“too beautiful to name” (Oh Susanna)

measuring

The other day, during a run of damp weather, I read a note online by the poet Marita Dachsel in which she said she was making rose petal jelly. What an idea. I’ve made many jellies over the years, sweet and savoury, and sometimes added lavender to them–I remember the rosemary jelly with lavender as being delicious with roast lamb; and a little lavender added to blackberries, for jam, is lovely. But rose petals caught my imagination. A damp day, too wet to work outside, and my writing stalled for a couple of reasons: why not gather petals and make some jelly?

Abraham Darby, Munstead Wood, Lady of Shalott, the Lark Ascending, the unnamed moss roses given me decades ago by Mrs Tyner who came to the Coast in the 1940s with her husband Jim, from New Westminster, in an open boat, towing their worldly possessions behind them in a canoe, Madame Alfred Carriere, an anonymous apricot climber that is going crazy beside the garden gate. Picking them with bare feet meant that I came in damp too but oh, the scent, particularly those moss roses, a sport of Rosa x centifolia, first noted in floras in 1720.

Run away with me, won’t you?
Run away with me, won’t you?
Run away with me, won’t you?
It don’t matter where we go.

While I was cutting the roses, I was singing. In the wild and tangled place that is my garden right now, after almost two weeks of rain, I was singing Oh Susannah’s “Tangled and Wild” and in those moments, I did feel like running away. It’s been a stressful time, with the possibility of a telecommunications tower looming (literally) on our horizon (though it seems that the company is stepping back from this location), and I was thinking as I sang that I didn’t want anything to change. The project, if it goes ahead, will “necessitate” 60 trees being taken out across the highway. Old maples the elk lie under on winter mornings, the big Douglas firs, some cedars.

We could live in the mountains
Or we could live on the plains
Or in a place far too beautiful
Too beautiful to name

We live in the shadow of a mountain range and yes, some days it is truly too beautiful to name. Like the roses, the ones I brought into the house in my arms, pulling off petals until I had enough for jelly. I briefly heated them with water, let them infuse, strained them, added sugar, the juice and zest of a Meyer lemon from my own little tree, and brought the mixture to a boil. I added some liquid pectin and after a minute, I took the pot off the heat. It made six jars of jelly, the whole kitchen luscious with the fragrance. It took a couple of days for the jelly to set, a soft set, but I am already thinking of how delicious it will be in the little crevices of a warm croissant. I am thinking of it between plain cake layers with whipped cream. I labelled it this morning and now it will wait in the pantry for the right occasion. Run away with me, won’t you? It don’t matter where we go.

jelly

Or a place far too beautiful to name, a garden so wild and tangled that walking in it is like walking in heaven. Abraham Darby, Munstead Wood, Lady of Shalott, the Lark Ascending, the unnamed moss roses given me decades ago by Mrs Tyner. Madame Alfred Carrière, as soft and pink as a baby’s shoulders, an anonymous apricot climber that is going crazy beside the garden gate.

 

4 thoughts on ““too beautiful to name” (Oh Susanna)”

  1. Sigh. How I wish we lived closer. I want to come and taste on a warm croissant right now, not to mention see and smell your rosebushes. May the tower slouch off toward some other corner of the universe.

    1. My roses are very prolific this year, Beth, and also very untidy. I tried doing some tying up this afternoon. Hands and wrists a mess. They just want to go crazy! And thanks, re: the tower. Keeping fingers crossed for a relocation, not here.

  2. Your writing is so often intoxicating. When you wrote, “between plain cake layers with whipped cream,” I could imagine the textures and flavour so well, I just may try making some of that rose jelly with petals from my rose bush. {I’ve forgotten the name of my little coral-coloured beauty but her fragrance reminds me of apples fresh off the tree.}

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