How Meet Beauty?


I’ll tell you what: Gerard Manley Hopkins makes me wish I were a theist.

To what serves Mortal Beauty?

TO what serves mortal beauty ‘ -dangerous; does set danc-
ing blood-the O-seal-that-so ‘ feature, flung prouder form
Than Purcell tune lets tread to? ‘ See: it does this: keeps warm
Men’s wits to the things that are; ‘ what good means-where a glance
Master more may than gaze, ‘ gaze out of countenance.
Those lovely lads once, wet-fresh ‘ windfalls of war’s storm,
How then should Gregory, a father, ‘ have gleaned else from swarm-
ed Rome? But God to a nation ‘ dealt that day’s dear chance.
To man, that needs would worship ‘ block or barren stone,
Our law says: Love what are ‘ love’s worthiest, were all known;
World’s loveliest-men’s selves. Self ‘ flashes off frame and face.
What do then? how meet beauty? ‘ Merely meet it; own,
Home at heart, heaven’s sweet gift; ‘ then leave, let that alone.
Yea, wish that though, wish all, ‘ God’s better beauty, grace.

I know Hopkins isn’t the easiest poet to follow, but the effort is so worth it. Hopkins means to be read aloud, which helps; I doubt the version I’ve cut and pasted here even shows all his accent marks. It’s as if he were writing music, with all the notes and stresses clearly laid out for us.

And I could use a dose of his sprung rhythm right now. It’s the perfect meter for a walk through the ‘hood.

how meet beauty?’ Merely meet it


I think I hear a day trip calling my name.

Talk about a flower that wants to live everywhere. Then the plant grows and wants to be divided up and shared with friends, who will obligingly offer you some of theirs. It’s almost enough to make me knock on doors and ask neighbors for a hunk or two of the day lilies adorning their yard.


Lately it’s felt like our walks around the ‘hood take forever. True to type, Travis must stop, sniff, and pee approximately every ten yards so as not to be outdone by the other canines in the area. While this can be highly annoying, most of the time I am one with his pace. After all, he has to do his share of waiting for me as I wander distractedly in the direction of every floral fragrance and eye-catching patch of color. It’s a little embarrassing for a four mile walk to take an hour and a half, but oh well. We’re busy.


There are at least two day lily farms that even I know of within a few hours’ drive of my house. Too bad I rarely feel like driving to either Houston or the east Texas piney woods. However, I am on school break and this would be the perfect time for such a road trip.


While some day lilies look like traditionally built ladies* in fluffy aprons, others might as well be fairy lanterns. It’s clear from even the Wikipedia article that legions of gardeners have bred a fabulous array of Hemerocallis.

I really would like to get my hands on some of those double blossom beauties.


Not that the singles are anything to sneeze at. (Oh dear, it’s been such a year for allergies I feel badly even using that old expression. Sorry.)


Splendid as they are, day lilies are not the only thing happening around here. The wildflowers whose seeds I threw down almost as an afterthought in that space where we took out the big agave are giving me new surprises every day.


How many things could possibly be going on in thirty square feet?



While I’m on the subject of square feet, let me pay tribute to the neighborhood’s community garden. Read about it here.

I’d been noticing that the former vacant lot has become an amazing space, and so decided to take advantage of a recent garden party to set aside all shyness and walk among the raised beds for a closer look. Hey, I even spoke to one person I know. Give me my gold star right now.


It’s not easy to convince a Homeowners’ Association to try something new. Change makes HoAs very, very nervous. But a few years ago a group of dedicated gardeners convinced our dear governing body that a useless piece of land beside a water treatment station could be transformed into a valuable community space.

And they have made a real community out of it, despite its, um, sometimes funky aroma.


We’ll get to the raised beds in a minute. When you first enter, ahead of you and to the right you encounter an array of picnic tables, grills, and chairs that indicate this is a space to be shared, to have a drink or a cookout. Or a party to which the entire neighborhood is invited.


To your left, an array of raised beds for which I am told there is a long waiting list. It sounds like a Miss Marple mystery waiting to happen. And there is enough whimsy going on to satisfy even the fussiest cosy fan.


What kid wouldn’t like a patch of dirt and gravel to move from place to place, and a hiding place that looks like a giant beehive? While the littles play, the gardeners make things happen. How I wish I could grow food!


All around there are nooks and corners designed for sitting and having a drink in the shade. A Texas garden in summer is not a place for the faint of heart.

The tables at the potluck were appropriately decorated with my favorite kinds of flowers:


And once inside the fence I could get a better shot of a steampunk birdhouse that sets the whimsical tone for the entire garden.


I think a children’s book needs to be written about that house and its occupants.

Even though my stay was brief, the garden party was the perfect way to end a terrible week. I was definitely in the mood for community, and the Travis Country Community Garden delivered. (I could say in spades, but that would be well over the top, I think.)

The next time I see the gate unlocked, I think I’ll go in and pull some weeds.

*An apt term employed by Mma Precious Ramotswe in Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I’m glad to have reminded myself to re-read them all; they are perfect hot weather stories.


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