It's a hot day in May, the last Monday of the month.
I cut some peonies this morning from the very old bushes in the garden (one has pink blooms, the other white with a splash of pink in the centre) and they're in a large vase (a spare Wayne Ngan creation from long ago) right by my laptop as I write this. The odd musty perfume of the white ones is available for such a short time each year, so distinctive that it instantly takes me back to many other late-Mays. I've put a tall multi-flowered spear of iris in the same vase, purple with somewhat garish golden yellow beards. I didn't pick it, but instead found it on the ground, broken right off. It's the work of the lumpy aggressive raccoons who patrol the city rooftops and gardens by night, like armored tanks, creating flattened tracks through the garden greenery. And breaking beautiful things. Argh!
But I'm not here to complain. I want to start with an apology. I discovered, now that I've finally sorted out some glitches with google, gmail, and blogspot, that there have been a lot of comments posted in the last two years (waiting for moderation) that I never knew about. It's all too tedious to explain the how and the why, so I'll just say, my apologies for not knowing, and thus for not posting comments from a number of you. They are now up...very delayed, but there at last.
This morning I watered the garden early, letting the hose stay on this place and then that for a long time to deep-water, in preparation for today's promised heat. The wet in the garden softened the earth and so a few minutes later a robin came visiting. He was looking for worms, and finding them. And he seemed completely oblivious of me, or at least very unworried. It gave me a chance to look at him freshly, to notice the small elegant details. I always think of robins as large and lumpy (for those who don't know them the North American robin is a thrush, not the small robin of the UK), but that categorisation didn't do justice to this lovely lively character. And so I stopped and looked some more, instead of just moving on.
Looking afresh, seeing freshly, hearing freshly...thinking with fresh energy rather than along the same old lines or with the same reflexes: these are ideals to aspire to. We can't do it all the time, but I for one could be doing a lot more of it. The world becomes a much more interesting challenging place, and we are much better able to appreciate its wonderfulness, when the senses are alert and in tabula rasa mode.
Another fabulous reminder of fresh attentiveness occurred last Thursday night at the Tafelmusik concert, the last of the season, at Koerner Hall. Bruno Weil conducted first a Mendelsohn symphony, then Beethoven's third. I felt I'd never heard either of them before, so fresh and new and nuanced and intricate and alive did they sound. The concert was transporting. As we all walked out after, the tall flowers on the huge chestnut trees along Philosophers Walk gleaming in the late-evening dusk, I felt like the whole world had been created afresh. My entranced awakened ears pushed my whole being to see and smell and think with fresh energy, without preconception.
How do do this more often? is the question.
I think that's what art and novels and music open up for us, in lucky attentive moments...
Meantime the watered garden has survived the heat and sun, the tomato and eggplant and pepper plants are looking perky, and so is the basil; the transplanted rhubarb droops, but I see fresh leaves, so perhaps it will come through. There are shiso plants growing in various places (they volunteer each year), and parsley plants, and mint looking healthy. And though my last remaining delphinium is looking ill (you win a few, you lose a few and the dry spring probably didn't help), the columbines are still colourful, the roses are just starting, and the peonies are radiant and aromatic.
Happy tumbling forward into June, everyone.