The tiger lilies and the phlox in my front garden always bloom last. Their annual emergence is my sure sign summer is here.
The days on either side of solstice are my favorite time of year. The days last so long, with 15 hours of glorious daylight. It’s usually temperate in Indiana, with highs in the 70s or 80s. The trees are fully leaved, young bunnies hop all around the neighborhood, and the flowers just keep coming. It’s so easy to feel happy as spring fades into summer.
Except that I’m not really doing them. I started a couple long-neglected yard chores but they remain unfinished. Except for a few long walks and one good bike ride, I really haven’t launched that fitness regimen I’ve long talked about. I haven’t finally cleaned and reorganized my garage. I haven’t given more time to the church or to the nonprofit I help run.
What I’m finding is that everything I normally do has expanded to fill most of the extra time — I’m taking things slower. With the rest of the time, I’m sleeping in a little and I’m stopping more often to breathe the air and look at my flowers.
There are two reasons, I think. First, I think I don’t really want to do those things. They’re just things I think I ought to be doing, and I blame lack of time for not doing them. I think we tend to naturally prioritize the things we want to do, within the time available to us. It turns out that sleeping and enjoying a little idle time were actually next on my must-do list.
But second, my life was toobusy before. I frequently burn the candle at both ends. Working only part time has let me ease up. It feels like a vacation. I’d like to keep some of this when I eventually return to full-time work.
Does this resonate with you? What do you say you want to do if you had more time? What do you think you’d actually do with that time?
A woman named Verna built my home and lived in it for more than 30 years. My neighbor tells me that a few years before she fell ill and died, she landscaped the yard. The house became a rental for several years after that, and her beds got little love from tenants. When I moved in, one of the first things I did was give them proper care. And while I’m not a huge fan of digging in the dirt, I haven’t been able to resist adding flowering plants of my own.
Spring is my favorite time of year anyway, but I love it even more because of the flowers in my yard as they come and go. My mom gave me my grape hyacinths; they are first to emerge.
I bought a single regular hyacinth plant to go with them. They emerge and begin to blossom at about the same time.
While the hyacinths usually come up first, my daffodils are always first to show color.
Here’s one that has fully opened. When my daffodils open, I know spring has fully arrived. It’s one of the best days of my year.
These Lily of the Valley are relative newcomers to my garden. Mom dug them out of her garden before she moved from our family home last year, and gave them to me. The little blooms don’t last very long.
I can’t decide whether I look forward more to my daffodils or my peonies. Verna planted three prolific peony bushes. I always cut the flowers as they bloom and bring them inside, filling my home with their fragrance. The flowers don’t last very long — a few days, whether left on the bush or cut and placed in water. The aged flowers don’t just wilt, they rot. The bushes bloom for one to two weeks.
Another latecomer to my gardens, another plant from Mom’s former garden, is this evening primrose. It blooms as the peonies are finishing up.
I know spring is about to fade into summer when the day lilies come up. They keep blooming all summer.
My tiger lilies are always the last to bloom, usually just after the first day of summer. My friend Dani gave me these.
I have other flowering plants in my yard, but these are my favorites. And they’re all milestones in the arrival and passage of spring, my favorite season.
Row houses Pentax ES II, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar Kodak Ektar 100 2015
What was I doing on the roof of my residence hall that spring day my freshman year of college?
Nothing more nefarious than taking photographs. I’m sure the administration would not have approved of me being up there, but when an upperclass friend with an illicit building master key bade a few of us come, we went.
This is our building, Baur-Sames-Bogart Hall. That summer, BSB would get new windows — thank goodness, because these aluminum-framed crank-out jobs gushed heat like a sieve all winter. In the photo you can see the guy wires stabilizing the antenna mast for WMHD, the now-defunct campus radio station.
We ate our meals in Hulman Union, across the muck pond from BSB. It’s been expanded and remodeled so much that you’d hardly recognize it as this building today.
When I wrote about my visit to Rose-Hulman last fall, I shared a current photo of the quad pictured in the distance here, all landscaped and pretty. In 1986, a long driveway led in, and that was that.
Templeton Hall doesn’t exist anymore. A classroom and laboratory building stands on this spot now. Like most schools, Rose has been on a building binge in the last 20 years or so.
I also took some ground-level photos, like this one of Moench Hall’s old main entrance. This brick sign was brand new. The campus switchboard used to be behind those doors, and for about 10 hours every week I operated that switchboard for pay. I was working when I took this photo. The switchboard’s bell was loud enough that I could hear it all the way out here, as long as that door was open. But on a weekend afternoon like this one, that bell seldom rang. I got a lot of homework done working the switchboard.
