Over the past couple months, the riverbank has been the site of a parade of colors as one type of flower after another dominated the shoreline for a while before being replaced by the next. The parade began with the daisies, which gave way to black-eyed Susans and orange day lilies, then purple chickory, fuchsia thistle, and now Queen Anne’s lace.
When the daisies arrived in June, I snapped this photo (above) and felt an immediate sense of gratification. The image felt somehow powerful to me. It looked like the daisies were greeting the sunrise and looking upon the river, but there was something more. I ordered and framed a large print and placed it on top of the wood stove in our tiny living room.
That’s when it hit me: The flowers on the shore are like spirits of those who have lived here before us and reminders of the larger life rhythms of which we ourselves are a part.
We are the current residents of a house that was built nearly 200 years ago and has seen many people come and go. When I look at the framed daisy photo, I think of the different generations of families and individuals who have lived and loved within these walls and looked upon the river from the very same vantage point. The view I see when I get up in the morning is the same view they saw. Like the flowers, each generation of residents becomes part of the landscape. However, no life form lasts forever, and all are replaced by others in turn. We are part of this parade.
The land on which the house sits has witnessed even more history, from the seasonal camps set up by Native peoples long ago to the French and Indian wars, the Revolutionary War, the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823 (right around the time when this house was built) which brought prosperity to the area, and the eventual decline of the industrial era. It’s all so much like the flowers.
On the Fourth of July, my son and I sat on the dock listening to the booming sound of fireworks in the distance and watching a spectacular display of heat lightning moving southward slowly along the river. The heat lightning continued long after the fireworks had ended, although the night air was punctuated every now and then by the sudden bangs of private celebrations. A campfire glowed softly in the distance on the opposite shore. Taking in these sights and sounds in the darkness, I thought of how people probably sat in this very same spot amidst the very real and intense sights and sounds of the Revolutionary War or border warfare with the Mohicans. It was easy to imagine the sound of cannons echoing around the river and the sleepless vigilance of scouts and pioneers. Next to our house is a shed that I was told served as part of a Revolutionary War hospital. When I walk around the yard at night and all is quiet but the crickets, I can feel its history, and I feel my own footsteps becoming part of it.
Not only do the flowers have their own daily rhythms of opening and closing, but they have their own graceful life cycles of growing and dissolving, which are part of larger life cycles of the year and of generations. The cycle of a year includes so many different kinds of flowers blooming in their own time, almost like notes played in a musical composition. Everything blooms in its own time and drops seeds so the whole dance may continue, going around and around again. I find great comfort in being part of these natural rhythms.
How blessed we are to be here now!
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