Blue Iris

May 28, 2016

From this time last year, and because my yard is covered in a carpet of purple clover right now. She said to him wait, I like the wild violet, don't cut there yet. And that made me smile. Because I know her heart. It happens every spring. When the ardent rhizomes, climbers and creepers insist on their moment. I'm recalling a time when I drove home to our farmhouse in Alabama a few summers back.

 

The little house had been closed up for the winter and the few acres of brush land had not been touched since late September. As I pulled into the driveway, I wondered if I'd got the wrong house. I turned the ignition off and sat there utterly ruined. The most magnificent purple profusion... a great undulating carpet of wild iris blanketed every available inch of land, almost knee high... god, it was breathtaking. I went and stood among the rightful owners, stepping lightly here and there, palms petting the velvet petals. Hot as blue blazes already in June, I looked around, as far as the eye could see, nothing but iris. It was here. All along. All these years. I felt almost ashamed for the not knowing. There was no one around with whom to share the moment or the blame. And it was a moment to be shared, it was.

 

I found the spare key under the ceramic frog and pushed hard with my shoulder, coercing the kitchen door into submission. I brushed past the cob webs and layers of dust. I dug in every cupboard, every corner, scoured every shelf, gathered every mason jar, every water pitcher, every vessel I could find. I worked for hours, trimming and cutting and arranging, embellishing the big broken porch with jar after jar after jar. And when I was done, I stood at the edge of it all, my summer dress soaked with sweat, caked in dirt... and I looked back at all of the milky lavender and purple glass, glowing white and cobalt in the late afternoon sun.

 

My god. There are times when my heart absolutely aches for Alabama.

 

And at that moment, it all came rushing in. My eyes misted over as I recalled those precious twilight hours on the porch with family, elaborate rustic suppers of cornbread, greens and roasted chicken on that same barn wood table now covered in crazy. Translucent silhouettes now, flickering like fireflies, in and out of focus, echoes of howling laughter, each trying to outdo the other, but happy to be outdone. Someone buzzing on Miller Lite. Someone playing Sinatra out of his truck. Someone avoiding the conversation. Someone with arms outstretched between the squabblers. Someone rustling up dessert. Someone making a run to the store. Someone who has had it “up to here” and taking a ride with the other someone needing the “fresh air.” I must have stood there for 45 minutes, frozen, lost in memory, figures slowly losing shape.

 

A great sadness began to wash over me with the knowing that my elaborate homage would only stay like this for a day...maybe two. But I smiled with the realization that someone ... someone I love dearly... would show up in a week or so and try to make heads or tales of the remains of my handiwork. I made up comments in my head... "Gypsies? Secret elf wedding? Someone broke in and had a prayer circle?"

 

When the shadows grew long across the yard, I knew it was time to go. I pulled out of the drive and onto Route 10, headed North … waves, convulsions of sadness overtook me. Down, down, down came the deluge, pounding on my windshield, the kind that obscures the road and the rational. The kind that says... PULL OVER. And I wanted to. I wanted to so badly, the ache was crippling and all the air was gone and I knew I'd never see this place again, and the hollering call of dirt road sirens tumbling after: do it... DO IT, no, you're NOT delirious, no, twilight never lies! But it does. It lies like a cut throat cheat. I knew the sky was clear. And I had no time to stop. And those tears, a great cleansing torrent of tears, poured out from my aching heart for a hundred miles or more. They settled for a spell around Montgomery and returned with a shotgun just inside the Georgia line.

 

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