Claude Monet, Water Lilies, photographed by Harvey Schlencker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s my pleasure this week to introduce the work of Diane Halsted. Diane taught writing and literature at several colleges and universities for thirty years. Now she teaches the writing of poetry, creative nonfiction, and memoir, when she’s not gardening, traveling, or riding her horse.
Diane wrote me some time ago and shared several of her poems, including the one I’m featuring today on water lilies. Surely a water lily pond is one of the sweetest simple pleasures in a gardener’s life. It doesn’t matter the size of your pond, either; we started with a clawfoot tub, and “moved up” to a small insert surrounded by sandstone pavers. The joy of it all is growth and life, dragonflies and goldfish, and the thrill one gets each spring as the pond comes back to blooming, robust life.
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MAKING LIKE MONET
Into a new garden fountain
she scattered pebbles so water plants,
gauzy hyacinths and loud lilies
on huge pads could root and grow,
forcing their green way
to the surface. She worked,
brush and palate in hand, mimicking
Monet, each day divining new images,
imagining greater beauty.
In her wicker chair, sipping tea
and nibbling madeleines, she sought
to capture the daily difference
of shape and shadow shifting
across her small world while ellipses
of days move toward the equinox,
summer fades to fall.
Claude Monet, Nympheas, c. 1897, Wikimedia Commons
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Diane shares the following about her garden:
My garden is one-third of an acre on the central coast of California which means I have no winter respite and often have winter surprises. This year the banksiae roses bloomed full force in January with the daffodils and crocuses. The acers barely lost their leaves before nubs of new sprouted on branches.My garden has pieces of many other gardens, both in memory plants in recollection of favorites from my mother’s or grandmother’s gardens (such as the quince and the banksiaes) and donations from numerous friends’ gardens that live on in mine. In addition, my fiancé for life and I commemorated anniversaries with a redbud and a dogwood, with a Marilyn Monroe rose, a Cecile Brunner, and others.
The watchword for my garden is patience. Always give anything green a fighting chance. Years ago I was given a lily bulb while visiting the Faulkner garden in Mississippi. I planted it in my garden, marking its underground location, and waited. And waited. I finally gave up: how could I expect a Mississippi bulb to flourish in California. And then, years after I planted it, up came the distinctive lily import. I’ve had to be similarly patient with anemones, which now I have everywhere. Likewise with hellebores which seem to perform depending on weather more than on location.Visitors to my garden assume my thumb is green. I am the daughter of an Earthworm, I always say (My mother was a member of a garden club in Berkeley by that name.) but if I had a nickel for everything I’ve killed, I’d be one rich woman.
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A Faulkner lily! A Cecile Brunner rose! Daughter of an Earthworm. I must say I was as enchanted reading about her gardening experiences as I was with her lovely poetry.