Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April ---

Temperatures today climbed to the mid-sixties –
A day for poets,
a day like those I have been dreaming of;
blue skies
soft warm breezes,
puffy white clouds,
trees swaying in the breeze,
bird songs filling my ears.

The ice is gone from the earth
green things are pushing their way
up from beneath the ground
overhead the cardinals trill to one another
the chipmunk chases his tail
Oh – the beauty of a spring day
the warmth of the sun!

Drawn by the warmth I wandered out the door to explore --- Almost immediately I smelled a fragrance that drew me to a moss covered shaded area at the back of the clearing. As I moved around the side of the house the fragrance was stronger. In the places where I watch for the deep olive-green of its leaves as they appear through the melting snow, I found the source of this enticing perfume.

Trailing-arbutus (Epigaea repens)
belongs to the cosmopolitan Heath Family, Ericaceae, The scientific name, Epigaea repens, coined by Linnaeus in 1753 from Greek and Latin, literally means "creeping (or running) on the earth."In New England and elsewhere, the common name is mayflower.
Stanwyn G. Shetler in the 2001 Virginia Wildflower of the Year brochure says, ”Trailing-arbutus is an unpretentious, little, evergreen shrub that trails on the forest floor. It is an early harbinger of spring, much beloved for braving late-winter’s cold to produce spicy, pinkish-white blooms among its leathery, veiny leaves. The frosty flowers seem to epitomize purity and virtue. Trailing-arbutus is a "belly" plant: one must lie on one’s stomach to catch a legitimate moment of putting eye and nose to the beauty and perfume.”

The trailing-arbutus is a tough, slightly woody plant with light brown creeping stems and glossy olive-green leaves. It lies nearly flat on the ground in small patches that often seem to be hanging on by a thread. The waxy, exquisitely sweet scented white to pale pink flowers are borne in clusters at the axils of the leaves and at the tips of the stems.

Even though they look more or less alike, the flowers of some plants are functionally staminate (male) while those of other plants are functionally pistillate (female). The plants often spread by ants carrying away the seeds. Sadly many states report that this beautiful plant is endangered in their area.
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem, "The Mayflowers," that captures the timeless lure of this wildflower.

The Mayflowers
Sad Mayflower! watched by winter stars,
And nursed by winter gales,
With petals of the sleeted spars,
And leaves of frozen sails

What had she in those dreary hours,
Within her ice-rimmed bay,
In common with the wild-wood flowers,
The first sweet smiles of May?

Yet, "God be praised!" the Pilgrim said,
Who saw the blossoms peer
Above the brown leaves, dry anal dead
"Behold our Mayflower here!"

"God wills it: here our rest shall be
Our years of wandering o'er;
For us the Mayflower of the sea,
Shall spread her sails no more."

O sacred flowers of faith and hope,
As sweetly now as then
Ye bloom on many a birchen slope,
In many a pine-dark glen.

Behind the sea-wall's rugged length,
Unchanged, your, leaves unfold
Like love behind the manly strength
Of the brave hearts of old.

So live the fathers in their sons,
Their sturdy faith be ours,
And ours the love that overruns
Its rocky strength with flowers.

The Pilgrim's wild and wintry day
Its shadow round us draws;
The Mayflower of his stormy bay,
Our Freedom's struggling cause.

But warmer suns erelong shall bring
To life the frozen sod;
And, through dead leaves of hope, shall spring
Afresh the flowers of God!

--- John Greenleaf Whittier

9 Comments:

Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

What beautiful, dainty flowers - I've never seen them. So did you have to crawl on your belly to enjoy these? Hope not. ;-)

10:52 PM  
Blogger Pam in Tucson said...

So you have your spring at last. And what a wonderful way to welcome it, with the sweet perfume and the beauty of Trailing Arbutus, a celebratory poem and beautiful photos. I delight in the image of your spring.

2:58 AM  
Blogger HoBess said...

They seem so delicate to bloom so early. These photos are, as always, beautiful.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Endment... I enjoy reading your posts. Poetry and photos...always a treat.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

Spring begins so slowly and yet each day is filled with something new and delicious. That first fragrance is to be savored. The senses awaken and will be brought something new to treasure everyday. Lovely.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Ah, I can smell them now. I have star jasmine and night blooming jasmine in my yard but neither is blooming yet.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

Ah beautiful flowers. Yes it was a day for poets. Though by the time I took my walk, the clouds had rolled in. But the air was warm and the breeeze just hada hint of chillness to it. Yet everything felt alive.

8:30 PM  
Blogger MB said...

A rich post. Thank you.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

To each of you who have commented today - I am again having some problems with the internet so please forgive me for making a single response. Thank you so much for visiting and especially for your encouraging comments.

12:15 AM  

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