nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘garden escapes’ Category

lily-of-the-valley

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lily-of-the-valley

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Convallaria majalis L.

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where they came from

I do not know, perhaps

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from my mother’s old home

in a shovel-full of lilac

a sheet of white writing paper

in a green box crammed with letters

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perhaps from my grandfather’s farm

tucked in beside the creeping Jenny

a green and white plate printed

with a saying about home

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perhaps from a seed in the gravel

spread on the paths or the road

a line of red pebbles

in a spill of quartz

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every summer the colony spreads

green flames lick at gravel

white bells, delicate perfume

scarlet berries

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a letter not written

a plate hung on the wall

a pathway leading home

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All my best!

Stay safe!

Jane

Written by jane tims

October 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

the wisdom of faerie tales

with 2 comments

As I write and revise the poetry for my ‘garden escapes‘ project, I search for references to enrich my poems. One category of these is the faerie tale. Many faerie tales include gardens in their tale-telling. Some include wisdom to be applied to my experience of the abandoned garden.

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I have chosen three faerie tales to include in my poems:

Rapunzel: the beautiful girl with the long, long hair is imprisoned in the tower because her father makes a bargain with a witch. In one version of the tale, the father steals rampion bellflower from the witch’s garden and gives his daughter as compensation.

Beauty and the Beast: a beautiful girl falls in love with an ugly beast. The tale tells us that you must sometimes look beneath the exterior to find inner beauty. This is another tale where a father is caught stealing a flower (a rose) from a garden and gives his daughter as compensation. Hmmmm.

Sleeping Beauty: when the princess is put to sleep, a thorny vine grows around the castle to hide her away.

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I have included these faerie tales in three of the poems I have written. Below is my poem incorporating the tale of Sleeping Beauty.

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wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

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I think the story of Sleeping Beauty requires a little retelling, to make the princess less compliant. The three vines in the poem are:

  • Clematis (Clematis virginiana): names include virgin’s bower and devil’s darning needle. This climbing vine has delicate white flowers and fluffy seeds
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia): an aggressive climber with leaves palmately divided into five lobes
  • Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata): a prickly annual vine and a climber with tall columns of white flowers

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Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

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Sleeping Beauty

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“… round about the castle there began to grow a hedge of thorns, which every year became higher, and at last grew close up round the castle and all over it, so that there was nothing of it to be seen … ” –The Tale of Sleeping Beauty, the Brothers Grimm

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three vines whisper—

Clematis virginiana

Virginia creeper

wild cucumber, reshape

the hawthorn, the rose

with frail flowers

and five fingers

tendrils like springs

disguise the thorns

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keep curiosity seekers away

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dampen noises from

beyond the barrier

where wakeful Beauty

taps her nails

on foundation granite

wonders if anyone

will dare to tear

at tendrils, breach wall

of thorn and vine

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the need for rescue always in doubt

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only decades ago

a home chuckled

behind the hedgerow

mowed lawn and a dyer’s garden

tansy at the cellar door

flax in the meadow

Beauty dibbling seeds

deadheading flowers

tying up sweet pea

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only the cellar remains

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perhaps she will slash

her way through hawthorn

rip out wild cucumber

scrape away suckers of creeper

tame the hawthorn, the briar

renovate house and barn

encourage the scent of sweet pea and petunia

transparency of hollyhock and mallow

whisper of yellow rattle, rustle of grasses

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no more virgin’s bower

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Clematis virginiana

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best.

Are you getting COVID-fatigue?

Stay alert!

Jane

Written by jane tims

September 1, 2020 at 7:00 am

identifying an unknown plant

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This is NOT a how to identify a plant post. If anything, it is a how not to identify a plant post.

It started with a plant I saw on one of our ‘field trips.’ In my own defense, I had never seen this plant before.

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DSCN1673

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DSCN1676

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I thought it looked like a sumac, a plant very common in our province. It had pinnately compound leaves and a terminal inflorescence. The flower didn’t look right; it was too diffuse, too brown and ragged. The leaves had a very wrinkled look, unlike the leaves of sumac. But I took lots of photos, enough to show me stem hairiness, a characteristic I know is important to the identification of sumac.

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tight, red flower cluster of staghorn sumac

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Back at the house with my photos, the computer and my plant identification books, I proceeded with my detective work. Humph. Didn’t seem quite right. I even asked a biologist friend and consulted an excellent How to know the sumac species video. I now know the three local sumac species: Rhus typhina (hairy twigs), Rhus glabra (smooth twigs) and Rhus copallina (winged twigs).

