The Greening of a World

 Our colorful spring wildflowers are beginning to emerge: bluebonnets; pink evening primrose; purple vetch; yellow star grass.

Mixed with winter’s leftover browns, blacks, and grays, the colors shine. Still, green is a color of spring as well, and the season of greens clearly appealed to English poet Philip Larkin. His fondness for ‘ordinary people doing ordinary things’ sometimes echoes in his nature poetry. His poem entitled “The Trees” presents an ordinary spring doing ordinary things, and the effect is extraordinary.

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In full grown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say.
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.


Comments always are welcome. For a recording of Philip Larkin reading his poem, click here.
The photos were taken at the Santa Fe, Texas Buddhist temple on March 16.

54 thoughts on “The Greening of a World

    1. It’s happening quickly, too: not that I’m complaining, of course. I was out poking around the countryside today, and found some other colors to share, including some of our best-loved ones.

  1. Not till now did I know that Larkin was English; somehow I’d always assumed him American. Look how the “afresh, afresh, afresh” at the end of his poem emphasizes the yearly cycle or rebirth. Because dead plants linger on the land, often for years, nature photographers frequently find green and brown together, as you’ve represented in your selection of pictures.

    1. The refrain “afresh, afresh, afresh” reminds me of a line composed by another English poet: Christina Rossetti’s “Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow…” Of course Larkin would have been familiar with her poem and its transformation into a Christmas carol. I wonder if it influenced him, consciously or not.

      I’m eager to see what the plant in the last photo becomes. It may be familiar to gardeners, but I’ve never seen anything like it, and there was no one around to tell me its identity. It’s pretty enough just as it is.

    1. Even the pecans are leafing out, now. That’s one bit of folk wisdom that seems to hold true; when the pecans break bud, there won’t be another freeze. Let’s hope!

    1. Larkin tended toward gloominess most of the time, and many of his poems just don’t appeal to me for that reason. But he can engage in some ‘bloominess,’ too. From what I’ve read, this is Larkin at his sunniest!

    1. Thanks, Derrick. Larkin almost became one of your Poets Laureate, were it not for the fact that he declined the honor. He was an interesting fellow, to say the least.

        1. I did notice that friendship in his biography. I came across Amis in college, when Lucky Jim was on the reading list. When I saw the ‘hero’ described online as “a reluctant lecturer at an unnamed provincial English university,” it occured to me that Larkin probably would have enjoyed the novel.

    1. It won’t be long until the other colors of spring and summer begin to attract our eyes, so it seemed only fitting to give green its day in the sun, so to speak. Do you happen to know what the plant in the last photo might be? It looks rather like lettuce to me, but I’m poorly versed in new leaves, and not at all versed in garden plants. The good news is that it will reveal its identity in time.

    1. And there are so many greens! It’s a fanciful thought, but I occasional wonder if the plants aren’t trying to outdo one another with their variations on the color.

    1. Larkin isn’t one I naturally turn to for poems about nature, partly because he’s written very few in that vein: preferring other subjects. But I liked this one, and especially like the refrain about beginning afresh. It suits the season, and I suspect it suits the temperament of people who’ve had enough of our very strange winter.

    1. Daffodils, narcissus, and crocuses are some of your spring plants that I wish we had. After this long and complicated winter, I’ll bet even those buds bring a smile! I found some of our beloved bluebonnets today, but I found some ‘mixed bouquets’ of wildflowers, too. I see it’s still a little nippy up there, but those daffodils won’t care!

  2. The words and the images complement each other perfectly. It is indeed the time of the greening, and very welcome it is too. Every day when I go for a walk spring, in all its glory, filled with hope, is more advanced.

    1. It occurs to me that watching the arrival of spring must be a little like watching Lily grow and flourish. It’s happening continually, but so slowly that we often don’t notice the changes until we take a look and say, “Oh!” Lily and spring both are signs of hope, as well.

  3. Spring is a time of contrasts — old against new, vivid green against tired brown. It’s a time of resurgence. Hopefully, this spring will be a time when people can emerge from the enforced “winter” of isolation due to the pandemic, and begin to reconnect with each other.

    1. I certainly hope so. I thought of you today when I came across exactly one winecup — I remembered that you enjoyed that color when I posted photos of them before. The one I found wasn’t exactly photo-worthy, but it’s a reminder to start looking for those, too. All the old familiar faces are going to be popping up in unexpected places before long.

    1. Philip Larkin isn’t very well known here; at least, I never heard of him until recently. Generally speaking, I find his poetry less than appealing, but one lesson I’ve learned is that it’s possible to enjoy only a few poems from someone’s oeuvre. There’s no moral obligation to like them all! Even my favorites, like Mary Oliver, have produced a few that I politely pass by. I’m glad you enjoyed this pairing.

  4. Well chosen combination of words and pictures, Linda. I especially like the second for its combination of different textures and making use of a less than perfect leaf.

