Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Lenten Rose, or Slowly Lengthening into Spring

Post 27


Slowly lengthening into spring,
Warm-up days, cooled by night,
Dream for me that everything's
Just waiting now for new delight--

(what never was before its since,)
Hence here a brace of bawdy hints.

For what if all did best resolve,
Even past just human hope,
Could any really hope to cope
With the life they would evolve,

And bring a faith to resurrection
Beyond both fear and false projection?


Merry truth must think it strange
How easily perceptions change,
So as this Lent brings us the sun,
--Let's look to see how we have done.

               Flowers only thrive where Nature
         With the Gardener does concur,
When life bestirs us, Spirit proves us,
As we chose a better view.

Newly brought into the light...
Dearly bought, and eagerly sought,
Longingly and lovingly wrought,
Now here in time, by time begot.


How to Hellebore: The top two pictures are of Lenten rose, or Helleborus orientalis or hybrids of. The top picture is in my neighbor's yard, the second in my own. This plant, which eats semi-shade for breakfast and, once established, may be able to compete with your tree roots for water, comes in shades of red, burgundy, pink, white, greenishy-yellowey and a subtly spectacular greyed lavender slate.  It blooms, in a typical year, in March (and because the flowers are really septals, can persist through June.)  The old fashioned ones have hanging heads and therefore look good planted on a rise so you can look up towards them. These also reseed readily. Newer hybrids can be more upfacing. 

They need only some shade, decent soil of a moderate pH, and some water. The only care they need is to have a haircut in late winter-spring, when their evergreen leaves turn tawdry. Leave the flowers on the plant and watch the seed pods swell into summer. Soon you will have babies. This is a plant that can be expensive to buy but is so worth it. It is a doer that will not let you down.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wissahickon Style IV, Lack of Pretension

Post 26

A bad back has increased my grouchiness while decreasing my inspiration. Hence my not keeping up with weekly posts, So I'm going to go for an easy topic: lack of pretension, to keep things going. 

By lack of pretension -- I mean everything from having an undisguised television set (no, not media center, never media center,) in the living room to a sign for your garden written in chalk. For me, the best of Wissahickon style is not hoity-toity,  but scuffed-up white shoe.

Here are street number tiles embedded in a schist wall. They are old tiles, probably Mercer, cracked and riven, much like the rock and mortar they are set in. One of the clues to real style is that it has an unifying integrity. Pretension usually shows itself up as the slapping together of various items with nothing in common but their value as status tags. Hence the odd fact that style can seem to reflect a moral state.

Time as eventual destroyer of all things is never recognized by pretension. Old objects are only valued as consumer goods. The imprecations of time as such are usually erased by the up-to-date or, even more oddly, by other old items from whatever historical period is currently au courant.

A true unitive integrity of style may be as impossible to achieve as perfectly human integrity, but for any attempt at either, humility is needed. And humility means being in touch with our true humanity, the humus of our being, that we are mortal, fallible creatures at the mercy of time and tide.

Architecture that rears up against this truth is unlikely, in the long run, to enhance human flourishing. But architecture that helps us own up to our humanity softens the imprecations of time. It can then become a comforting presence, and, as an unifying style, set an example of how to get things right.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Roses in February

Post 25

It may be warm,  but it is bleak and the garden, well... see what I mean.

I need a rose.

Yes, that helps. It is not easy to write a gardening blog in these months, especially if you want to avoid the usual winter cliches. Looking at the local architecture that holds up our gardens, cradles and rocks them, is a partial solution, but not an entirely gratifying one. The light is hard, the buildings unsoftened. I need more roses.

Yes, better.  One of the drawbacks of bleakness, which feels like nature's boredom, can be a lack of solid inspiration. And without real inspiration I may start to extravagate (no, not a word but should be (OED--pay attention! (Like Auden, one of my dream aspirations is to coin a new word and get it credited there; unlike Auden, it's a dream aspiration.))) To clarify, to extravagate means to unthinkingly exaggerate to a point almost past truth (though a kernel remains.) It lacks malice but remains an easy temptation for those of us who are of imagination a bit too compact. Itself an example of extravagation, it is a word that I made up in High School without realizing I'd made it up. I extravagantly extravagated exaggeration into extravagate. 

In short, in my last post I extravagated. I dissed mansions and castles. I do not really dislike them, just the more money than taste ones. 

And now, keeping on theme,(yes, there is a theme,) I am going to slip back towards an earlier post, "Roses in January," and fill in some information I did not include in the earlier post on The Red Rose Girls.

Below is a picture of Cogslea that shows more of the house and less of the caryatids.

And here's one of Cogshill from the back

The pergola at Cogshill.

And here is a relevant illustration from Elizabeth Shippen Green's scrapbooks at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Last of all. I want to credit the source of most of my information on The Red Rose girls. It is the book,  The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love by Alice A. Carter, ISBN 978-0810944374.

And I also want to add a caveat, that this is an informal blog. Like informal correspondence and other forms of informal writing, such a blog is not meant to be read as a solid reference source. I try to be accurate but I do not fact check everything. For instance, I made a mistake about Edith Emerson in my earlier RRG post. I have gone back and corrected it as I value accuracy.  At times however, I can find even myself a bit too transported by the act of writing, and end up extravagating reality's rose into a slightly stranger flower. So please, take this with a grain, though not a bucket, of salt. I know I do.