Mountain laurel

This time of year, when the mountain laurel is blooming outside our front door, I silently thank whoever it was who planted it. I love flowers but don’t have a green thumb, so I’m grateful that someone chose to surround our house with rhododendrons, euonymus, and pieris as well as spiderwort and spirea: a flowering legacy that continues from year to year despite burying snows and nibbling rabbits.

Mountain laurel

Want to make a lasting difference in the world? You can have and raise children, or start and grow a charity, or make and donate millions. Or, you can plant a long-lived and hardy perennial, something green and growing that will outlast you. They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and I’m grateful to the gardeners who had the foresight to plant the flowers and shrubs that fringe my house with beauty now.

Peeking

One of the interesting things about keeping a blog is how easily you can compare what’s happening (or blooming) now with what was happening (or blooming) the previous year. This time last year, I was moving out of my apartment in Keene, which seems like a lifetime or two ago. When I remember how tiring it was to sort through, pack, and move the contents of an apartment I’d rented for eight years, I’m that much more grateful for being quietly settled this year.

Mountain laurel

Last night I remarked to friends that the mountain laurels seem to be blooming earlier this year than last, but then I second-guessed myself. Doesn’t summer sneak up on me every year, time flying faster and faster with every season? A quick blog-check reveals I’d included a picture of mountain laurels in an early June post in which I discussed Diane Ackerman’s One Hundred Names for Love, which I was reading this time last year. In 2010, the mountain laurels were blooming on May 26th, just like this year, so I was half right: the mountain laurels didn’t bloom this early last year, but this year’s blooming isn’t entirely out-of-the-ordinary.

Mountain laurel

Same Time, Next Year” was a film starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn about a man and woman who meet for an adulterous weekend every year for several decades. I saw the movie with my mother when it came out in 1978, when I was nine years old. I was probably too young for a “PG” movie: I don’t remember most of the details of the story, since the jokes and “adult themes” flew right over my prepubescent head. But what I do remember was how the two characters remained faithful to one another and their once-a-year commitment even though they both changed over time, their annual trysts becoming a kind of benchmark for the rest of their lives.

Mountain laurel

I “meet” with my blog two or three times a week, but that’s enough to keep the relationship between us alive. At any given moment when I want to compare my life today with some previous version, I don’t have to call upon an adulterous lover: my blog will do. This time last year, I was reading Diane Ackerman; right now, I’m reading Terry Tempest Williams and Alison Bechdel. Who knows what I’ll be reading–or what I’ll be doing, or what will be blooming–this time next year, but chances are I’ll still keep a faithful record.

Peony

Overnight, one backyard peony has burst into full flower, hurried by yesterday’s suddenly summery heat. The neighborhood mountain laurels are also blooming, which always strikes me as incongruous, as I invariably associate laurels with cool summer mountaintops, not simmering summer hothouses.

Mountain laurel

I said the exact same thing about sudden summers, peonies, and mountain laurels last year, with similar illustrations…except this year, both our backyard peonies and the neighborhood mountain laurels have bloomed more than a week ahead of schedule. Summer has arrived just as suddenly this year as it did last, but this year it has arrived suddenly, sooner.

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Peony bud, with raindrops

This morning, after several gray, cool, drizzly days, summer arrived suddenly, bursting overnight into full-blown bloom.

Peony

Mountain laurel

In true New England fashion, when summer arrives, it does so with a vengeance: as I write this on Saturday afternoon, it’s 91 degrees outside. How strange, then, to see mountain laurel–a plant I associate with cooler climes–blooming in a shady spot where I hurried Reggie out of the sun on this morning’s walk. Apparently mountain laurel doesn’t read sweltering weather forecasts?