For one Christmas soon after we moved to my husband Jim’s ideal home, over the course of many weeks I painted for him a large bowl. On the underside is a deep green-blue sea filled with cetaceans (I would not know my porpoises from my whales without having been educated by my children when they were young) and anglerfish, seaweed and coral.
Inside the bowl is a dove-topped ark crammed with pairs of animals no doubt ready to start families of their own.
Circling the rim is a snippet of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ode to the sea:
The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.
Today I happened across another Coleridge poem that poetically dovetails with the sentiment I tried to express about now taking in the world for both of us–both the natural world and events which inexorably go on.
Many years ago I would have joined the universal chorus making fun of Barbara Walters for asking Katharine Hepburn, “If you were a tree, what tree would you be?” But I have no problem associating any of my family members with flora or color. One daughter would be sunshine yellow and wild daffodils; I would have walls of the deepest blue and be a cross between variegated bruised-indigo irises and bleeding hearts (for obvious metaphorical reasons). If Jim were a tree, he would be a mighty and towering one–perhaps an oak– and if he were a color he would be green.
For the past few weeks I have been driven to try to capture images of green intermingled with sunlight.
The Lime-Tree Bower captures some of the same kinds of images I have become drawn to–of “transparent foliage,” of the sun at work, of heaven-lit leaves in the array of greens in which I always see Jim.
In this poem, Coleridge wrote from the perspective of being left behind–although in that instance it was merely temporarily, as his friends set out upon an expedition–and he imagined experiencing the world through others’ eyes:
|Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad|
|As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,|
|This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark’d|
|Much that has sooth’d me. Pale beneath the blaze|
|Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch’d|
|Some broad and sunny leaf, and loved to see|
|The shadow of the leaf and stem above|
|Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree|
|Was richly ting’d, and a deep radiance lay|
|Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps|
|Those fronting elms, and now with blackest mass|
|Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue|
|Through the late twilight: and though now the bat|
|Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,|
|Yet still the solitary humble-bee|
|Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know|
|That nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure;|
|No plot so narrow, be but Nature there|
|No waste so vacant, but may well employ|
|Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart|
|Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes|
|‘Tis well to be bereft of promised good,|
|That we may lift the soul, and contemplate|
|With lively joy the joys we cannot share.|
- (c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon