Friday, June 24, 2011

Everything's Coming Up Peonies

Early this morning I walked out to the garden to pick a fresh bouquet of peonies. New blooms keep appearing and will for a while, offering many days of unruly beauty. I love their passionate display of life, lived in this perfect moment - enjoying the rain, the sun, everything just as it is.

When I came in, I thought of Mary Oliver and her poem, "Peonies." It describes my own morning, bare feet and all.


This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
   to break my heart
     as the sun rises,
        as the sun strokes them with his old buttery fingers

and they open --
   pools of lace,
     white and pink --
        and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
   into their curls,
     craving the sweet sap,
        taking it away

to their dark, underground cities --
   and all day
     under the shifty wind,
        as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
   and tip their fragrance to the air,
     and rise,
        their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
   gladly and lightly,
     and there it is again --
         beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
   Do you love this world?
      Do you cherish your humble and sticky life?
          Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
    and softly,
      and exclaiming of their dearness,
          fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
   their eagerness
      to be wild and perfect for the moment, before they're
          nothing, forever?

~ Mary Oliver


The photographs are mine.


  1. I just love reading of your joy! I recently went back and looked at some of your pics of your entire yard...what a wonderful place!

  2. Hello Teresa:
    How perfectly this poem captures the fleeting beauty of the Peony, one of our favourite flowers. And yours in the garden look so wonderfully blowsy and will look marvellous crammed into vases around the house. A friend of ours is skilled in drying Peonies, an art we think, but they do look fabulous. Well, that is one way to hold on to them!

  3. What a wonderful garden you have, I've enjoyed each post I've seen of yours last year and this, I miss mine so much, sometimes it's hard for me to look at other's gardens.

  4. They are so beautiful your peonies, Teresa. What a wonderful garden. I hope Buddy does not eat the peonies!! `) The lovely Mary Oliver poem fits the pictures perfectly. Thanks for sharing. I have been writing about the roses for the last few days, Teresa, but they are not my own. I haven't got a garden of my own anymore. I just enjoy the garden of others. And I love your peonies.

  5. My peonies are almost over. They break my heart with their beauty which is usually hell-bent on rubbing its face in the dirt.

    Like you I bring them into the house and force them to stay upright in confined spaces. They last for a long time, thus imprisoned.

  6. Teresa, I just love peonies and never having read that poem before, she describes the flower so well. Wonderful and even more wonderful is your walking through your gardens tenderly cutting the beauties...
    Have a great day!

  7. LYNN, I'm so glad you've enjoyed the photos of my little slice of heaven. I am reminded again of how much I have to be grateful for.

    JANE and LANCE, I cannot imagine the difficulty in drying them, as fragile as they are. An art, indeed. I have many, many buds waiting to bloom. I've wanted to post a photograph of the whole bunch, but a photo simply cannot do them justice. Lord knows I've tried.

    LINDA, I know how much you've been missing your gardens. I do hope you will have that opportunity again. To everything there is a season.... In the meantime, your floral pottery pieces are a wonderful reminder.

    GRETHE, So far, Buddy hasn't shown any interest in the peonies. Cross your fingers. :) I just love that poem. she's such a fine writer. I look forward to reading of the roses. And am so glad you enjoyed my peonies.

  8. FRIKO, Peonies really are heartbreakingly beautiful. And, yes, they seem to like to get down and dirty, those unruly little anarchists. I succeed in confining them, sort of, and then they get revenge by shedding their petals a few days later just by breathing too near them, leaving a mess to clean up. But a mess that's worth it. All that's missing is a castle. May I borrow yours?

    TRACY, Dear girl, I Mary Oliver just has a way with words unlike any other. What a wonderful poet she is. And, I do like moving around them, finding the most unruly peonies to cut before they do themselves harm too near the ground. I swear some call to me and say "Pick me! Pick me!"

  9. Yea,Peonies Are Splendid.Something Ancient About The Way They Hold Themselves.Strong Tall + Proud!

  10. Tony, I love the word ancient, no matter the context. They do have that sense about them.

  11. I had not read that Oliver poem before. It is so wonderful, and the pictures and the poem are simply exquisite. Thank you for sharing this moment with me.

  12. DJAN, I had read it for the first time just a couple of weeks ago. It was so fitting and it's so beautiful, I just had to share it. You are so very welcome, dear friend.

  13. Your peonies are magnificent. Have you considered drying them? To savor for the cold season? These beauties are here and gone so quickly...glad you took some great photos of them as a remembrance.
    Lovely post...I can almost smell the peony fragrance. Thank you. Hope you have a great weekend.

  14. Your peonies are, as all peonies are, beautiful! Our are just now beginning to bloom too. I really liked that poem, reading it for the first time!

  15. Is that not the most perfect poem for a peony?! The perfect companion for your photos, Teresa, which have me longing for my own peonies, now done for the season. They do break our hearts. Your last picture - oh, my, how you have captured every bud in a different state of bloom is wonderful.