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None were quite right. Rhus typhina or staghorn sumac was closest, but the flowers were not right at all. Since plants of staghorn sumac are either male or female and no one shows photos of the male flowers, I decided it must be a male staghorn sumac.

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staghorn sumac near our cabin

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Fast forward a week and I went to see the beautiful flower garden of my biologist friend. Saw something that looked like my mystery plant and proudly said, “Your sumac is a male.” Bzzzz! Not a sumac but an Astilbe. Ahah! My mom had Astilbe in her garden. That must be it. I sang all the way home. Back to the computer. Hmmmmm. None of the leaves were quite right.

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I gave up, but feeling closer than ever, I went to a group I belong to on Facebook. ‘Plant Identification‘ is a no-nonsense, no chit-chat group. I posted my photos and my whereabouts and, within a couple of comments, I had the answer. Sorbaria sorbifolia. False astilbe. False spirea. False goat’s beard. I looked at some reference photos. The leaves are right! The flowers are right (past flowering and brown). The description is right! Yayyyyy!

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Sorbaria sorbifolia. Source: Hydro-Quebec

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Now, after a little more research, I can write my poem!

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DSCN1672

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Now for all the comments that say you recognized the mystery plant right away!

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best!

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

revising poetry

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After a full month of working on my artsnb project ‘garden escapes,’ I am conscious of the passage of time. My deadline is November 1, 2020, and meeting this deadline requires completing the poems and other deliverables.

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At this point (I began on July 1, 2020), I have completed my field work (visits to various abandoned communities), done drafts of 70 poems, placed these poems in seven tentative subject groups, and considered how I will approach revisions. I know I will also write a few more poems based on material collected.

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The subject groups (not in order) are:

  • all that remains
  • my mother’s garden
  • invaders and volunteers
  • the gardener
  • whispered stories
  • a glimpse of history
  • the shape of a garden

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I meet regularly with a writing group known as Wolf Tree Writers. I have read a few of the poems at these meetings and received lots of suggestions. I think the most important suggestion has been: ‘ask yourself, where is the metaphor in this poem?‘ I have taken this idea seriously. I do want these to be poems about communities and garden plants. But each poem has to work harder – it has to comment on some social truth addressed (the metaphor).

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When I began this work, I spent a full day on metaphor, considering how garden escapes would relate to issues or problems we face as humans.  The fundamental requirement for a garden to escape is – it must be left alone to decide its own fate. In our lives this could be a metaphor for:

  • accomplishment – you can write a song, but you have to let it go to see if it will flourish. This applies to the results of various endeavors: paintings, quilts, stories. Collections are a particular type of accomplishment; people often belittle ‘stuff,’ but I think particularly of things passed on from one generation to another (jewellery, books, souvenirs). Like the plants in a garden, accomplishments must make it into the right hands, the right conditions of soil and sun.
  • influence – you can talk to people and try to nurture them, but only time will tell if influences take hold. Some of our influence is directed and purposeful; you can try to be a good teacher to your children but eventually they must leave home and only then will lessons take hold or wither. Gardeners will plant a scarlet runner bean and end up with a lupin; parents can plant a ‘carpenter’ and end up with a ‘financier.’ So much of influence is accidental, transferred by chance. Think of influencers like ‘kindnesses,’ ‘chance encounter,’ ‘place’ and ‘accident.’  Also, ‘influence’ must be abandoned for a while and then re-discovered and the value found.
  • abandonment – the abandonment of children/family can occur in so many ways: adult children lose their parents, children are orphaned or abandoned, parents are left to fend for themselves as they age. Each of these situations can be examined using the metaphor of the abandoned garden.

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So my first duty in revision will be to examine each poem for the embedding of metaphor. Sometimes the metaphor will already be there. Sometimes I will need to add a phrase or line for clarity. Sometimes the whole poem will have to be reconfigured to include a clear idea of metaphor.

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When more substantive revisions are done, I have a revision checklist aimed at detailed revision.

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revision checklist

  1. take out ‘which’ and ‘that’
  2. remove weak verbs (‘to be’)
  3. consider removing small words (‘the,’ ‘a,’ ‘so,’ ‘etc.’)
  4. try alternative words – words to contribute more
  5. exchange words used more than once with synonyms
  6. remove adverbs (many are ‘ly’ words) and gerunds (‘ing’ words)
  7. read aloud – watch for phrases or ideas that ring bells – may make it better/worse
  8. be truthful – when it isn’t right, return to truth
  9. check if singular or plural is correct
  10. consider passive voice – does it drag it down?
  11. check voice (child, scientist); don’t switch within poem
  12. consider end and embedded rhyme – select better words
  13. consider rhythm; count beats/syllables and read aloud to identify cadence errors
  14. for poems written in a particular form, check conformity to form

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All of this is a continuing process. Even when I submit those ‘final’ poems with all their revisions, I may continue to work at poems for years!!!!

