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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

tulips multicolored bed

After this long, gray, lingering winter, the spring in Cambridge has surprised me, as it does every year. This is my seventh spring in New England, and each time it feels entirely new: the slow budding of the bare trees, the first crocuses and snowdrops, the daffodils sprouting up in flowerbeds and in glorious scattered patches along the Charles River.

daffodils charles river cambridge spring

Though we had some warm days early in the season, it has been unrelentingly chilly for weeks: the skies heavy with lowering clouds, the wind whipping off the river, the rain pouring down. As a descendant of two farming families who also grew up in a near-desert region, I hesitate to complain about the rain – especially this year, when we needed it badly to make up for last summer’s drought. But it has left my spirits sodden, my heart disconsolate. I crave the sunshine like a cat, or a sunflower.

scilla flowers sunlight cambridge ma

I have taken lots of long walks, this winter and spring, around Cambridge with a friend who loves the flowers and trees as much as I do. We have watched, together, for every scrap of color and new life: first the snowdrops and crocuses, then the daffodils and hellebores, the gold forsythia and tiny blue scilla, the blooming cherry and redbud trees.

redbud blue sky brick building

Now we’re onto the tulips – my favorite – and the lilacs, which are truly stunning this year. I can’t walk down the sidewalk without stopping to sniff them. Lilies of the valley, shy and dainty, are peering out from under their curving leaves. The azaleas are out in force and the rhododendrons are budding. And the dogwood trees – creamy white and rich, vivid pink – are breathtaking.

dogwood pink flowers blue sky green leaves

It feels inconsequential, sometimes, to pay attention to trees and flowers when the headlines are shouting dismay and destruction, when heartbreak and strain are pressing in on all sides. There is so much going on, both in the world and in the lives of people I love: surgeries, cross-country moves, national security breaches. Job stress, political turmoil, the ache of endings and beginnings, so much fear and pain. All of it, or nearly all of it, beyond my power to mend.

tulips lily of the valley tree roots

I know that snapping photos of flowers, or buying bouquets of them for my desk, won’t solve these larger struggles. Some days I despair of finding enough hope to move forward, though I know in my bones that is the only thing to do.

lilacs may

But on other days, as my friend Jet noted recently, the sky is “a saving kind of blue.” The leaves of the pin oaks are an electric yellow-green, zinging with life. The cherry blossoms pile up along the streets in pink snowdrifts. The white lilacs carry their own scent along with a hint of honeysuckle. And on these days, the very act of stopping to gaze, to sniff, to snap a photo – in other words, to pay attention – is the thing that is saving my life now.

azalea bush

I say this every year: I don’t want to miss it. I want to stay awake, to notice every bit of beauty. I want to be right here, to soak up this glorious, brief season, to walk with open eyes through this neighborhood I love so well. I want to be open to it, all of it. Even when it makes my heart ache.

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pink tulips boston public garden spring 2017

This spring weather, y’all. I don’t even know. We’ve had temperature swings worthy of my native West Texas: 80s and humid, 40s and raining, nearly every point in between. Swift-moving clouds, flashes of sunshine, sudden downpours and so much misty rain.

In some ways, the weather is reflecting the state of my soul: fitful, unsettled, often unpredictable. I am dealing with a lot of recent transitions and the fallout from the past year-plus of big changes. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep up, brew myself a cup of tea and keep going. (Donia Bijan’s words about “the only thing to do” are running through my head every single day.)

In that spirit, I decided it was time for another list of what’s saving my life now: because something, or someone, always is. My lifesavers, in this topsy-turvy spring, include:

  • That benediction I love at Morning Prayers on Tuesdays. “May God go before us to lead us…”
  • My favorite black ankle boots: good for nearly all weather and comfortable for long walks.
  • Poetry by John Daniel, John Terpstra and Brian Doyle.
  • A recent visit from some beloved college friends and their little boy.
  • Tulips in all shades of lipstick red and pink. (See above, for evidence from the Boston Public Garden.)
  • Also: budding lilacs. The first lilies of the valley. Every new green leaf I see.

lilacs may

  • Playing Twenty Questions with my friends’ 10-year-old twins the other night and laughing ourselves silly. (Partly because they’re still figuring out how it works.)
  • The wise, funny, earnest Senior Talks at Morning Prayers, given by graduating students as we wrap up for the year.
  • My daily walks around Harvard Square to my places, especially the florist and my beloved Darwin’s.
  • Lauren Winner’s wise words about middles.
  • My umbrella, fingerless gloves and sunglasses, all of which I’ve been keeping handy. (See also: crazy weather.)
  • Long, long walks around Cambridge with a dear friend.
  • The hilarious sixth installment in Jodi Taylor’s series about time-traveling historians. (I’m the crazy person cracking up on the train, reading it.)
  • Unexpected moments of connection with friends and strangers.
  • As always: lots and lots of tea.

What’s saving your life these days? Please feel free to share in the comments.

