Sunday, March 31, 2013


or L'Chaim

An old Taj Mahal song goes, "Remember the feeling as a child, when you woke up and morning smiled?"  I've always loved the song for that line, because I do remember feeling that way as a little girl—running to the window first thing in the morning and looking out, happy that it would be a good day just because the sky was blue. 

Mornings still smile fairly often, but I find that attitude and choice matter more these days than accidents of weather.  Not that blue skies hurt.  No, indeed.  The weather has been glorious lately, and morning, afternoon, and evening have been smiling their little hearts out.  When spring arrives in that spectacular way I always dig out my recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing "Blue Skies"—her incredible joy just goes with the joy of springtime.  Once she's done with the "business" of the first run-through and lets the words fall away, that song is one pure ray of shining light—a toast to life and its extravagant plenty.

Tulipa praestans, mid-March

I remember being stunned once by a critic of Fitzgerald's work; he said her singing lacked passion, because she avoided "deeper," more painful song subjects.  I couldn't believe it.  Since when is joy not a passion?  How can you listen to Fitzgerald and not be swept away with her in the thrill of mastery, of mind and voice and breath working to their utmost, the relish of give-and-take and getting lost in the flow of music, the exuberance of a perfect moment and the knowledge that you helped to create it, the equally awesome knowledge that you did not create it alone, the sheer gusto for that glorious groundswell of life, of NOW—  Good heavens.  Since when is that not passion?

'He Shi Ko' perennial bunching onion (Allium fistulosum)

I was thinking about that while wandering around the garden a couple of weeks ago.  Now, on the last day of March, joy and exuberance can be had for a song, with the muscari and tulips and scilla splashing color into all the corners of the garden, and the biggest sand cherry exploding into blossom while troupes of ipheion dance at its feet.  The cherry's fragrance fills the air, and the bees fly giddily from one of its thousands of flowers to the next.  Oh, yes.  It's hard not to find joy outside right now.

A couple of weeks ago, though, none of that energy had come out into the open yet.

Western sand cherry (Prunus besseyi), two weeks ago

It was still building in hidden places, a groundswell of growth happening behind closed doors.  But even then, when the world was still mostly a brown, dull place, the sheer diversity of Life could astonish:  the power of it, the extravagant, over-the-top, vibrant super-abundance of it.  What amazing variety is to be found as growth begins—the eggs of the sand cherry buds sitting in their cups; the new spring onion leaves contorting to break free of their protective sheaths; the nesting, armored scales of Carolina jessamine, gradually releasing the flower within; the eyes of the angelita daisies peeping through fringed lashes.

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris/Hymenoxys acaulis)
And that's barely a beginning.  We haven't even gotten to the desert olive's knobbly bumps, or the fuzzy catkins blowing from aspen branches, or the boxwood flowers pretending to be leaves right up until the last minute, or the honey locust leaflets unclasping like hands—Well.  I could go on, but I won't.  You have your own spring (or autumn, depending) to wax rhapsodic about.  And if you don't now (I'm looking at you, northerners), have hope.  The day is coming very, very soon.

The day when that groundswell of energy spills out into action, taking you with it—if you let it.  The day when a moment of wonder grabs you and dances you around—if you consent.  The day when you open your eyes to the extravagant plenty on your doorstep and smile back at the morning.

Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

The day when you walk outside, lift your hands like a glass to the clear blue sky, and let mind and body shout, "L'chaim!"


  1. I rarely use the word passion. But I find a true sense of it here.

  2. Oh, yes! Joy and exuberance - that is exactly what we feel each spring. And you touched on the energy that was there a few weeks back, just waiting to burst open when the weather was right. We need to remember that that energy is always there, even if we can't see it. I have been singing in my garden lately, and oh, how wonderful it is to be back doing what one is passionate about. Joy and passion. It's thrilling when those two go hand in hand.

  3. I, too, have been disenchanted by those that criticize joy as not being full of depth or passion simply because it is not expressing a darker emotion. Joy can be just as filled with depth and passion as any other emotion or experience. Your tulips are beautiful. Mine are a few inches up from the ground, and I cannot wait to see them. :)

  4. I can feel the joy behind your words... You make me want to go out into the garden and look at everything just a little bit closer. Spring is bursting forth here, too. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a bud burst open, a petal unfurl? The superabundant energy you write about reminds me of my discovery in January that daffodils had poked through the earth under the base of a concrete bench!

  5. Busy in the garden this afternoon. Our autumn weather smiles kindly on us. We've had a first good rain 20 mm. Sunny skies, neither too hot nor too cool. In the evening we sat together, drinking tea, and looking up at the mountain. Contentment is not a passion, but it is a deep and wide feeling.

  6. Well I am waiting for spring and that groundswell..I do look at the sunrise and it brings me to my core of childlike giddiness and hope for the day!

  7. I had to google that. The only Hebrew word I know is "Shalom". Now I have two words, probably the best two in the language.

  8. Hi Stacy, like bag I had to google the last word too. What a great toast - I shall use it. Yep, I'm afraid us Northerners are looking right back at you - and shivering and yearning. We had snow again yesterday - my tomato seedlings are mightily fed up and grumpy. I'll go play some Ella - that'll cheer me up (as did your post). Dave

  9. Hi Stacy, we've had a long string of sunny days that has helped to mitigate the cold winds. I've even managed to spend some quality time tending to the over-wintering plants and the garden. While the sun has helped move some plants on, it is still cold, but there is an inevitability in the air of warmer weather and Spring flowers. Changes are happening and I just know I'm going to be swept away once the season really gets going.

  10. Stacy, Ella is an all time favorite and she had buckets of joyful passion. Spring has finally reached the northeast and all but small patches of snow have melted under blue skies and a warm sun. It is an amazingly joyful time but that can make us feel low when thinking of so many others who do not mark their days by what is unfolding in their gardens. We must cherish it all the more. Happy Spring to YOU! I have missed your beautiful writing and rich photography. Carol

  11. Wonderful post, you write with the same joyful passion that Ella sings with. I am waking up smiling at the smiling days at the moment because the weather has finally warmed up and, with perfect timing, I have regained a little energy so I get to play outside. Even now, with the sky leaden with threatening rain, I am smiling because buds, tightly furled until just a few days ago, are unfurling and revealing beautiful blossom.

  12. I'm a morning person, so my mornings generally smile. But at this time of year, they are especially joyful. Not only do I wake up to light and birdsong, but I rush to the window first thing to look out at the garden and see what's happening. And my walks to work are just spring beauties followed by spring beauties. Love it! -Jean