Poetry and Gardening

Musings from the days of a creative writer/gardener with a true appreciation for nature, meditation, and poetry.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Texas: Blue Bonnets and Roses that climb trees

This weekend, my husband and I traveled to East Texas to visit family members he hadn't known existed.  It was the first time I'd visited his home town of Carthage, and though he's prepared me ahead of time, I could not have imagined how much the trip would have affected both of us.

The drive from Dallas--more than two hours--was rainy and misty, and the bluebonnets Lady Bird Johnson had arranged to have planted on the sides of most Texas roads many years ago were not quite in bloom.  But all along the highway, some color shown through the rain to remind us that spring had hit Texas weeks earlier.  Azaleas, just about over their blooming season; some Black-eyed Susans (early, I think!); and in the small town of Carthage:  roses.

It amazes me that roses bloom just about everywhere, in every type of soil, and even in places where no other flower dare show its face.  But there is one difference:  the roses that bloom in the poorer parts of Carthage appear to hold on determinedly, even to the point of grabbing the nearest permanent structure and sticking in their thorny fingers to hang on to that structure long after human beings have abandoned it.  We saw red-red roses against abandoned shacks, climbing along the ruins of cement stairs that led to nowhere, and one hardy climber rose into the skinny branches of a tree starved for water, spilling its blossoms where the leaves should have been, climbing so high that it seemed the rose had taken over for what the tree could no longer produce.

The town of Carthage has endured racism and poverty, yet their city square boasted an elaborate gazebo donated long ago by a book club.  The square, embroidered with full-blossomed azaleas, is the brightest color in Carthage -- except for some houses on the other side of town that played host to rose gardens of a different hue. 

Those "wealthier" rose gardens, squared and formal, had pink and yellow roses, white and peach colored ones, and shades of blue and purple that don't seem quite normal for roses.  Yet though I consider myself a rose lover and ooh'd and aah'd over the richness of those formal gardens, it is that one hardy climber that took over a tree and bled its maroon blossoms high above the shack beside it that stands in my mind.

Today, I'm choosing a poem by Langston Hughes to pay homage to that rose and to the rains that brought us into Carthage.

"April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.