As with the garden, though, I'm also finding myself hungry for growth. Not in viewing numbers—I am so happy with you, my community of friends!—but in style, perhaps. Do any other bloggers feel that way? (And if so, does it pass?) I don't have any particular plan in mind; things are all flutter and drift here. Maybe I'll try a joint venture or two, or some exploration of plant biology or the history of my little plot of earth, or some New Mexico ecology. Or maybe a fictional account from the perspective of a cabbage moth making ruffly circles around a very small garden. (What was that all about?) Something to fill in the gaps, to grow and bear fruit and ripen. In the meantime, sumer is icumen in.
And what a pleasure it is, as the days stretch out and the garden beckons, to engage my voice with yours.