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Book of Days

BOOK OF DAYS: A POET AND NATURALIST TRIES TO FIND POETRY IN EVERY DAY

Filtering by Tag: rhododendron

January 24: Another cold night

Kristen Lindquist

The temperature atop Mt. Washington yesterday, with wind chill, was -85 degrees. While my day began at a balmy -2, it only improved to 9 degrees by day's end. In the car headlights as I pulled into my driveway, I could see the rhododendron's leaves curled up in tight rolls against the cold, frozen fingers of green. And during those brief seconds as I ran between car and house, I could only pick out a couple of stars, as if they too were seeking refuge on this frigid night.

Even the waxing moon
shrinks from this cold
behind a veil of frost.

June 5: Rhododendron

Kristen Lindquist

My grandmother's house boasted a huge rhododendron bush out front. When its big purple blooms opened each spring, she'd clip a few, bring them inside, and float them in a glass bowl. It struck me as very exotic presented this way (I had a fairly provincial childhood), so I decided then that it was my favorite flower. I thought that only I fully appreciated the patch of soft brown speckles hidden inside each flower, because most people don't look that closely, and purple was (and still is) my favorite color.
 
When we bought our house seven years ago, one of the first things I did was plant a rhododendron bush--something I'd been wishing for since my grandmother died 20 years before. Each spring I glory in the days when it's flowering. This lush rainy weekend seems to have been the trigger, as suddenly the bush is in full bloom. I clipped one of the flowers wet with rain. Now it floats in a blue-patterned Chinese bowl. It struck me tonight that those tiny brown spots look just like the freckling on the throat of a veery, a locally common thrush with a truly exotic voice.
 
Bold purple petals
hide a patch of soft freckles
like a veery's throat.

June 2: Nesting

Kristen Lindquist

We spent all morning on the Friendship V whale-watching boat out of Bar Harbor on a pelagic birding trip as part of the Acadia Birding Festival. We cruised way out into the Gulf of Maine past four different islands with lighthouses on them, including Petit Manan, which is part of the Maine Coastal Islands NWR. The island was a chaotic mass of terns and gulls in the air and on the rocks, screeching and crying shrilly, and in the water, flotillas of puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and murres. How the interns who live on the island don't go insane from that constant noise is a mystery, but the sheer dynamic swirl of life out on these nesting islands is awe-inspiring--especially when you consider that these birds are creating life on virtually bare rock, their nests just tiny hollows along a bleak shore.
Gulls near Egg Rock
After a hot shower and lunch, I had to rush off to guide my afternoon field trip at Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor. While the flowers seemed a little ahead of last year, with many of the azaleas and rhodos gone by, there were still breathtaking patches of blooming beauty--a fire-red azalea that looked like it was flickering, a virtual burning bush; apple trees still laden with white blossoms; these allium poking up amid ferns:
Allium with ferns, Thuya Garden
Rhododendrons, Thuya Garden
What moved me the most, though, were not the stunning flowers and the Japanese aesthetic of Asticou, nor the mix of cultivated and wild at Thuya, which is tucked into a forested hillside, fenced in like the Secret Garden. It was a female redstart on a nest right near a trail, the little warbler startling off it every time someone walked by, chipping nearby with obvious agitation. Why would she choose that spot? Was she drawn to a view of the flowers? Will her eggs survive all the disruptions? Is she any better off than a tern laying her eggs on bare earth, at the mercy of the gulls?
Can you see the redstart nest (sans bird) in the center of this bush?
Startled off her nest,
the redstart chirps in distress--
so precious, each egg.