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This work is accomplished as part of an artsnb Creations Grant.

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All my best.

Stay Safe.

Don’t get COVID fatigue.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 21, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: lost settlements

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During my project about garden escapes, I have discovered just how many settlements and properties have been lost from the New Brunswick countryside. The loss has been due to struggles which are largely rural at their roots: struggles due to economics, disease, the hardships of winter, the lure of the city.

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Loss of these communities and houses has an impact on us all. The value of rural community has been pointed out recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons we have done relatively well in New Brunswick is our rural nature and the low population density.

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To me, the sad side of the loss of rural community is the loss of information about these places, what it was like to live there and who the people were. What did they think about. Who did they love? What were their struggles?

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The information can be knit together by a painstaking process of gathering the available puzzle bits and pulling the clues together. To illustrate, I will use the example of Kilmarnock, an abandoned community near Woodstock.

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Today, Kilmarnock is a long drive on a backwoods road. There are lots of camps along the road and the road itself is kept in good condition.

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the Kilmarnock Settlement Road

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First, there is no one place to go to for all of the information on a community. In New Brunswick, we do have a wonderful New Brunswick Archives website called Where is Home? https://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/Communities/Details.aspx?culture=en-CA&community=1963

The database for the settlement of Kilmarnock  is short, typical of many communities listed.

William Gibson, who immigrated from Kilmarnock, Scotland, settled here in 1843: in 1866 Kilmarnock was a small farming settlement with about 3 families.

Among other information is a cadastral map of land grants, a bit mind-numbing because it shows a map of all grants, regardless of date.

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kilmarnock grant map

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Another source of information is the Canada Census. In Canada, the Census is available for the first year of every decade.  I access the Census through my membership with Ancestry.ca and by knowing a name and the approximate birth year, I can usually find a lot of information on a community. In this case, I know the parish where the Census was taken (Northampton Parish, Carleton County) and I have the information from the Where is Home? site.

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Because the settlement was established in 1843, I looked at the Census for 1851, knowing that some changes will have occurred in the interim 8 years. I find William Gibson and his family right away.

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e092-e002292169

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Name and Age

William Gibson 63

Robert Gibson 87

Jane Gibson 60

David Gibson 23

Wallace Gibson 21

Elizabeth Gibson 18

Bruce Gibson 15

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Some of the notes about the family tell me that Robert and Jane were the married couple, not William and Jane, even though they were of an age. The Census also says that Robert and Jane had been in Canada since 1820 and that Robert was William’s uncle. Other notes say that William, Robert and Jane were from Scotland and William was a millright.

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So, is this the William Gibson who founded the community? I think so. The ‘millright’ occupation is interesting since it explains the name of the stream, Gibson Millstream.

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DSCN1534

Gibson Millstream, looking east

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Although the database says there were only three families in the settlement in 1866, the 1851 Census tells a different story. If you look for the names on the cadastral map, you can find most of them in 1851, on the pages before or after the notations for the Gibson family.  The Census shows there were at least nine families in Kilmarnock in 1851. Starting from the crossing of the stream and working southward:

  • Robert and Jane Gibson and family of 7, including uncle William Gibson, age 63
  • James and Marrion Rankin and family of 7
  • Robert and Mary Craig and family of 1
  • Thomas and Nancy McGinley and family of 7, including the grandfather Joel Young, age 82
  • John and Elizabeth Gibson and family of 4
  • John and Thankful Marsden and family of 6
  • Peter and Nancy Marsden and family of 5
  • William and Bathsheba Tompkins and family of 10
  • Joseph and Margaret Wolverton and family of 3

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If you look at the cadastral map above, these names match the surnames of property owners on the map, reading from north to south and then from west to east.

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overlay

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A look at the Census for 1881 is also interesting. All of these families and others are represented, although some people have died in the thirty years, and some families have grown.

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With regard to the garden escapes project, my discoveries were few. We did not see the south part of Kilmarnock settlement because of a cable across the road. However, the Google Earth satellite map shows that fields have been used and there is a windrow of trees between two adjacent fields (probably between the McGinley and Young properties).

