Every great love story begins with a first look. And the first time I laid eyes on Asarum, I was in love instantly. It was love from afar, as I only saw pictures at first. The White Flower Farm catalog teased my first glimpse of this beautiful plant, putting it together as part a collection that also featured some hosta and astilbe. The fleshy leaves of Asarum europaeum comprised one of the more subtle performers, but I loved their unassuming texture, the mottled accents of their veins, the tiny hairs lining the edges. It was the love of a single plant like this that fostered a greater, all-encompassing love for gardening.
That’s how it began for me – a fascination with a few individual plants. The butterfly-like floating wonder of a Siberian iris blossom ~ the geometric perfection and wondrous propagation techniques of a Sempervivum ~ the graceful arching beauty of a branch of bleeding hearts; this was how the seeds of my gardening life were sown, and once they took root, there was no stopping any of it. How strange that something as little as a single Asarum could spark such a grand lifelong passion. The biggest surprises often come from the smallest, unlikeliest sources.
As we cross the first sign that says ‘Beautiful Place By the Sea’, a calm comes over us, and everything we left behind stays behind until we cross the sign again. Ogunquit has become a place of refuge, a home-away-from-home where the baggage of real life can be forgotten for a few days. I’ve always found peace wherever the sea meets the land. There’s something about that line between two worlds that appeals to my love of transition. It’s the place where water and stone collide in ways that are beautiful and dangerous, peaceful and primal.
There are lessons to be gleaned from the shore of learning. The timing of the tide, the pull of the moon, the ever-lapping tongue of time licking our lives into submission. The power and might of a storm, the ceaseless wind, the salty erosion. It is the perfect place to cull a sense of humility, for we are all at the mercy of something greater than ourselves. There is comfort here as well – in the shaded spaces between rocks, the tiny tidal pools that protect a few lucky sea creatures until the return of life-giving water, or the quiet sunrise that sets another day in motion. Looking out over the expanse of the ocean, it is impossible to feel very big about yourself. There is nothing more grounding than the shoreline. It will always be a balm upon the heart.
My artist pal Paul Richmond (who so generously and graciously immortalized me a distant summer or two ago) is embarking on what may be the greatest ride of his life. He’s one of 25 gay couples heading to Washington, DC to get married as part of the “C-Bus Of Love” – a project sponsored by MarriageEvolved. He and his fiancé Dennis will travel to the Supreme Court with 24 other couples to get married in June, as the court makes its determination for marriage equality. (Be sure to check out the C-Bus site, especially the page with the couple bios – my favorite.)
Mr. Richmond must have had an eye on the future when he originally painted a work entitled “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise.” According to the artist himself, “I painted a grand ark/cruise ship filled with happy gay and lesbian animal couples and a few human guests too (like Ellen DeGeneres/Portia de Rossi, and Elton John/David Furnish). There are even some drowning sinners (such as Ann Coulter, Larry Craig, Sally Kern, and Fred Phelps)!” It was a witty, colorful way of expressing some very serious topics, done with the whimsy, humor, and sharp political intent inherent in Richmond’s most powerful work.
In honor of his dedication to the cause at hand, Richmond has updated his piece to include the founders of MarriageEvolved, Joshua and Steve Snyder-Hill. The new “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise: MarriageEvolved Edition” will be available on Richmond’s website (in three different sizes), and 100% of the proceeds from sales of the limited edition print will go toward the ‘C-Bus of Love’. Please check out the story of this worthy adventure, and donate if you can. When you think about it on the human level, when you see and read about these couples and realize their love and dedication and commitment – it seems inhumane and criminal to deny them the right of marriage.
Today Andy and I depart on our annual Memorial Day weekend jaunt to Ogunquit, Maine, so from here on out please do your best to remain interested in pre-programmed posts, and I’ll do my best to keep things interesting. There won’t be a big naked reveal like last year, but there will be other fun things to tide you over until our proverbial boat returns early next week. Since this marks my thirteenth year of visiting Ogunquit, I think I’ve already hit upon the basics of my love for the town numerous times (like here, here, here, here, and here for example). I won’t rehash or reiterate while I’m away, as there will likely be new adventures to recap upon my return. Instead, perhaps a pastiche of memories, culled from our years visiting such a fair location… but first, a few photos of the Beautiful Place By the Sea.
A spring night, hurtling all-too-quickly toward the start of summer. The leaves have just begun to fill in the barren branches of winter, the pots newly planted and looking a little sparse. It is always that way in the beginning. The artificial light casts an eerie glow to the surroundings, warmer than the moon, but also more sickly. It is the pallor of another world, the shading of a different brush. Tell-tale signs of the day remain: the patio furniture slightly askew, the overturned wheelbarrow, the hose running through the yard like an endless snake.
A coral bark maple tree leaves streaks of crimson across the black firmament, echoing the dull blood of a brick wall, highlighting the golden beauty of its first flush of foliage. What arrogance, what cockiness, what rightful-pride-of-place it takes in its corner location, both anchoring and softening the end of the house. Its prettiness doesn’t shout like the yapping yellow jonquils or the tweeked-out tittering tulips – it rises quietly above that, into the night sky, reaching for loftier aims, higher goals.
In its silent stance, it is elegance in tree form. In this strange light, it shines forth other-worldly beauty, reflecting its own star-shaped-leaf-light. Red limbs provide structure like bloody bones, their almost-alien form ribbed by the scars of lost branches, illuminated in the glow of such absurd light.
The night wind begins up above. The song of spring is high at hand. The rush of life-giving rain awaits its cue.
On this night, all is hope, all is possibility, all is set… for the summer.
Count me as one of the Cumberbitches, as I now have a very real fondness for Benedict Cumberbatch, the Hunk of the Day. He’s currently on-screen in ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’, but first came to my attention with his supporting turn in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘. He’s also apparently on a big sci-fi television show, at least I think he is. (Or maybe I’m confusing him with someone else ~ the Dr. Who shows and football soaps of British television always confuse me.) Anyway, he’s got a distinctive look that’s not at all conventional, and that’s part of his appeal. But the real draw – the thing that makes you go swoon – is his voice. Men have done less for mermaids compared to what I would do for that voice.
By the time I worked up the courage to venture out on a literal limb and begin pruning the cherry tree that had gone unattended for about three years too long, I neglected to factor in where the pruned branches might fall. My initial concern was the plants below, but once I got up there I was too scared to really worry about anything other than a power line and my own precarious balance. So this is one of the end results: a little tree in our pool. Along with a single felled peony branch, and a number of scratches on my arm, I think we all turned out rather well, especially when one considers the alternative: decimated peony plants, broken bones, and torn pool liners.