The end of May. The sinister, slightly noirish fragrance, of jasmine, of gardenia — those funereal white flowers that always make me think of Raymond Chandler novels and the L.A. of the thirties — moves toward me in eddies early mornings when I walk through the neighborhood.
Overwritten? Yes — but also true.
The end of May. Two seasons ago — September October November, I can’t quite conjure up the feel of those months anymore, it being somehow impossible to inhabit a previous season once the weather’s moved past it — the front yards I walked past were sere and brown, most of their landscaping transformed into dry rustling seedpods. The whorled catherine wheels of clematis; strange haired globes that split open to reveal seeds as polished black as buttons. I carried them home in my hands; I cast them into the flower beds that line our picket fence, and then I forgot them.
Now they’re blooming and I am, in fact, surprised. The feathery foliage and purple spurs so Victorian in their delicacy that must be larkspur — were they last fall’s work? The hollyhock stalk grown almost as high as an elephant’s eye — where did it come from? Did I mean to plant it?
End of May. For weeks, I’ve been maligning the mockingbirds that selected the arbor over our front gate as their nursery. It took them over two weeks to construct a nest the internet said should take two days. Their results were from my critical point of view, slovenly. Their approach to nest-sitting resembled the Mayzie Bird’s in Horton Hatches the Egg. They were there for an hour or so for a day or two, and then disappeared, as far as I could tell.
Surely a clutch of eggs required more nurturing than that! I held on to my story: that they were teenagers on their first procreative trial run, learning the ropes. The whole event was a bust.
Or was it? Today they’re back, and flying in and out of the akebia that covers the arbor, bearing worms. Satisfied with a job well done, one sits the centermost picket of the gate below the arbor, opening and closing its wings, looking like nothing so much as a bird automaton.
I suppose it doesn’t do — to make judgements on the parenting ability of anything, bird or beast.