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The only other vegetation sign we saw was an old apple tree on the corner where the road crosses the Gibson Millstream (marked with an ‘x’) and a young apple tree along the road (also marked). Perhaps these trees are descendants of settlement times, perhaps they are apples from a wandering deer up for a visit from Woodstock.

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apple tree at Gibson Millstream crossing

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So much knowledge is lost from generation to generation. I find it a good argument for telling stories, keeping diaries, writing letters, keeping blogs, contributing to community endeavours.

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One of the poems in the project will be the imagined walk along the Kilmarnock Road by Mary Craig and her son John, 2 years old.

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This work is accomplished as part of an artsnb Creations Grant.

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Get out your diary and write in it. Sort your photos.

So much to do.

If you don’t want a future poet making up stuff about you.

All my best.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: where did they come from?

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When I find a plant in a ditch or roadside where it has no business to be, I wonder how it got there. Of course, the mechanism is usually plain. Some plants have arrived by seed, others by horizontal roots. But how did they get into the garden if that is where they came from?

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This weekend, we found three plants which made me wonder how they arrived in the community where they now grew: bouncing-Bett (Saponaria officinalis), white sage (Artemesia ludovinciana) and harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).

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escapes

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Where did they come from?

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33 bouncing bett cropped

bouncing-Bett (Saponaria officinalis)

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bouncing-Bett, common soapwort

Saponaria officinalis

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pink blur along the road

fills the ditches

perhaps she loved colour

or needed mild soap

to wash delicates

gloves sullied in the garden

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6 Morehouse Corner white sage cropped

white sage (Artemesia ludovinciana)

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white sage

Artemisia ludovinciana

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hugs the edge of the road

a slash of silver

in a matrix of green

perhaps he sought

smoke and smoulder

sacred odour of the smudge

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20 Wiggens Mill harebell cropped

harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

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harebell

Campanula rotundifolia

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in the margins of the road

harebell catches

found among the grasses

perhaps they wished to play

dress-up with lady’s thimbles

reminded them of home

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Be safe, wear your mask.

All my best,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

August 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: balm-of-Gilead

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My mom used to take me for a walk around the garden when I visited. One of her favorite trees was the balm-of-Gilead. Her original tree had escaped into other places along the driveway and she loved its tenacity. She always pulled a leaf from a low branch and crushed it to bring forth the smell … slightly medicinal, aromatic and balsamic. I also love the colour, green with a tinge of orange bronze.

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The balm-of-Gilead (Populus × jackii or P.× gileadensis), is the hybrid between balsam poplar and eastern cottonwood. This hybrid is sometimes planted as a shade tree, and sometimes escapes from cultivation.

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As we drive the roads of abandoned houses and community, I often see balm-of-Gilead before I see any other garden escapes.

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In 1898,  Beaufort, Carleton County, was a community with 1 post office and a population of 100. Today, there is only one, modern house in the community. But remnants of old gardens still remain. We saw many garden plants, both persisting and escaping: monkshood, dropwort, orange day-lily and butter-and-eggs. There were also apple trees and a poplar I identified as balm-of-Gilead.

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Today Beaufort is a long, lonely road with only traces of the former community.

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I took a slip of Mom’s balm-of-Gilead and planted it at our cabin property. It is taking its time, growing a little more each year. I think, when I am gone, perhaps this tree will have grown and be sending out descendants of its own.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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Take care, stay safe.

Don’t get Covid-tired.

Be tenacious like the balm-of-Gilead.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 3, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: learning something new

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The poems I am writing have two dimensions:

  1. consideration of the plant, its names and characteristics, and its tendency to die, persist or escape when a garden is abandoned
  2. consideration of the community or area where the plant occurs

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For the botany, I have my floras: Hal Hinds ‘Flora of New Brunswick‘ (2002), Roland and Smith’s  ‘Flora of Nova Scotia’ (1969) and others. During the project so far, I have learned about three new-to-me flowers: golden alexander (Zizia aurea), dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) and narrow-leaved everlasting pea (Lathyrus sylvestris).

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For the history, I have the New Brunswick Archives site ‘Where is Home?’ which tells when the community was first settled, what the population of the community was in certain years and so on. I also have the Canada Census for various decades and some excellent local histories lent to me by a very good friend.

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For example, one of the abandoned communities we visited was Mavis Mills, north of Stanley. The community of Mavis Mills included a lumber mill and camp, post office and train stop. The community was named by a lumberman for his daughter, Mavis Mobbs. The community had a post office from 1922 to 1928. The 1921 Census shows a boarder and miller, John Mobbs, in Stanley Parish and below his name a mill camp with 31 men.