    1. Less than perfect’s the way of the natural world. As I like to tell customers who want a perfect color match between woods, if that’s what you want, get plastic. I was quite taken with the different textures in the second photo, myself. The day I took the photos, I was intrigued by the differences among them, and the way they fit together so nicely.

      1. I’ve had that same conversation with customers about wood grain. We had one who absolutely hated the fact that while all else was straight oak grain, the door panels of her china buffet were quartered. I explained that it is prized and much more decorative than the straight but she wouldn’t have it. SInce I m not the business owner I couldn’t make the plastic suggestion. We did however have a manufacturer’s rep tell a customer who complained about scars in the leather on her sofa arm tops that she should have bought vinyl.
        As far as color matching I do try to control that with glazes, especially on dining table tops, but one can only do so much.

  5. I love the way the photos juxtapose the remnants of the old year with the promise of the new. And the Larkin poem fits perfectly, although I have to admit that I would have never thought “Their greenness is a kind of grief.” But it is beautifully expressed, even if I choose a different view for myself.

    1. That line stopped me for a while. Then, I started pondering kinds of grief, and had a bit of a revelation. Once buds begin to open, there’s no stopping them, as long as nature can take its course. I can imagine a tree grieving in much the way a parent grieves when a child sets off for school for the first time. From that point on, there’s no stopping the journey. There’s pride and happiness, but parents know the beginning of one stage is the ending of another. It’s “a kind of grief.” Once the bud breaks, the journey toward fallen leaf is inevitable.

  6. Green is definitely a color of Spring!! I’ve noticed how green our grass is becoming, probably helped along by all the rain we’ve had. And, while most of the trees are still “sticks,” some of the early-birds are starting to bud out. Lovely poem to go along with all these pretty photos, Linda!

    1. I’m so glad to hear about green grass and buds in your neighborhood, Debbie. Most of the people I know have been like kids in the back seat, asking “Are we there yet?” The usual eagerness for spring is accentuated this year by the isolation that’s been endured. We’re ready to get out and enjoy nature’s gifts!

  7. Our white oaks are budding out, our pioneer rose (which is also the Yellow Rose of Texas with a heritage that goes back to England) is full of small green leaves that the deer have been trimming, and our hike up the mountain today was filled with shooting stars. The miracle of spring and renewal are underway. Persephone has once again escaped from Hades. –Curt

    1. What plant are you calling the ‘yellow rose of Texas’? I’m sure you know that our most famous yellow rose wasn’t a plant at all, but a person: a mulatto named Emily (West) Morgan, an unlikely heroine of the War for Texas Independence. Morgan’s Point, about 30 miles across Galveston Bay from my place, was her home for a time.

      I looked around, and found there’s a plant that’s called the yellow rose of Texas — Kerria japonica — but it’s neither a rose nor Texan. Mysteries abound!

      1. Whoa, I came on the tidbit when I was researching our pioneer rose. Maybe I’ll have to revise my thinking. Not the first time, mind you. On a good day, it happens at least once. :) Somewhere I have the info. I put it aside to do a post on our rose when it blooms again. In the next month or so. When I find it, if I do, I’ll let you know. It was a UC Davis article as I recall. –Curt

        1. If you were researching online, that can lead to ‘issues.’ For example, there are plenty of posts online that say we have five species of bluebonnets, but there are six. You really have to search to find information about the six, and even in a article that lists all six species’ names, the article still said there were only five. What to do! I guess the old rule about having two sources needs to be updated — on the internet, three or four or even more might be best!

  8. Isn’t it wonderful to welcome back the green? We’re seeing a little more of it here in bulb shoots and today I saw green buds on my neighbor’s lilac tree. We’re still in the untrustworthy month, so we hold our breath that snow or ice storms don’t return to slow it down or stop it, but so far, so good! What a wonderful spot you found for your photography!

    1. I started counting shades of green yesterday, and got to a dozen easily. I suspect there might have been more, but I bumped into some wisteria in the process, and decided just standing around sniffing was better. I do envy your lilacs. That was our scent of spring when I was growing up — although I found enough bluebonnets this time that their scent was discernible, too. Do you have lilacs at your house? That would be the first thing I’d plant if I were in an area where they’d be happy.

    1. Do you have a discernible spring there? I’m sure there must be some difference among the seasons, but I don’t remember hearing Floridians talk about them. I suppose if your plants don’t change much from month to month, your birds certainly do!

      Speaking of Florida, look at this drone shot of rip currents off Pensacola Beach today! The colors sure are spring-like!

      1. The old joke is: “Yep, Florida has two seasons. Brown and Green.”

        Spring is definitely discernible! Very similar to spring anywhere. It just usually happens a bit earlier. New growth is abundant, flowers are blooming, insect life has exploded, resident birds are arguing about territory and mates and garden tools are on sale.

        Cool beach shot! My sister lives 10 minutes from that spot.

        1. Your brown and green seasons remind me of the seasons I was introduced to in Liberia: dry and rainy. Dry was red and dusty because of the laterite soil, and by the time the rains came, everyone was ready for the resplendent greens that had been waiting beneath all that muck!

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