Yesterday was my birthday (the last year of my 50s…) and it began with coffee in bed and a pile of gifts — a Tibetan prayer box of old silver set with red coral, books (including The Woman Who Mapped Labrador, Edward Frenkel’s Love and Math, and The Golden Age of Botanical Art), four Provencal place mats bright with olive leaves and bees, a Tuscan baking dish, lovely things for the bath, and other treats. And the day continued sweetly with a little run down the coast on errands, the highway taking us through a landscape rimed with frost.
Last evening we drove to Oyster Bay for a splendid Indian feast co-cooked by friends June and Solveigh and shared with their husbands Joe and John as well as June and John’s son Jordan. The table, set with Meissen and a blue French tablecloth, was a perfect antidote to the chill outside, as was the warm fire burning in the great stone fireplace. A night of talk and laughter and friendship and more than a glass of sparkling wine.
And another gift: a basket of spring, created by June, with tiny narcissus, a butter-yellow primula, damp moss, and a tiny green-leaved plant which looked both familiar and not. Gaultheria procumbens, a cousin of of our native salal (those leathery leaves), and sporting bright red berries. I’ve been checking it out this morning — a new plant always has me looking it up in various places to find out the who, what, and where of it. This one is native to northeastern North America, occurs in Canada from Newfoundland west to Manitoba, and is a source for wintergreen oil. Its common names include American mountain tea, boxberry, Canada tea, canterberry, checkerberry, chickenberry, chinks, creeping wintergreen, deerberry, drunkards, gingerberry, ground berry, ground tea, grouseberry, hillberry, mountain tea, one-berry, partridge berry, procalm, red pollom, spice berry, squaw vine, star berry, spiceberry, spicy wintergreen, spring wintergreen, teaberry, wax cluster, youngsters… I won’t be distilling leaves or making them into tea but simply enjoying the beauty of its fresh green foliage and red fruit and looking forward to the narcissus coming into bloom in the next week or so.