“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.



“The room was suddenly rich…”

rose hips

By my bedroom window this morning, the bright memory of summer roses, the R. canina, soft pink, faintly but sweetly scented. And looking out, I could imagine the roses on those early summer mornings, bees already at work in the pollen. It’s cold here and so soon dark——it’s 4:07 as I type and the sun is setting, fiery as gutted sockeye salmon—  but the roses will be blooming before we know it. This poem, “Snow” by Louis MacNeice, has always held the winter’s paradox in its beautiful lines.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

almost spotless

I was making rose-hip jam (kind of insane, I thought at one point as I sliced each hip in two and removed the seeds: 4 cups worth…) with the beautiful fruit of the Rosa canina growing up one side of the house —

hipswhen I looked out the window over the kitchen sink. This fawn, almost spotless, was sniffing the pile of logs from an alder tree blown down in last weekend’s storm:

almost spotlessThis fawn and its mum have been around a lot lately. In fact, I think this is the same mum who brought two very tiny fawns in early summer to browse on the tips of roses growing through the deer-proof fence around the vegetable garden. A little later, there was just one fawn. This one. We have our memory-maps of the woods and mountain near our house — where chanterelles grow (and they were delicious on pizza last night!), where to see the first shoots of death camas and then the ghostly white flowers, the pond where the tree frogs and long-toed salmanders lay eggs in early spring. And I guess the deer (and bears, grouse, elk, bobcats, weasels…) have their memory-maps too. Where a few sweet rose-leaves can be nibbled or a tendril of cucumber vine edging out of its box. Where a crabapple tree is strong enough for a bear to climb at dawn on autumn morning before a woman at a sink sees and comes out with a dishcloth to chase it away.

A rose by any other name

Years ago I planted a white rugosa rose at the foot of a post supporting the little area of deck outside my bedroom window. The rose didn’t do much and when its rootstock took over, I let it. It competes with honeysuckle and trumpet vine for wall space but what a competition — the honeysuckle will begin to bloom just as the rose is finishing and the trumpet vine takes over a bit later in the season. The tree frogs love this tangle of green and often chorus away in their surprisingly big voices. (We used to refer to the one we heard as Luciano but then realized there were more so now we simply call them The Tenors…)

I think this must be Rosa canina, the dog rose. And for about two weeks in late May- early June, it’s a tumble of these soft pink blooms. loud with bees.