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tulip hyacinth leaves spring
Today

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

 

I love Collins’ work, but had forgotten about this poem until my friend Louisa shared it at our book club last fall. Now that we are into spring (however fitful and rainy), it feels like the perfect time to share these lines with you.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry on Fridays here this month.

(more…)

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tree buds red brick harvard yard

It’s a grey, gloomy day in early April. I’ve stayed home from work with a bad cold, and all afternoon, I’ve been listening to the slow drip, drip of rain outside. The purple tulips in their vase on my kitchen table are growing leggy; they’re reaching out, bending and stretching crookedly, for the light that is in short supply today.

We are nearing the end–I hope–of a winter that has felt long, even though we haven’t had too much snow by our usual Boston standards. One arctic blast in December and a couple more since the New Year left our teeth chattering in single-digit temps, but those frigid spells haven’t lasted long. And the snowstorms, though fierce, have been few and far between. We even had a couple of 60-degree days in late February.

What I’m missing, in these early spring days, is the light.

I’m over at the Art House America blog today (where I write occasionally), talking about my efforts to watch for the light in this season. Please join me over there to read the rest of my piece.

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lilacs flowers rain

That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

As soon as the snow melts, I’m poised and ready: watching for the first spears of snowdrops and crocuses, the first buds on the trees, the first leaves on the bushes. Spring in New England is a wonder every year, and I keep an eye out for it, snapping photos on my daily rounds of Harvard Square and wherever else I happen to be.

purple hyacinth

Sometimes I share those flower photos on Instagram or here on the blog, but this year I’ve also been sharing them on Twitter, as part of the Sunday #FlowerReport.

orange-tulips-public-garden

My friend Alyssa, a writer and professional delight-er who lives in Austin, anchors the #FlowerReport, which consists of people sharing photos of gorgeous blooms. We have “correspondents” from all over the U.S. and a handful of other countries, and I love seeing what people spot on their walks, in their gardens or on their kitchen tables.

red ranunculus table

Occasionally someone will share a shot of an unknown species and ask for help in identifying it. (I did this recently with a photo of what turned out to be tradescantia, or spiderwort.) I love the friendly spirit on the thread; the more experienced flower-spotters are always willing to help us amateurs out. And there is so much beauty.

dogwood tree brick wall

The #FlowerReport taps into one of the central refrains of my adult life: I am always trying to pay attention. It’s so easy to get distracted by my phone or my to-do list or my latest worries, but I am constantly trying to stay awake to this rich, messy, glorious, complicated world.

alliums boston public garden

This is maybe a bit easier in the spring, when the natural world is waking up and shouting for our attention with its vivid, gorgeous color. But I still need a reminder every so often. And the #FlowerReport is there like a nudge: What did you see today? Can you show us?

daffodils dachshund table

We have moved from snowdrops and crocuses through tulips and daffodils, on to lilacs, dogwoods and lilies of the valley. Now we are approaching summer, with azaleas, rhododendrons and the first few irises, peonies and roses. I love watching the different flowers appear, and it’s so much fun to share them with this little corner of the Internet.

white tulips boston public garden

If you love flowers or need a bit of beauty in your life, come join us. We’ll be there on Sunday.

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orange-tulips-public-garden

“I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace.

red tulips boston public garden

“Their faint, delicate scent is refinement itself; and is there anything in the world more charming than the sprightly way they hold up their little faces to the sun?

multicolored-tulips-willow

“I have heard them called bold and flaunting, but to me they seem modest grace itself, only always on the alert to enjoy life as much as they can and not afraid of looking the sun or anything else above them in the face.”

—Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and her German Garden

yellow-tulips-light

It is tulip season in the Boston Public Garden, and I took these photos one night last week, when I wandered down there after work.

white tulips boston public garden

I agree completely with von Arnim about tulips, and am loving every glimpse of their graceful heads, bobbing on tall, slender stalks. (And that spring light is simply glorious.)

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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

We eat a lot of soup around here, especially during the colder months: tomato, black bean, Tuscan sausage, creamy jalapeño. I could seriously live on soup all winter, though the hubs might protest eventually.

These days, we’re mixing a few spring recipes into our menu rotation: a side of sautéed asparagus, a meal of bruschetta on a recent open-window evening. But the nights are still cool enough that I’m making soup frequently. And there’s a spicy carrot-ginger soup – filling but still light and savory – that I’m reaching for on a regular basis.

In case you need a break from your winter soups, but still want something to take the edge off these brisk spring evenings, I thought I’d share it with you.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Epicurious)
(Major changes: I adjusted the spices, skipped the onions, and swapped in olive oil for peanut oil because my husband is allergic to peanuts. My version is below.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder (or more/less to taste)

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Greek yogurt (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add coriander, ginger and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add carrots; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches (or using an immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot; season with salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with Greek yogurt and serve. (The cool, creamy tang of the yogurt really brings out the warm, spicy flavors here.)

Enjoy!

What are your favorite soups (or other dishes) to make in the spring?

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