Monday, January 26, 2009
amarylis, rainwater, magnolia
The plant arrived for Christmas and has been a constant pleasure ever since. This is the third flower it produced; another is in bud.
The Grove slopes gently towards the south west. Its perimeter path has a gutter on either side, which consists of rows of parallel bricks placed end to end, side by side and slightly angled towards one another to capture the rain. By the south west entrance this morning, though it has long since stopped raining, you can see the water running in a steady stream over the bricks, and above all hear it, gurgling into a drain. Though there is normally no running water in the Grove, this pleasant sound reminds me of a mountain stream, and suddenly I long to be transported to the Lake District where I used to walk a long time ago in the footsteps of Wordsworth and Coleridge.
The buds of the magnolias of which there are a number around here are sprouting. From a distance they resemble hazel catkins, but as you get closer you are aware of a satiny sheen on the almond shaped buds, which accounts for the catkin appearance. They seem small and unimportant when you think of the size and splendour of the flowers, which will open in two or three months time.
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Some of those Christmas flowers are marvellously good value; I had a little cyclamen last year that went on and on for weeks; we planted it in the garden and it flowered again in November. The heavy frost might have done for it permanently now, but it certainly had a good innings!
Magnolias in bloom, on the other hand, are agonisingly fleeting, though they're handsome trees all the year round!
I salute Wordsworth and Coleridge as writers who celebrated the Lake District appropriately (ie, for its aesthetics and its opportunities for pleasing exercise). But what about Ruskin? His view of mountains was apparently mystical and he slagged off people who climbed them for their greasy-pole tendencies. I seem to recall you attempting to interest me in The Stones of Venice off a Farringdon Road handcart. But then rock-climbing is rarely a factor in that particular city (or in Farringdon Road).
Although he spent the last years of his life in a house on the shores of Lake Conniston, Ruskin had no great reputation as a walker, as did W and C and W's sister Dorothy. The Stones of Venice is a work, all four volumes of it, which I have greatly admired for a long time and never read further than the first two sentences, both of which are inspiring. You were right to resist my recomendations in the Faringon Road. Ruskin, would not any way be your cup of tea, I guess. He begins his autobiography, Praeterita, with the words "I am, and my father was before me, a violent Tory of the old school.."
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