“Petals beaten wide by rain”

dog rose

When I went out this morning, full of the sense of being home after five days in Ottawa, I was hoping I’d see a sign of the coyote who was singing and barking just beyond the house at 5:15 (I was at my desk for an hour of musing before going back to bed). No coyote and only the loons calling down on Sakinaw Lake. But the dog rose is in bloom around my bedroom window! I didn’t plant a dog rose here (though I have two others, found up the mountain, and as they’re not native to our area, there’s a story there that I’ll probably never know…) but an Alba rose, grafted onto R. canina rootstock (I’m guessing), eventually died and I let the rootstock climb and climb until it reached the second storey. It is very beautiful, with its shell pink flowers that the bees love and its long elegant hips come fall. Last week, two weasels raced along its length while I was reading in bed just before dusk. The Irish poet John Montague (who once taught for a semester at my university when I was 19) wrote of stories and dog roses and when I read this poem, it’s his soft voice I hear in my head:

And still
the dog rose shines in the hedge.
Petals beaten wide by rain, it
sways slightly, at the tip of a
slender, tangled, arching branch…

This rose blooms once and mostly those are not the roses I love, though I have thickets of moss roses given to me years ago by an elderly woman, Vi Tyner,  who came to our community in 1946, in a 12 foot boat, with her husband (his legs in braces because of polio), pulling all their worldly possessions in a canoe. It took them 4 days to make the journey from New Westminster to Pender Harbour. You might imagine why I cherish her roses, even though they bloom once, in June. She gave me a pale pink one and one that is deep pink, ruffled and so sweetly scented I wish I could bottle it.

In Ottawa, we helped Manon and Forrest in their garden. I dug over a bed and my grandson Arthur collected worms turned up by my fork to tuck into the potatoes in another bed. Forrest planted a rose, one of the Explorer series, hardy enough to survive their cold winters. Theirs is “Henry Kelsey”, a rose with its own history, and it will climb the fence around their garden, where two little boys play and raccoons try to claw their way through reemay cloth to eat the kale seedlings. And John and Forrest planted a pear tree too, to join the two apple trees planted last year, one of them a Melba, in memory of our lost orchard. Gardens and roses and stories fill these late spring mornings as I sit at my desk, waiting for it to warm up enough to head outside to stake poppies and Mrs. Tyner’s roses.



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