What have you done? I asked, bewildered, as Matt walked in the door.
It was 6:30 this morning. I was sitting at the dining room table. I can’t remember why I was sitting there. I had not yet mixed up and ladled out our Saturday morning oatmeal. My morning coffee wasn’t even percolating yet. I think that perhaps I was sitting there wishing that my morning nourishment and stimulation would magically appear before my bleary, sleepy eyes. Instead, as I heard the screen door open, I looked up to see Matt’s arms heavily laden with light pink peonies. Over 130 of them, to be exact. As my eyes flew open wide, I demanded, what have you done? I guess I thought he had been out on a dawn raid of our neighbors’ peonies. We have one small peony bush–a baby shower gift from my mother-in-law before Amélie was born–that we have nurtured along for five years. We finally had one beautiful flower this year, and then in the storm two nights ago a large Cottonwood limb came crashing down on our single bloom. I, like the peony, was crushed. Peonies are my favorite flowers, and I was so excited that I was finally going to be able to bury my nose into the petals of my own pink peony rather than stealing sniffs from neighbors’ flowers as I walked by. I guess I thought Matt was making it up to me by stealing 130 blooms.
He had not stolen the flowers, actually. I’m not sure why I thought he had. He’s not exactly the thieving type, although he’s been known to go out on plant rescues in the middle of the night to remove neglected plants from people’s porches. These peonies, though, had not only been neglected, but they had also been cut and dumped in the alley behind our house. Why??? I don’t know, but we’ve certainly been enjoying their fresh blooms and heady scent. When I trekked out to the garage later in the morning to tell Matt that breakfast was ready, I walked back into a house heavy with the scented essence of blooming peonies and fresh coffee. And after breakfast, Matt read us the following poem by Mary Oliver.
What beauty…what bliss.
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 the 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,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again–
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are