cloud ship

cloud ship
a raft of sun tipped clouds sailed by

Friday, December 30, 2011

Art DiMambro, Further Afield

Standing in his spacious home studio in Durham, flooded with afternoon sunlight, Art DiMambro describes an oil painting in progress, a vista with a prominent grove of olive trees. This rather large canvas, and several smaller ones, chronicle the artist’s blissful five weeks of plein air painting last summer in and around Ascoli Picena, in north central Italy.

The journey, taken with an entourage of students and instructors from UNH as part of an art and language exchange program, took on the sheen of a long overdue homecoming for DiMambro, who was raised in Dover but was born in St. Elia, near Cassino, less than two hours south of Rome.

“I painted a couple of paintings each day,” remarks the bespectacled painter and sculptor, who retired from practice as an orthopedic surgeon in 1991. “They had to be small ones though, because I had to bring them back.”  The verdant surroundings were irresistible: “You can walk out of town to find more views and we rented a car to get further afield. Olive trees and little villages were everywhere.”

A larger painting captures a broad view of Cassino, a beacon of glimmering white atop a hill, ringed by a necklace of smaller villages, including his birthplace. Plein air painting suits the artist well: “It’s a more intense experience than studio painting. The light changes. A lot depends on that first impression. There’s a sense of urgency that certainly lights a fire.”

Discussing a memory or sharing a description about each of his many paintings adorning the walls of every room in his home, DiMambro says he always painted throughout his career as a surgeon, but took classes in sculpture, drawing and painting at UNH post retirement. As a resident doctor in Philadelphia (he earned a pre-med undergrad degree at UNH and his medical degree at UV, Burlington, after a stint in the Army) he was introduced to art shows by a friend who would soon take him to painting classes on Friday nights. “We went to a retrospective of Winslow Homer in New York, and that was it for me, that was the beginning.” DiMambro’s painting style is reminiscent to that of American modernist, Marsden Hartley, 1877 - 1943.

Equally adept at capturing the still life, landscape, his singular still life and landscape hybrid, figurative painting and sculpture, interpreted forcefully in both vibrant and cool color palettes, the artist notes his affinity for sculpture as a by-product of his profession. “Being a surgeon is quite helpful in rendering 3D sculptures as you’re always thinking and moving in three dimensions.”

Several bronzes occupy corners of DiMambro’s living space, mostly nude studies and groups of figures, including bocci ball players and a series of Lake Winnipesaukee swimmers – in reality his four daughters and wife – resting on a sunning platform. Like most enduring artists, his personal collection of art impresses, with works by Arthur Balderacchi, John Laurent, Jane Kaufmann, Gary Haven Smith, Chris Cook and Grant Drumheller, his mentor.

He also has a gift for capturing the fluidity of moving water, no small feat. “As an old trout and salmon fisherman, I do like water,” he states with a generous smile.

Describing a large painting called the Fruit Stand, DiMambro tells of his father’s longtime employment as a rose grower at Elliott Greenhouses, situated in Dover and Madbury. “When that job ended, he had a farm and fruit stand, which I recall here.”

Later, in an upstairs room featuring more paintings of Italian landscapes, the artist speaks to his ancestors and their wrenching decision to leave a slice of paradise: “There are no artists in my family. They were peasants from southern Italy. It’s hard to imagine them leaving such a beautiful place but there was no work. I asked people during my recent trip to Italy if they would leave today and of course they wouldn’t. After World War II the Fiat Factory came into the area and with that came work.” DiMambro plans on another painting trip to Italy later this year with his family.

