Fleeting beauty

My husband and I visit with family in southern Vermont frequently throughout the year, and that’s where we were for Memorial Day weekend. The house has an extensive garden and it was blooming like crazy with purple and pink flowers that I’d never seen before. “Those are beautiful,” I said. “Did you plant them this year?” The answer was no, the lupins (which is what they turned out to be) had been blooming at this same time of year, every year, for many years.

How could we have missed them, I thought? We’ve seen the garden in bloom before, many, many times. I realized that we must not have visited in late May or early June which is, apparently, when the lupin are in bloom. Every year this beautiful display happens, and depending on the family’s various schedules, there are some years when no one sees it.

I understand the fleeting beauty of flowers. My own house has a wisteria vine that runs the length of our front porch, trained along a metal rod that was hung for just that purpose. For a couple of weeks in May, when the wisteria is in full bloom, I feel like I live in a chateau in the Loire Valley. The bright yellow forsythia bushes that border our property seem to bloom and disappear within days. They come and go so fast that some years I doubt that I saw them at all. And our apple tree, old and tired and broken down as it is, still manages to produce flowers every other year, presaging the small crop of apples that I’ll have to pick up before mowing in the late summer.

Also in bloom at the house in Vermont, but with some evidence that their days were already numbered, were the lilac bushes. They were alive with so much activity that I was content to watch, inhaling their perfume, for long stretches at a time. The most colorful visitors were the yellow and black monarch butterflies. They would land with their wings spread open and stick a long thin proboscis down the lilac, pull it out covered with yellow pollen, and immediately poke it into the next flower. One of the butterflies was missing half of its left wing, and yet it didn’t seem deterred. It performed just as the others did, and flew off when it was done. Later we saw another butterfly missing half of the opposite wing. It must be a dangerous business, being a butterfly.

Before we left Vermont I stood in the yard where I could smell the lilacs and admire the lupins at the same time. The sun was perfect, just warm enough to warrant the shorts and tank top I was wearing, but not so warm as to risk driving me back inside. For a few moments I was in my idea of heaven. I wondered how I could keep that feeling with me; the sights, the sounds, the smells.

Maybe if I try very hard, I’ll be able to find something fleeting to appreciate every day, and in that way, I’ll be able to keep the spirit of that feeling alive. After all, flowers are not the only things with short seasons; in the grand scheme of things, ours are short as well.


8 responses to “Fleeting beauty

  1. What are they putting in the water in Vermont? Or have you just been … exercising a lot? I kept waiting for that patented cynicism to creep in, but it never did. To which I say, brava! But don’t lose it entirely, please.

    Lupine has to be one of my favorite flowers, along with bluets, which should be blooming about now, too. They are the tiny bluish-white flowers that carpet lawns in some places, four petals, very simple. No bluets here in the godforsaken Pac NW–and just garden lupine, no wild. But wow! do we have rhododendron like you’ve never seen. Two stories high, all colors, early, middle, late bloomers.

  2. A couple of people have responded here and privately, and made reference to ‘lupine’, so I want to point out that according to dictionary.com, you can spell it either ‘lupin’ or ‘lupine.’

  3. That was wonderful Judy. My best friend lost her mom this weekend and I couldn’t help but think of her while reading it. She was a great women and I loved her dearly. Just like nature quickly changes so does life!! Every day is a gift and I try my best to enjoy each moment and take in the beauty of my kids, my parents, friends, work and just every day little things. I needed to read this today so thank you!

  4. There are nothing like flowers to remind us to appreciate something lovely while it lasts.

    One day I’d like to have a garden that has things in bloom every moment of the year.

    You should go to Maine. There are lupins all over the highways and everywhere when it’s time. I wonder if they had theirs bloom yet.

  5. Lovely, Judy. I felt myself right there in the midst of that beauty.
    A few years ago I started drawing the flowers as they emerged in the garden as a way of keeping them with me. In Kevin Henkes “My Garden,” a girl dreams of her ideal garden, where the flowers never die but keep on blooming forever–and they change colors when she’d like them to!

  6. As I become more and more aware of my aging, I find myself more and more aware of the great circles and cycles of life such as these. It is positively counter-contemporary-cultural to appreciate the fleeting phenomena of nature, what with so many pictures of flowers and butterflies and kittens available for free on Flickr.

    Thanks for this.

  7. Just wanted to let you know that I sincerely appreciate reading this post. Well-written and succinctly expressed. I googled “flower fleeting beauty,” in an effort to find some kind of quote/statement to share with my friend who recently expressed that she didn’t understand the ‘purpose’ of flower bouquets (“they just die… it seems so wasteful”). Your blog was the fourth result listed and I’m glad it was the first link I visited.

    I’m still having difficulty conveying the sensory impact and the symbolism behind a beautiful flower to her but, rest assured, your post moved me, along with the subsequent comments 🙂

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