When Aretha Franklin died a few days ago, I reflected back on our life together through her music. The first album I owned by her is shown on the right, the next on the left. I was midway through college and was just beginning to become acquainted with the Detroit sound, including Franklin and Motown. I began buying the music to add to my previously almost all folk collection. The Harvard Coop had a vast record section, and I would drop by there every time I had earned some money from baby sitting, my main income source in college.
Back in Oregon after college, I became friends with a racially diverse crowd in contrast to my nearly all white youth. Eventually I married and was invited by my in-laws to an integrated, but predominantly black, church. There I was embarrassed to realize that gospel started in church, not in the pop world. I really did have it backwards! However, I always figured Aretha would forgive me. She had made the outrageous move out of the church into the pop world. I smiled thinking I had made the outrageous move out of the pop world into church.
I learned that her funeral will be private. I can understand the family and friends wanting to avoid a media circus. Still part of me wished that the service could be televised so that I could join in with the “homecoming” gospel celebration of her life.
This glorious hydrangea bloom appeared a couple of days ago reminding me of that song “lavender’s blue dilly dilly.” This color does seem to be a lavender blue. I enjoy hydrangea bushes because you can choose the color by amending the soil. Our neighbor’s bush has pink blooms. I expect our soil is a little more acidic since it is so perfect for blueberries.
The blooms are even pretty when they dry, keeping their shape as they do so. I have seen people put the dried blossoms into vases. I prefer to leave them on the bush myself. This bush was a housewarming present for friends who didn’t want it. We took the gallon container and my husband planted it next to my playhouse. It happily thrives with little or no attention. That, as you may have gathered from my posts, is my kind of plant!
Cosmos flowers make me laugh. They send up long frilly stalks topped off with a bright bloom. They sway in the breeze, showing off their exuberance. They have no desire to be contained, and push over the fence and over the walkway. These first blooms are from last year’s seeds. The ones my husband planted have just started to blossom.
There are people who like very tidy gardens, the plants evenly spaced, old blooms deadheaded, short plants in front, tall ones in back. As you can tell from my posts, I like the abundance of summer annuals. They seem like summer itself, free of restraint, unbound by convention. Cosmos especially seem to want to go every which way, not even growing straight up like their sunflower kin.
It will be autumn soon enough. For today, I get to enjoy the cosmos showing off in the hot summer sun.
As I have written earlier this summer, we have a large raspberry patch along one side of our garage. It thrives there without too much attention save an annual pruning. Each June I taste some of the berries. While I enjoy them, I sense that I am remembering a richer flavor berry from last year. Then I reflect on how often a memory of taste is often stronger than the actual taste and I relax.
But then come the first berries of August. We inadvertently planted two varieties of raspberries mingled with one another. These second berries are from a different type than the June ones. Yesterday I ate three of the new ones. I was right. These berries were bigger, richer and juicier. It’s just that I was comparing last year’s August berries with this year’s June ones. I mentioned this to my husband. He said that we do this same comparison every year. Fortunately each year we are again delighted by the second harvest.
I am pausing to reflect on what other things are often better the second time around.
Much of our yard either receives full sun or is taken up with the blueberry orchard. But in the back corner there is a spot which is shaded for much of the day because of the neighbor’s pine trees. This is one spot where ferns, such as surrounded me in my childhood, flourish. Here we have bleeding hearts, violets, johnny jump-ups and ferns. This is where I placed a small statue of Mary.
Yards can be a quiet communicator about religious beliefs without shouting or arguing. In my neighborhood there are little shrines to Our Lady of Fatima, clam shell coverings for Mary, and statues of Buddha. All seem to happily co-exist. And when we go to our favorite Indian restaurant we notice the shrine signifying their Hindu faith. I wish that we could live together on the earth as peacefully as these little statues seem to.
During the winter I put out seed to feed the birds. In the fullness of summer, however, the birds feed luxuriously on the seeds available in the yard. One of my favorite diners is the goldfinch which loves to eat the seed out of my sunflowers. In years past, they have tended to wait until the blooms were fading to eat the seeds. Somehow this year they have discovered that the seeds are delectable right out of the new flower. In the middle of this picture, you can see two black spots where the birds have devoured all the seeds causing the petals to fall off the sunflower.
My neighbor takes particular delight in our sunflowers. When she sits out in her back yard she can look over and see the bobbing joyful blooms. Last year they failed to grow, the seeds perhaps having been eaten by squirrels, and she told me how much she missed them. Fortunately this year’s early bumper crop is largely from volunteers from overlooked bird feed from the winter. I guess even squirrels have their limit!
Yesterday my husband watched a hummingbird and a goldfinch squabble over one particular flower. Clearly there are enough for all the birds, but they seemed to favor that specific one. Reminded me a little of a little kid being certain that the sibling’s cookie is somehow better, bigger or tastier than the one in front of her.
The asters are the greenery in the back corner and won’t flower until September. But I couldn’t resist a title with blooms from A to Z. In the foreground are the first flowers of the zinnias my husband planted from seed packets at the end of June. Theoretically they are to be planted with spaces in between them and thinned out as they emerge. I prefer to have them scrunched together in a mass of various sizes, colors and varieties showing off in a willy-nilly arrangement.
Only in the bright heat of summer would such bold colors seem appropriate. It is fitting that they blaze forth for the end of summer and then die down allowing the more sedate asters to emerge. They cheer me immensely, in part because I grew up with a yard that never got enough full sun to grow them. My childhood yard was woodland, with ideal growing conditions for ferns, but not annuals.
Over the next couple of days I will share more of the fruits of my loving husband’s care of our yard. My only job is admiration, an assignment that comes very easily!