“I meant to do my work today…”

I wondered what the shadow was hovering over me as I filled a pot with compost. And looking up, I saw the most elegant western tiger swallowtail in the lilacs bent with blossom over the compost box. But when I returned with a camera, the butterfly wouldn’t alight on the lilac and I couldn’t take its portrait.

And I wish I could share with you the sound of bees in this flowering crabapple tree, one of two given us decades ago by John’s mum. I stood underneath and saw that almost every branch held bees or other pollinators and the humm…mmm of them was beautiful

bee loud tree

Even if you are a terrible photographer (no patience with dials and buttons), the world you see through a lens is a little different from what you see with your bare eye. When I turned from the lilac, I saw this bean structure I made the other day, an extra (because you can never have too many beans), waiting for its dependents. This year? What we call “home” beans—an assortment of mature beans grown every year from saved seed, their names forgotten long ago, and in any case they’re all planted together. And I’ve also started a lot of a French filet called “Triomphe de Farcy”. (The small filets make such delicious pickled beans.)


Coming back to the house, that hum again. And looking up, I could see the wisteria over the patio is an opening haze. It’s almost always on time for Mother’s Day and what a gift to walk under it, both this one and the one over our dining table on the west-facing deck. (Patio is north-east facing.) Hummingbirds and bees keep plunging into the flowers. This wisteria began its life in Suffolk and came as a rooted sucker in John’s mother’s suitcase on one of her summer visits to her mother in the small seaside town where she lived.

wisteria haze

And just by the step, the beauty of maidenhair ferns lifted—just a small clump—from a ditch on Sakinaw Lake Road ten years ago. You can see why it is a plant used in decorative baskets, for imbrication. Look at the black-lacquered stems!


I thought of a poem I loved in childhood, one a teacher read to our class in grade two, and the opening lines were in my mind as I walked from lilac to crabapple to wisteria to ferns:

I meant to do my work to-day-
But a brown bird sang in the apple-tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

—Richard Le Gallienne

Well, it wasn’t the leaves but a myriad of bees and a huge swallowtail and each spring moment unfolding like a book of secrets.

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