"Vain transitory splendours! Could not all
Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall!
Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart
An hour's importance to the poor man's heart."
- Oliver Goldsmith, Ill Fares the Land
Pictured at left is a glowing white mansion of a spiderweb, now long erased by the rain. This is the contemplative time of year.
Even the birds – mostly pale pink-hued house finches - gather around the big bird feeder for their morning meeting are going about their business quietly. The wind gusts restlessly and the rain beats softly on the roof. The garden was washed clean in last week’s rain, and today's rain is just enough to waken the fresh smells. The air is perfumed by the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees, and carries just the faintest lighter note of the narcissus flowers.
The narcissus bulbs – potted, brought indoors, and forced - rewarded the gardener’s faith and bloomed for solstice. They were banished to the patio when they beame tired and began to nod their heads. Today, ragged and way past their prime, they sit reprivingly just outside the door, smugly drinking the fresh rain and reminding me that they'll be back. As I stand on the covered patio, I catch heir fragrance - just right and not as overpowering as it was its full glory indoors - where they imparted an imposing and melancholy fragrance reminiscent of an old overly ornate, overheated funeral home.
Even the dying flowers seem to be reproving me smugly. They are far from dead. Instead of mourning the lost mansions of their prime, they are considering their accomplishments this year with satisfaction. They turn their backs on the gardener; they carry away stores of energy into their unknown future.
Meanwhile back inside, the season of mail order catalog abundance is over. The seed catalog season is now well underway. Gardening catalogs tantalize the gardener daily with their colorful pictures promising impossible fruits and flowers. And succulent vegetables bursting with tastes.
Outside my window rain falls promising nourishment to my garden and enabling drought-stressed inhabitants to stretch and recover strength. Inside, paging through these seed catalogs cozy and dry, my gardening ambitions are stoked; and it’s easy to forget I live in a desert where vines of sweet, fat pumpkins and heirloom tomatoes have to struggle to survive. Indoors and out, we all remember in our own ways this the price we pay for living in paradise.
As this picture shows, I learned much on Roadtrip 2010, even from bathroom graffiti. This puts me in the perfect mood for the perfect day at the rainy end of a good year. A meditation about how even the most glorious gardens provide only transitory splendors, eventually no longer experienced, only remembered; inevitably forgotten. Like the gardens we cultivate, we all end up as stories, remembered for a while and then fading like the narcissus. This year’s story has been hard, but it has been a very good one.