  16. Your peonies just seem to go perfectly with Mary Oliver's poem, and they are gorgeous.

  17. KARENA, The Hattatt's mentioned having a friend who dries them and I had not heard of drying peonies before. If I could that would be wonderful. Perhaps I should do some reading and give it a go. Have a good weekend, too.

    MONTUCKY, It's nice to know that somewhere peonies are just starting. A circle of blooming all around the world.

    PENNY, I love that poem. MO is an outstanding poet. I had not been conscious of attempting to photograph the different stages at once. It was a lovely "happenstance." I'm glad you liked them.

    NANCY, Thank you. I trust your weekend is off to a good start.

  18. A lovely bloom, yours are weeks behind mine here.I enjoy their exotic bloom and lovely scent.The Mary verse tops off all the beauty.\

  19. Steve, Mary's poem is perfection. It does top it off, doesn't it?

  20. lovely peonies. I don't believe I have ever seen them in real life.

  21. Hi gigi, perhaps the climate in Hawaii is too warm? I don't know, but think someone mentioned that earlier. I'm so grateful for them, the beauty they bring to my yard.

  22. Hi Linda, Unruly suits me a lot better than staid.... :)

  23. Beautiful peonies and poem. I had never heard that one before. Peonies are one of my favorites. We had some that same shade, but they bloomed early and are gone now. I dried the petals and put them in a clear glass vase. They still have the lovely fragrance. Have a wonderful weekend : )

  24. Ladycat, I will try drying petals. it would be nice to capture that intoxicating fragrance. I hope you're having a very fine weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

  25. Peonies always make me think of the word 'luscious'. I even found a variety of daffodil which look like small peonies.

  26. Hey Vacay girl, How was everything on the Jersey Shore?

    A daffodil that looks like a peony? Cool! I will keep my eyes open for them.... There is a luscious sensuality to them.

  27. When I was a child, my mom always called them "pea-own-ees" which I imitated. I got teased by other kids for it, of course. I never became very fond of the flowers but mostly because they're crawling with ants. I grant you that they are gorgeous from a distance.

  28. Ms. Sparrow, I've heard others pronounce it thus, so you're not alone. For whatever reason, mine are not crawling with ants, just a few here and there. I don't use any chemicals, ever, so perhaps a different soil? Thanks for stopping by!

  29. It's been years since I've smelled these flowers. Well now... that's just sad isn't it? Perhaps I should go for a walk and scout out a neighbour's garden!! :)
    xo Catherine

  30. The poem is, of course, not only about peonies. Reminds me of the life of Edna Saint Vincent Milay and her "Fatal Beauty." I really, really like this poem. Also, of the life of one Cletis Longworth Stump and, in fact, Teresa ...... and, indeed, all of us.

    Beautiful! Georgia O'Keefe in words. Very sensual and erotic as well.

  31. Back again. That is one of the most terrifyingly, beautiful poems I have ever read. My sign in word a moment ago was "intingle". That is what this poem did to me. It "intingled" my spirit, my heart, and my flesh. Copying this and looking up the poet to become friends with her.

  32. Catherine, Get thee to a neighbor's garden. Stick nose deep into the center. Fall into bliss. :) I hope you're having a good week.

  33. Cletis, You're absolutely right. There are some beautifully sensual, if not erotic lines in this poem. Georgia's flower paintings did come to mind for me, as well. I am also reminded of Edna's poem, "Dirge without Music," certain lines and the cadence, and now I believe I have the subject for my next post.... Thank you. :)

  34. Cletis, Just read your addendum and want to say I know you will love Mary's work. She's pretty much the finest out there, I believe. I've posted more than one of hers before. And undoubtedly will again.

  35. I came by to leave a note with a tiny apology for being late in replying to your comment at my blog, and nearly died with joy to see an entry on peonies. I so miss my childhood flowers - peonies, of course, but also lilacs, flowering almond, bridal wreath and forsythia.

    My grandmother called them "pine-ies", and they never could come into the house because of the ants. She had some pure white ones that had the most intense fragrance - someday, I swear I'm going to head into a midwestern spring just to experience all that again!

  36. shoreacres, First the lilacs and now these peonies, filling my life with fragrant beauty. Yes, it's the large white ones with their ever-so-slightly pink fringed centers that are almost mesmerizing. I'm so glad you dropped by.

  37. Isn't it perfect? Mary Oliver is an extraordinary poet.

  38. I must add to the gushing over MO's poem. This one I had not read before but what a lovely piece. All the senses are engaged when reading of this fleeting perfection. She makes magic, as do you. I have missed much these last few months and am looking forward to the catch ups, especially meeting Buddy!

  39. Chris! It's so good to hear from you. I believe this might become one of my all time favorite poems. I look forward to seeing more of your beautiful photographs and poetic words, also.