Le tournesol, le tournesol
There is a recent tradition in our family that my eldest daughter Ale who lives in Lillooet brings Helianthus annuus (sunflowers) in pots in the spring for us to place in our garden. Until last year that meant the back lane of our Athlone house. This year they have found a new home on the back lane to our Kitsilano digs (today I had some carrot/ mango juice, so there! I may have been a hippie in my past around 1967/68).
They look glorious now that our three roses, Rosa ‘William Lobb’, Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ and Rosa ‘Chapeau de Napoléon’ are past their blooming season (except Docteur Jamain which will bloom sporadically until the fall).
In the social media sites all kinds of people are posting all sorts of photographs of sunflowers in their prime. I have done that a few times.
Ah! Sun-Flower Weary of Time
Flit, Buda, Vanitas & Helianthus annuum
Ergi la mente al sole
But my interest in roses through the years has led me to appreciate blooms that are past their prime. They can be beautiful and they can helps some of us (who are getting older geometrically and no linearly) appreciate the beauty that can be had and seen in aging.
To me it is interesting to note that the only way to keep a remontant rose to bloom is to deadhead it. The word implies (incorrectly) that the bloom is dead. This is not the case. In roses that are species roses and some that are not those “deadheads” turn into lovely rose hips which are the source of very good vitamin-c besides being attractive to the eye in a fall garden. Many roses, in particular the once-blooming Gallicas go from red or crimson to metallic purples that are a sight to behold.
And of course flowers and plants past their prime headed towards fall and winter remind us of that very human path towards death.
Jorge Luís Borges wrote (in my opinion) the loveliest tear-jerker poem on the subject. You will find the Spanish version and a translation into English below. The poem describes (and you must be Argentine-born and particularly an inhabitant or former inhabitant of Buenos Aires to appreciate what he means by gates and his description of what may have been a house of his youth. I look at the fading (but certainly not dead) sunflowers on my scanner and that I will sometime today throw them into our green bin. I don’t grieve because I know that next spring Ale will bring her sunflower pots and they will be reborn on our lane again.
De estas calles que ahondan el poniente,
una habrá (no sé cuál) que he recorrido
ya por última vez, indiferente
y sin adivinarlo, sometido
a Quién prefija omnipotentes normas
y una secreta y rígida medida
a las sombras, los sueños y las formas
que destejen y tejen esta vida.
Si para todo hay término y hay tasa
y última vez y nunca más y olvido
¿quién nos dirá de quién, en esta casa,
sin saberlo, nos hemos despedido?
Tras el cristal ya gris la noche cesa
y del alto de libros que una trunca
sombra dilata por la vaga mesa,
alguno habrá que no leeremos nunca.
Hay en el Sur más de un portón gastado
con sus jarrones de mampostería
y tunas, que a mi paso está vedado
como si fuera una litografía.
Para siempre cerraste alguna puerta
y hay un espejo que te aguarda en vano;
la encrucijada te parece abierta
y la vigila, cuadrifronte, Jano.
Hay, entre todas tus memorias, una
que se ha perdido irreparablemente;
no te verán bajar a aquella fuente
ni el blanco sol ni la amarilla luna.
No volverá tu voz a lo que el persa
dijo en su lengua de aves y de rosas,
cuando al ocaso, ante la luz dispersa,
quieras decir inolvidables cosas.
¿Y el incesante Ródano y el lago,
todo ese ayer sobre el cual hoy me inclino?
Tan perdido estará como Cartago
que con fuego y con sal borró el latino.
Creo en el alba oír un atareado
rumor de multitudes que se alejan;
son lo que me ha querido y olvidado;
espacio y tiempo y Borges ya me dejan.
En Borges, J.L. (1964) El otro, el mismo, en Jorges Luis Borges (1974) Obras Completas, Buenos Aires: Emecé.
Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone
Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
For all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.
If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?
Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.
There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.
There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.
There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.
You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.
And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.
At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.