Spring’s First Dandelion

A hoverfly and a tiny ‘something’ enjoying a taste of spring

 

Other Texas dandelions surely are blooming, but this is the first I’ve seen this season. Also known as Carolina desert-chicory or smallflower desert-chicory (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus),  this European dandelion look-alike generally blooms from February through June, but at least this eager flower was willing to give January a try; I found it along the road leading into the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge only a few days ago, on January 24th.

Walt Whitman would have seen the European dandelion rather than our Texas version, but he seems to have enjoyed the sight. In 1888, the New York Herald ran this short poem written by him:

                                         The First Dandelion

                                         Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close 
                                                    emerging, 
                                        As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, 
                                                   had ever been, 
                                       Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass,
                                                  innocent, golden, calm as the dawn, 
                                      The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful 
                                                  face .

Unfortunately, Whitman’s paean to the coming spring ran on March 12, 1888, the worst day of the Blizzard of 1888, a day when several feet of snow and unceasing winds were making the American northeast a very unpleasant place. As the journal Illustrated American reported in 1892, somewhat primly, the poem “made its appearance at a most unfortunate time.” No one wanted to read about dandelions of any sort on that day. 

Parody was inevitable. One of the first examples appeared in the Herald two days after Whitman’s poem was published, signed simply, “After Walt Whitman.”

                                     The First Blizzard

                                     Simple and fresh and fierce, from Winter’s close 
                                          emerging, 
                                    As if no artifice of summer, business, politics 
                                         had ever been, 
                                   Forth from its snowy nook of shivering glaciers– 
                                        innocent, silver, pale as the dawn, 
                                  The Spring’s first blizzard shows its wryful 
                                         face. 

 Eventually, “The First Dandelion” appeared in the ‘deathbed’ edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: a poem as delicate and sweet as the flower it celebrates.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Winter Trees

On December 6, I dawdled my way to the Willow City Loop, north of Fredericksburg. Known primarily for its profusion of bluebonnets and other wildflowers in spring, it’s equally interesting in autumn and early winter. Rocks, cedars, and seedheads predominate; mistletoe and ball moss decorate bare limbs.

When I noticed the still-visible moon hanging in the sky, these lines from poet William Carlos Williams came to mind. His work titled “Winter Trees” easily divides into three haiku-like poems, as elegant as the trees they celebrate.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Hidden Christmas

Along a ranch road in Gillespie County, Texas

Farmer, philosopher, poet, curmudgeon: Wendell Berry understands the land as well as anyone, and the necessities of human life better than most. When I found these live oaks and Ashe junipers topped with a just slightly gaudy Christmas star, Berry’s words about Christmas in the country and the hidden nature of holiness came to mind. Their essential modesty seems to suit the day.

Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened;
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

 

Comments always are welcome.