Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Last Day of April

A wisteria wonderland. (Click pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Tomorrow April will hide her tears and blushes beneath the flowers of lovely May." ~ Helen Keller
The wisteria comes and goes in April; this year I explored the drainage ditch for rain overflow that runs behind the house. There I found a weathered fence draped with the grape-like clusters of lavender and light blue flowers. Now, barely one week later, they are gone. Do I dare go back and gather seed pods from those branches that flow into public domain? I think so. Wisteria grows wild here in Virginia but not as widespread as that seen in Mississippi. (Click "read more" for more pictures and story)

Wisteria always brings a certain piece of art to mind. Birney Imes is the editor of the local newspaper in Columbus, Mississippi. His family has owned the paper for as long as anyone can remember. He is also a fairly well known photographer and has had gallery showings of his work. My favorite of all his photographs is a large framed print about 24 x 36. The subject is simple and Southern. The porch of an old white wood framed house is the backdrop. In the foreground, just the top of a white picket fence and gate shows and towards one side near the top, the white crossbeams of an arbor, not the rounded arch but the more sturdy squared off shape with wooden beams. A small rooster with his red comb and brown feathers is scratching in the dirt at the porch steps. The white paint on the house and fence has seen better days and is starting to peel; the fence has green tinges of algae so prevalent in the warm humid Mississippi climate. Sitting in the hanging front porch swing is an elderly black grandmother, the lady of the house, dressed in her simple white cotton dress with tiny flowers barely visible in the fabric; an apron tied around her waist. Her gray hair is tucked in a bun with stray wispy strands falling down along her cheek, a folding paper fan in her hand and a sly little smile on her face.

What transforms his photograph from a lovely portrait to a magnificent piece of art is the magic of the wisteria. The winding brown vines are wrapped around the white wood of the arbor and clusters of purple blooms hang from the crossbeams above and cascade down the side of the arbor and onto the fence. Wisteria frames the porch and the rooster and the walkway and the wizened face of the old black woman; it transports them from an ordinary day, in an ordinary house, on an ordinary street, in an ordinary Southern town, to a warm day dream of color and perfume in a land far away. Absolutely intoxicating.

So on this last day of April, when the tulips, daffodils, crocus, forsythia, dogwood and wisteria have all spent their blooms, I leave you with this.
"The last day of April made her bed,
As whole forests of cloud, capsizing, swayed in the West.
With a moonbeam knife the night sliced
The loaf of the sky, porous with stars.
~ Juozas Tysliava (1902 - 1961)
(end of post)


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