In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast; In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest. In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove; In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Wild Iris
by Louise Gluck
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.
Hear me out:
that which you call death
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over:
that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
Iris have a way of waiting until the first week of June in Minnesota before they make a splash in our gardens. The timing of their flowers coincide with peonies filling the air with their unique fragrance, while iris fill our eyes with unparalleled splendor. There is nothing really like the blue/purple color of iris with their yellow beardish highlights. Iris have six petals, not unusual in the flower world, but the way they present themselves is unique at least for Minnesota gardens, a visual treat we wait for anxiously each summer. Sadly this year, we have been hit with an unprecedented early heat wave with temperatures in the high 90’s for 7 days in a row just as the iris started blooming. The iris and peonies are both showing the stress effects of the high temperatures, dropping petals much too quickly. There will be no slow languor of color this year in our iris beds, just a quick visit and then the promise of next year in their foliage the rest of the season.
The origins of the English word iris – with meanings for both the flower and the colored portion of our eyes are the same; Greek for rainbow. Apparently, flattery will get you everywhere, even in the ancient world, with a whispered compliment in your lover’s ear about the beauty of their eyes reminding you of flowers and rainbows the perfect way to set the mood.
I was pleased to find multiple poems in which one form or the other of iris are used as inspiration to paint a verbal picture. I was recently in California at a house with an incredible array of gardens and landscaping. There was a very old pond that was in need of a bit of attention, but still had vestiges of a former gardener’s deft touch. There was a wild iris overhanging its reflecting surface, long and gangly and brilliant green, with a single yellow flower that was utter perfection. As I stared at it silently and took in the broader view of the entire pond, I realized there was a golden hued frog, with only its head and a bit of its back showing above the water line, directly below the embankment on which the iris stood prominently. As I crouched down to get a better look at this fine froggy friend, it jumped and dove beneath the duck weed and lily pads and disappeared. That encounter was a great reminder of how brief beauty can enter and exit our eye in a flash, and the need to let it live on in our memory and in our art to inspire us to keep looking for it to return when we least expect it.
The Sadness Of The Moon
by Charles Baudelaire
THE Moon more indolently dreams to-night
Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,
Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,
Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.
Upon her silken avalanche of down,
Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;
And watches the white visions past her flown,
Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.
And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,
Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,
Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,
Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow,
Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,
And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart