Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

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Do hummingbirds hum? Only when they’re humming birds. Otherwise they are quite silent, when alone, and the whirring of their wings is what whisks them up and away. In Oaxaca, the colibris are the souls of dead warriors killed in action. Their bravery is rewarded by their transference to a colibri in the afterlife, for colibris are given the gift of serving the sun in Mexican Mythology.

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Here in Island View, New Brunswick, we only see the ruby-throated hummingbirds. No ruby throat, and they are usually females. Obviously, when they have their backs to us, then it is more difficult to determine male or female.

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I desperately wanted to catch one feeding in the hollyhocks. Alas, they vanished inside the larger flowers. Also, they were much too quick for these old eyes and ageing fingers. So I just clicked away and hoped and this was the best I could do. I am still hopeful though… there’s still quite a bit of summer left.

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Tall Hollyhocks

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Tall Hollyhocks

Well, it isn’t quite an English Country Garden, but we now have some tall hollyhocks, and I mean TALL holly hocks. My beloved isn’t short, in fact she’s taller than me, but these hollyhocks are HUGE. Douglas Bader and Reach for the Sky are in a similar league.

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Six, foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch … I guess that was a week or two ago. Looks like an eight foot, nine foot, ten foot bunch to me right now. Maybe I should write the Hollyhock Boat song. I’d need to get someone else to sing it for me though. Somehow, this is my Island View in the Sun, doesn’t quite cut it for me. And I hope I don’t have to cut them. Not until the snow flies start breeding anyway. And that makes me wonder: has anyone ever actually seen a snow fly? I know I haven’t. But then, I’m just an ignorant immigrant. I am happy to admit it. That way, nobody can discriminate against me.

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The snow flies? They went that way. This way, that way, all ways lead to the Hollyhocks in Island View. And they are so beautiful. Even painters want to paint them.

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Oops, sorry: that was last year’s. And so was this painting: last year’s hollyhock preserved for ever. Well, I am not so sure about that anymore, either. But well done Geoff Slater. And many, many thanks.

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Holly Hobby Hocks

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Holly Hocks

So, I go to St. Andrews for one day to see Angelica, Geoff, Gwynn, Heather, Kalina, Karen, Lucinda, Mitchell, Pierre, and William, and look what happens to my hollyhocks while I am at KIRA. I guess it has something to do with the proximity of the Kingsbrae Garden: my hollyhocks got jealous and wanted me back.

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They were all so pleased to see me. Radiant and smiling, laughter all over their little faces. Little? Hey, they are growing every day, from saucers to side or sandwich plates and all too soon they will be as large as dinner plates.

Hopefully, they will last. My beloved says these hot summer days will quickly diminish them. I hope not. Alas, the foxgloves have gone already. Heavy raindrops battered their flowers and away they went. No winter gloves now for the little foxes. They will have cold paws.

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The sunflower buttons are awaiting their day in the sun. Prepping, not preening, they will soon unfold and follow the sun’s circuit with their faces. We certainly hope so. Meanwhile, consider the hollyhocks, they neither spin, nor do they weave, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

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Bullfight

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Bullfight

The above photo shows novillos, young bulls, on a bull farm in Salamanca, Spain, bred for the bull ring. They are tested in the farm’s private bull ring and the best and bravest are saved for the bull ring. A series of computer programs tests them at six month intervals to see if they are bull ring material.

Spain is divided on bull fighting with Catalonia banning the bullfight while Castilla and Andalusia are ardently in favor of the three, thousand year old tradition. The Spanish flag, in Castille, comes with a fighting bull, in the centre, replacing the coat of arms.

Many opinions exist abut bullfighting, bull running, and the whole tradition of blood sports. I will not state my position. But I will leave you with a piece of flash fiction, perhaps a short story. Each of you, if you wish, may play the game, click on the Bullfighting link, and decide for yourselves where you, and I, stand. Warning: not for the faint of heart … go on, be brave, remember the toros bravos who have perished in the ring.

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Los Toros de Guisando, mentioned in the Quixote, prehistoric stone bulls, verracos, Celtic carvings from the Province of Avila, Spain. The Roman legions carved their names into these stone bulls. Below, a modern bull, also from the province of Avila. I must, at this point, mention my friend Juanra, who took me to see these monuments and encouraged my interest in his wonderful province. Juanra, te lo agradezco, no sabes cuanto.

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Gardens

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Commentary:

How can I write about gardens without beginning with my own garden? Last year’s single stem hollyhock has this year turned into a hollyhock ‘bush’ with ten separate flowering stalks. Yesterday, only one flower adorned the plant, today some seven to ten blossoms have appeared. I am amazed by the presence of so much beauty. Never before have hollyhocks graced our garden. Now I can do nothing but give thanks.

But there are other gardens. Kingsbrae Gardens for example have been mentioned  on this blog before, and I have written a book about them. Many of you will have seen the video we made. If not, the video One Small Corner can be seen by clicking on the link, as can the gardens and the book.

That said, welcome to another set of gardens. Click on the link, and you will be able to discover them and visit them for yourself. Come along, play the game. You know you want to!

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Thursday Thoughts Ubi sunt …

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Thursday Thoughts
Ubi sunt …

Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt? Where are they who went before us? As St. Augustine is said to have written: O homo, dic mihi, ubi sunt reges, ubi sunt principes, ubi imperatores, qui fuerunt ante nos… “O man, tell me, where are the kings, where are the princes, where the emperors, who had been before us” {Wikipedia]. Many philosophers have written on this theme, and many poets, including Villon in his famous ballade “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?” Where is last year’s snow? Cervantes also echoes the theme with this slight variation “No hay pájaros en los nidos de antaño.” There are no birds in last year’s nests.

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Goran Haven, Cornwall, July, 1966. I was waiting to receive the results of my final exams from Bristol University. Clare and I decided to spend a week in Cornwall and ended up in Goran Haven. When we came back, I made her a book of photos from the trip with hand-written poems beneath them. I discovered that book the other day and was taken back to a time when I wasn’t even thinking of coming to Canada. Fifty-three years later, looking at these photos, I ask myself ubi sunt … where did those days go? All those days, the old country, and everything that went with our youth … ubi sunt?

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Same thing happened when I visited McAdam Railway Station: wonderful memories of all the steam trains of my youth. And those railway names: Great Western Railway [GWR], London Midlands Scotland [LMS] , London North Eastern Railway [LNER]. So many things that I can never forget: the smell of the old steam engines, the sound of their wheels going clackety-clack, the taste of smoke and ash when I thrust my head out of the window, in spite of the sign that said, Do not lean out of the window, the feel of those worn cloth seats beneath the fingers, and the sense of excitement and joy when an empty corner seat begged to be sat in. Something else I’ll never forget: the cold taste of a Cadbury’s Milk Flake stuck in an ice-cream on a warm summer’s day.

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