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Something that puzzled me was the entry of ‘last lumberman’ under occupation, beside each of the 31 names. At first I thought it was a mis-spelling of ‘lath.’ Then I read more about the mill, in Velma Kelly’s book ‘The Village in the Valley: A History of Stanley and Vicinity (1983). After World War I, metal was in short supply. So in 1919, the Mavis Timber Company was contracted to make ‘last blocks’ from rock maple.

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canvas 1921

a screen capture of part of the Canada Census for 1921 … under ‘Occupation’, the Census lists ‘Last lumber for each worker in the mill …

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I had no idea what ‘last blocks’ were, so went on a Google hunt. ‘Last blocks’ were used to make the wooden shoe forms used by shoe makers. From 1919 to 1924, the Mavis Lumbering Company made five million ‘last blocks,’ to be shipped to England.

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Mavis Mills abandoned property

an empty lot in a place in the community where Mavis Mills once stood … the lot is filled with golden alexanders

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Such is the learning from a project such as mine. The phrase ‘never stop learning’ comes to mind.

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Have you ever heard of a ‘last block?’ My great-grandfather, Josiah Hawk, who was a shoemaker in Pennsylvania, would be puzzled about the lack of knowledge of his great-granddaughter!

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shoemaker’s lasts (Source: Wikipedia)

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Note that this project ‘garden escapes’ is funded under a Creations Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board).

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All my best,

staying in as much as possible and staying safe,

Jane

garden escapes: vectors

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The term ‘vector’ has different meanings depending on the discipline. In university I took two engineering courses that occupied me in the study of ‘vector’ mathematics!

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In biology, a ‘vector’ is any organism or physical entity that moves an element from one place to another. The idea of vectors is used in epidemiology, in reproductive biology, and in ecology. When I try to understand garden escapes, I am interested in vectors for seed or vegetative dispersal.

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Once a garden is abandoned, the plants there will either die, persist or escape. They escape by way of rhizomes (horizontal roots), rooting of plant parts (suckering) or spreading of seeds.

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Seeds or pieces of plant can be spread to other locations by various vectors: water, soil, air or animals. Seeds, for example, can be carried along by water in a ditch, or can spread by wind that carries seeds on specially adapted seed parts.

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dandelion fluff 2

air as a vector for seed transport

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Animal vectors include insects, birds, mammals (including humans). Some of this is deliberate (a squirrel burying acorns) and some is accidental (humans spreading seed by moving soil from one area to another).

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squirrel as a vector

squirrel as a vector for transport of seed

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The various garden escapes I have encountered usually have their preferred vectors.

  • lupines- seeds carried through air as a projectile
  • orange day-lilies- rhizomes through soil
  • yellow loosestrife- rhizomes through soil
  • creeping bellflowers- rhizomes through soil
  • rose bushes- roots through soil; humans who dig up and replant shoots
  • grape vines – suckering, seeds, humans

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This is a poem about a human vector (me):

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paths to come and go on

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Old rugosa rose,

brought the stem and root,

across the ferry

from Grand Manan,

in a banana peel.

Every summer pale

pink blooms on an arc

of thorns, biggest hips

you ever saw. Rose

will outlast the house

and all who live here.

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Virginia creeper

dug From the river bank

below the willow

on Waterloo Row.

Overcomes the pole

and every summer

the power people

pull the creeper down.

Red in the autumn,

sneaks across the lawn,

started down the drive

and along the road.

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The staghorn sumac

pinnate leaves spreading

cast purple shadows,

give a tropical air

to the driveway.

Brought the root and slip

from the gravel pit

in Beaver Dam.

New shoots every year.

Headed direction

of Nasonworth,

last time I looked.

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34 Olinville road pink roses crop

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Note that this project ‘garden escapes’ is funded under a Creations Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board).

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All my best!

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: having fun

with 6 comments

I have been working at my garden escapes project for almost a month now. Many of the poems are simple free verse, usually evenly divided in stanzas of four to seven lines, often consisting of regular numbers of syllables. I have also tried some other forms, the pantoum and the ghazal. And most fun of all, for a few poems, I have tried shape poems, using the lines of the poem to create shapes reflective of the subject matter.

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Here is a poem that goes a step further. The shape shows the shape of lupins growing in the ditch; the colours are the colours of the flowers.

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lunpins Giants Glan

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And, a poem about chokecherries, in the shape of the hanging blossoms or berries.

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I will continue to work with these, perhaps aiming to make the poem read sensibly no matter which way you approach it.

I’d appreciate any comments, positive or negative!

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best,

doing my best to stay in my shape,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

July 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

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