Looking west from about the same spot is this uninspiring photo of Olin Hall, which was just a few years old. Rose does a nice job maintaining its buildings. When I visited in October, Olin looked just as fresh and new as I remembered.
Moench Hall was being renovated when I arrived as a freshman. The building is divided into five sections, A through E. When I started at Rose, A section had already been renovated. B, C, and D sections closed for demolition halfway through my freshman year. Some buddies and I broke in to record the detritus. My crappy 110 camera wasn’t really up to the task. A buddy of mine with a Pentax SLR took much better photos. I should get him to share them. Anyway, a day or two after our covert operation a memo went out to all students warning us to stay out of the construction area. We had been detected!
Old Moench had hardwood floors everywhere. In the hallway on the second floor, you could see through the gaps in the planks right down to the first floor. I was not at all pleased to see that the wood was being ripped out in shreds and splinters.
We found some remarkable stuff in Moench, including an old teletype, a giant bathroom mirror into which “Class of 1932” had been etched in enormous letters, and miscellaneous ancient equipment. We wondered what would become of all of this cool stuff left behind. We took some inconsequential souvenirs that night. I wanted the room number plaque for room E-104 — and Rose students will know the significance of this room — but it was already gone. So I swiped the plaque for room D-122. I still have it.
This is what I looked like in those days. Could my glasses have possibly been any bigger? Oh 1980s, thank goodness your fashion sense did not endure.
That upperclassman with the illicit master key gave it to me when he graduated. The worst I did with it was let myself into the building before it was officially open at the beginning of the school year, as I liked a couple of quiet days to myself before students arrived en masse. And I used it to get toilet paper out of the supply closet on the weekends when the bathroom ran out. I don’t recall ever again using it to go up on the roof.
I had just pulled out of my driveway the other morning when I saw what I thought was a small bag of trash lying in the street ahead. But then I wasn’t sure what it was. And then as I passed it I could see: it was a large turtle!
I got out of the car to look it over. Its shell was at least a foot and a half long. I’ve lived here seven years and have never seen one in the neighborhood, so I was very curious where this one had come from. Perhaps she lived in the golf community behind my subdivision, as there are man-made ponds there. But where could she be going? My neighborhood is dry. Crooked Creek is about a mile away in the direction she was pointed, but a heavily traveled road lay between here and there, and she would find that to be a tricky crossing at best.
She didn’t look very happy to meet me, so I snapped a couple quick shots with my iPhone and moved on. I’m always glad I have my iPhone in my pocket – it’s a good-enough camera, always ready.
I don’t know one turtle from another, so I turned to Google, which leads me to believe this is a snapping turtle. Their reputation for ill temperament helps me not take her standoffishness personally.
In the same week, two people I follow on Facebook shared photos of similar turtles the found out and about. So it must have been a time for turtles to be on the move, perhaps for the females to lay their eggs.
Then there was the time I found a Luna moth. See it here.
My front yard features a good-sized garden, placed there by Verna, the woman who built my house. Unfortunately, she passed away before she filled the garden. And so little by little over the years I’ve been filling it with flowering plants that I can enjoy – and photograph. My photography is pretty powerful motivation considering that I really don’t like digging in dirt!
I never used to pay any attention to flowers. But when I started taking road trips several years ago, I started to notice them growing wild wherever I stopped to photograph things along the road. So I started photographing the flowers, too, and even started to seek them out. And now I wander around my garden every spring with my camera in my hand. I have a truly outstanding 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens that focuses to about nine inches. Recently I put it on my Nikon F2 and loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took several photos over a couple weeks’ time in my garden.
The shot above puzzles me, because in real life these flowers are blue. They’re in a basket of red, white, and blue flowers that I placed on my front stoop. I can’t figure out why they came out purple! Was it a limitation of the Fujicolor 200 film? Was it a fault in the processing or scanning?
Mom dug several plants out of her garden last fall for me to plant in mine. She and my dad are ready to move out of their home of 38 years, and Mom will be leaving her gardens behind. So I’m glad to have some of her flowers in my garden now. The bell-shaped flowers above are among them. I forget what they’re called!
Daffodils were among the flowers Verna planted, and they are always the first things to bloom. They are my signal that spring has begun! Here’s a fresh bud.
And here’s an opened daffodil from several days later. The oversaturated yellow and the lack of detail – do they represent more problems with the film, processing, or scanning? Hard telling. But it has me thinking it’s time to move away from consumer-grade color film for everything except trying out a new-to-me old camera.