APRIL: No Regrets

Seattle enjoys an extended spring season, thanks to cool weather and abundant moisture. We don’t have those temperature spikes that can turn spring into summer in a day. Right now the city is full of color – it may not be the yellow of a shining sun, but it certainly is the intense acid green of new leaves and the blues, purples, pinks and yellows of spring blooms.

There is a small, but choice garden tucked in a corner of the University of Washington’s campus. It surrounds the Miller Library, a public horticultural resource, and includes the Soest Herbaceous Display Gardens, a fragrance garden, a courtyard, and a transitional area tying the buildings to the Union Bay Natural Area beyond. It’s all set on a fairly small parcel of land, but there are many delights here, for the eyes, nose, and all the senses.

This weekend there was a book sale, a plant sale, a botanical illustration exhibit, and a garden full of early spring treasures. (Yes, I scored a few great books!)  Pearly gray skies cooperated yesterday by holding off from releasing the rain until the afternoon, giving me time for photography.

Above, one of many interesting compositions: Fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum) nods its creamy flower heads in front of Barrenwort, or Bishop’s Hat (Epimedium  acuminatum), with its red-tinged, elegant leaves and pretty little flowers held on impossibly fine stems.  At their feet there are anemones  in bud and tiny white flowers I couldn’t identify.

Below, a mix of black-leaved Mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus) with – again, I’m not sure – probably another Mondo grass – but what a beautiful look!

 

A Giant Wakerobin (Trillium chloropetalum) is planted under a bed of flowing ornamental grass. Typically these native woodland flowers are planted in a woodsy setting, maybe under a tree, but I think this is brilliant.

Below, a Japanese flowering cherry tree (Prunus serruata ‘Shirofugen’)  in full bloom – it’s just about the end of the cherry tree blossom time here, so this tree with its cloud-like bloom was a welcome sight.

 

This garden is typically “Pacific Northwest” in it’s restrained aesthetic – orderly and calm. The fragrance garden benches, like most wood structures here, are host to various lichens. Narcissus nods its pretty head shyly behind a bench, below.

 

 

 

The strange Checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris), above, is planted in the courtyard in raised beds with moss-covered boulders behind it.  It’s a European native that is not found often in the wild now, because of habitat loss and picking.  Here in the Pacific northwest, the Chocolate lily (Fritillaria camschatcensis) is similar; it too, is not often found growing wild. Two years ago I found a few on a small mountain south of here known for it’s plant community. They perched precariously on a rocky overhang, so I struggled to photograph them, crawling as close as I could. Yesterday’s stroll was easier.

 

 

 

Fawn lilies light up a dark corner of the garden above. Below, hosta spears boldly break through the mulch! From ground level, they are so amusing , especially with raindrops about to tumble from their tips.

I love peering at the ground in early spring, when plants are just beginning to emerge.

 

 

Below, another Bishop’s Hat, (Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’).  Above, three different fern fiddleheads are outrageous contortionists, expressing the intense release of pent up energy.

This appreciation of spring is dedicated to Peter Matthiessen, who died yesterday.  A celebrated author, nature lover and explorer, I knew him better as Muryo, back when we were members of the same Zen Buddhist organization in New York. Peter was a fantastic story teller, weaving tales and transporting you to faraway places with ease and finesse.

His writing inspired me, from my first encounter with it, in the New Yorker Magazine in the sixties. Later, in 1981, I attended a workshop on Zen and Photography that Peter co-led with John Daido Loori. I was impressed with the way both men handled an overflow crowd and answered tough questions. They mentioned studying Zen with a teacher named Bernard Glassman at a nearby Zen center. I had been interested in Eastern thought for years, but always shied away from any sort of group involvement. Matthiessen and Loori were smart people, I reasoned, maybe this place is OK.

Still I hesitated, until a few months later a flyer for the same Zen center crossed my path. I knew then the time was right. I ventured up to the rambling, old mansion on the Hudson where ZCNY took root, and it changed my life. For the next five years, I lived there, immersing myself in Zen instead of studying it in books. I would not have gone to that workshop if Peter hadn’t been leading it, and I would not have considered ZCNY if he hadn’t spoken well of it.  So I him to thank for the spark that set in motion an experience that nourishes me to this day.

He lived a long, full life. No regrets.

 

Gasho, Muryo.


43 comments

  1. thanks for sharing your Zen story, and telling us about the person who inspired you …. an illustration of ‘when the time is right the guide will be there’ … fabulous sensuous photographs of your spring plants, many of which are completely unknown to me … we have grey skies too today, and mushrooms everywhere I look … out with the camera later today …

  2. No regrets. I was sad to hear of his passing. The Snow Leopard sparked my imagination and desire to travel. What a small world. This was a beautiful tribute. Thanks for writing this, Blue.

  3. What a wonderful celebration of a great life. Wow. To be inspired, when it happens and who caused it to happen, well you just don’t forget either, do you. Would love to sit down for a cup a coffee and just listen to your experiences from those days. Dang, now that would be one helluva great afternoon! To inspiration.

    • Someday we will exchange tales of the thrill of piloting a plane and the agony of sitting in one place for too long! 😉 Speaking of inspiration, it looks like you found some in a can of paint – can’t wait to see the results.

  4. This is an inspirational post in every way Lynn. There is an intimacy and quiet about the beautifully composed images that perfectly complements your written tribute. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. What a beautiful garden! Mine is coming into autumn, when rain should arrive and bring new growth and make everything green again. Until then, it is rather dry and bare, but your photos are a reminder of what beauties are sleeping under the dry earth. And that it’s time here to be planting spring bulbs.

    • It is – in an intriguing “coincidence” the NY Times published a story about Peter Matthiessen in their Sunday Times Magazine, which is always printed earlier in the week and then included with the Sunday paper. By the time the paper was on the stands yesterday, he was gone. It seems he was living pretty well, in spite of leukemia, even towards the end – well enough anyway, for a reporter to spend the afternoon with him at home. And living well can encompass a lot, but I trust he did his best to embody that idea as long as he could.

  6. I love seeing the world through your lens, Lynn. Beautiful. Just last week, I was reading the reviews of Peter’s latest novel which I believe is to be released this week. Love his writing and heart. He was, in my opinion one of the greatest writers of our time…So glad you knew him personally.

  7. Spring just shines off the page with your gorgeous photos such tiny details draw me in . Ah BB this is such a heart tugging post in many ways .. indeed it’s a lovely tribute to someone who gave you so much inspiration . Lovely harmony throughout and a perfect read for my days end … thank you .


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