Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Five Dollars Will Buy You a Rainbow

Friday's sunshine lit my face leaving a warm tinge across my cheeks. I tossed my shawl across the back seat so the light could fall across my shoulders as we drove. We headed north into a beautiful spring day of blue skies, eager to reach the tulip fields in Skagit County. These fields are grown only for the bulbs which will be sold. One day they will be blooming in gardens across the country. We have been visiting these tulip fields for years, even before we married. It is a special occasion for us when we make this pilgrimage north.

This is the first year we could not have our annual picnic of delicious Dungeness crab sandwiches. The crabmeat is shredded across bread which has been drizzled with some kind of yummy relish spread. Plain, simple, and delicious. Reidel's, where we bought these sandwiches, has been torn down; the right of eminent domain toppled a store where we shopped every time we were in the valley. Yes, even Skagit county is growing. Busy lives demand wider highways for quicker access. Visitors to the tulip and art festivals in the area and those headed to Anacortes which sits west of Burlington on the water probably created traffic jams. Now we are unable to find the saltwater taffy, garden whirl-a-gigs, windchimes, homemade Chow-Chow, pepper jellies, and BBQ sauces. They are all GONE. Berry preserves, mustards, marinades, and salad dressings that once lined the shelves along the back of the shop can't be found in local stores. We must order Chow-Chow from Dillard, Georgia and pay for shipping. We had said Goodbye and were prepared for this void since we learned about the plan last year after a whale watching trip to Anacortes, but we were sad to see the stark asphalt now storing only highway equipment instead of hosting our favorite general store.

Even though it seems each year that there are less tulip fields than we once found in La Conner, we are always so stunned by the vivid colors which await us that volume seems insignificant. Snow covered Cascades rise in the background, and fields of tulips and daffodils dance lightly in the currents of air which move into the valley from the Sound. Flower pickers create bouquets for tourists to purchase at small stands near the fields. Five dolllars will buy you a rainbow. Photographers stroll along the paths, enthralled like we are with the colors and shapes. The way sections of color move into another is like waves in the ocean becoming one body of water. A wide pathway seems headed straight into the northern Cascades. Country barns decorate the distant fields, and large stands of trees and grassy meadows surround the purples, pinks, reds, and yellows. It is surreal. It focuses you on the magical gifts of nature. It compels you to come back each year.

Along the way we found a public garden across from one of the tulip fields and decided to explore. We were alone in the garden. In the stillness of the late afternoon we found a very old cherry tree with withered, tangled arms still pink with blossoms. Beyond it other trees leaned in odd angles to the ground, beautiful in their asymmetry. A wooden bench invited meditation and silent appreciation. Early blooming rhododendrons, tulips and daffodils were scattered about the garden. Pure serenity, a quiet treasure, this perfect gift of nature brought another perspective to the day's journey.

Springtime lights the country in magnificent colors, but the Pacific Northwest is remarkably radiant at the moment, and we love to watch her glow! Consider a visit and see for yourself.

All photography is from our private collection and cannot be reproduced or used in any manner without our explicit and written permission.
Photographs were taken in La Conner, Washington
in the Skagit Valley region of the state.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Before A Departure In Spring - Merwin

Before A Departure in Spring

Once more it is April with the first light sifting
through the young leaves heavy with dew making the colors
remember who they are the new pink of the cinnamon tree
the gilded lichens of the bamboo the shadowed bronze
of the kamani and the blue day opening
as the sunlight descends through it all like the return
of a spirit touching without touch and unable
to believe it is here and here again and awake
reaching out in silence into the cool breath
of the garden just risen from darkness and days of rain
it is only a moment the birds fly through it calling
to each other and are gone with their few notes and the flash
of their flight that had vanished before we ever knew it
we watch without touching any of it and we
can tell ourselves only that this is April this is the morning
this never happened before and we both remember it

W. S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927. His mother was orhphaned and eventually lost her brother and her first child; loss was prevalent in her life. His father grew up in an abusive home where violence was displayed. Sentiments of these influences are found in Merwin's work, especially in his early poetry. He grew up in Union City, New Jersey, and in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Merwin attended Princeton University and traveled throughout Europe working as a tutor and later found work as a translator. While living in England Merwin and his second wife, Dido, were friends with Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath witnessing both the disintegration of that marriage and Sylvia's dissent into suicide. He has resided all over the world, finally making his home in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife, Paula, whom he married in 1983. Merwin now works to restore his land to its natural state of native forest and practices Zen Buddhism in addition to writing and making public appearances.

The recipient of many esteemed poetry honors, awards, and prizes, Merwin is a Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry and a past Chancellor of the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets.

Photograph of Merwin taken at the University of Arkansas in 2007 by Johnathon Williams.