Friday, February 1, 2013

Mercer by Morning

It's not my hundred-acre wood; yet it makes a good stand-in in this suburban wasteland of green anoles and mockingbirds and cats and dogs and grass like a weathered welcome mat all around. Instead of reminding me of poetry, of which I know very little to heart, the garden reminds of specificities and ephemera from my own history.

My mother grew azaleas in the back of the house when I was little, when my bedroom formed the back wall and had a window on the backyard. Azaleas don't seem to care much for the clay soil but they do like blue Miracle-Gro dissolved like plant Kool-aid and sprayed on them in season. It wasn't until a few years ago that we traveled to her home town for a funeral and Dad drove us around their old neighborhood that I realized that azaleas looooove Port Arthur. They were not what I took away from vacations to my grandparents, however. Those were Pink Lady bubblegum slushies, green tomatoes off the vine with salt, soda in small glass bottles, tuna-noodle salad (today's lunch) and a gothic sense of family dynamics. Azalea season at Mercer reminds me to call Mom instead of long for family vacations.

The ephemera arrives as we move beyond the azalea banks and come to the velvet petunias, whose purple and cream streaks remind me of fruit and cream lifesavers and make me hungry for fake grape--the flavor of a bank lollipop, rough and sugary from the plastic, or the smell of a scented sticker ripe from the roll. This is the reason that I have "wine" candles in my bedroom. Purple grape is one of my favorite flavors/scents and it wraps around the back of my tongue while I'm looking at the petunias. I wonder what flavors hummingbirds find at the throats of the flowers at which they drink.

There isn't a concession stand in the arboretum. If you're on this side of the trail system, you're not supposed to be eating or drinking anything. The sun is warm and thoughts of grape slushies are making me too thirsty to linger, even among the red & white camellias. Instead, I head to the frog pond.

The tiny frogs in this dark plastic pond the size of a large bathtub are relaxing to observe, provided you don't startle them all into splashing into the water before you realize they are there. I've been practicing quiet approaches for days now just to stand at the edge and stare at them as they float with their eyes and nose above the surface of the water. Although I'm not a fan of the heat, the frogs are making me long for pool weather and the ability to float just like that while on vacation in LJ. Just relaxing into stillness to try to get a good photo lets me relax and ignore everything else going on around us. Part of me is worried about snakes (there are lots of yummy frogs not three feet from me), but I'm hoping it's too cold for them yet. Float, breathe, float, breathe. Watch the ripples to guess where the others are hiding. Lift the camera, focus on the eyeballs focused on you, click. Breathe.

After a bit, the hammering of the woodpeckers and the calls of the cardinals slips into focus and the trees and bushes are busy with birds. The day loses interest in you and moves on, while you float your camera to your eyes and breathe.

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