The artist often paints with Portsmouth based painter Chris Cook; “a lot on Great Bay.” Cook was teaching art at UNH when DiMambro started his practice in 1960, but then left three years later to oversee and teach at the Addison Gallery in Andover, Massachusetts. The pair exhibited together more than once, including a two man show at the UNH Museum of Art in 2001. He has also exhibited at the NH Art Association Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery in Portsmouth; The Currier in Manchester; The George Marshall Store Gallery in York, Maine where he had a one man show and is going to be in a show the first week in June, and the G. Watson Gallery in Deer Isle, Maine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It took me decades to realize that staying still, being quiet , reflective, went against the grain of the now ubiquitous 24/7 ethos demanding constant motion, endless lists of things to do, a ramped up schedule without any free time to lay about.
I clearly remember hearing in middle school that technological advances would surely lead to more leisure time; that the forty hour work week would ebb to half that so we could wander off to sip freely from the cup of rest and recreation.  
So much for that prediction, since every new device seems to only hypnotize us further into loops of constant contact of the digital kind that take us away from actual face time with one another. Cell phones, to me, are one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated on the human race. They often do not ring or work at all. They are easy to break, suffer battery burn out. The minutes restrictions make them beyond ridiculous. No one answers their fucking phone! Everyone has mobile devices but there is less direct communication. One of my least fave experiences is calling someone at a phone number only to hear a message that the caller should reach them at another number, and of course, they won't pick up their phone at this second point of contact either!

All these products do is engender more rounds of messages. A land line always works, doesn’t break nearly as often and you pay a flat fee. But, OMG, if we can’t babble into a device while driving or shopping or walking, we might perish.
Likewise, Twitter is a form of mass hysteria. Like the Borg on Star Trek, we are plugged into a “living network,” in truth a massive mother board maintained by Big Brother, that all-seeing eye and scorekeeper our best writers characterized as a government bully. True, our messages and thoughts and shopping patterns are now in the public domain, but the government didn’t do this to us. We invited all the “convenience” of these instantaneous gratification devices into our lives without hesitation and now we are relentlessly bombarded with adverts. Every time I pull up my emails, there are ads for the shopping sites I visited three days earlier. That is definitely creepy.
We chit chat like gaggles of hyper teenage girls. We hunch over computers, stab at minute keyboards, habitually connect.
My partner recently went to a remote cabin in nowhere Maine, with his friend and his friend’s son. These guests brought their devices, received several phone calls and twittered.  No bubble of solitude, the natural world muted as mere background noise. Even on vacation, we come armed with electronica.
All of this is to say, it’s harder to remove oneself to a less frenetic zone. To feel comfortable in one’s own skin, to stop moving and scheduling long enough to recharge. To lie fallow as a means to invite inspiration, rejuvenation, just as we let plots of garden lie fallow to give the soil a reprieve, to let it come back strong.
It’s quite hard to put down the devices, to turn off the set and the music long enough to simply think and return to some old-fashioned daydreaming, to read, to take a walk. To me, it’s a luxurious lifestyle to be less connected. It makes me take notice of my surroundings, my neighbors, engenders trips to the farmers markets, longer walks and even a few new ideas. Imagine that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Midsummer Days

In the extremes of weather, we always pine for the other side. In blizzard conditions, we yearn for hot sunshine; in heat waves, we crave Canadian cold fronts.
That is why, for me, the transitional months of the year are best -- April and May, October and November. Temps between 60 and 80 sheer perfection.
Drought has claimed huge swaths of lawn, much of our flower garden has toppled over. The veg garden has survived through regular watering, but in August not much looks fresh.
The smooth, foot carressing lawn is now an uncomfortable stubble on the bare foot. The dragon's blood, a leafy burgundy bush topped with small yellow flowers, which once stood in a huge copse five feet tall, is now a broken bit of biomass dead center in our main garden. The lilles have all passed, leaving dry stalks behind.
These are certainly dog days...which is an insult, really, to our fine canine friends. An insult to their innate loyal characters. Dog days refers to the Dog Star, which follows the constellation Orion through the night sky. In August, this Dog Star (there are really two dog stars following the legendary hunter, as it chases Taurus the Bull) are quite prevalent.
I have mentally banished the dog stars and have set my mind forward to the cool winds of late September, the golden blush of leaves, the first frost. I am of Nordic blood, perhaps even part albino. I must remember to move to Canada!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Natural Selection

Darwin posits that the dna of life on earth mutates, either to the detriment or progression of said life. Some changes usher in a full bloom of population while other mutations fizzle a species entirely out of existence.
I just visited an amazing site: whereby they apply a mutation formula to create future generations of music, specifically bars of musical notes. What a dazzling way to explain the subtle changes of a mutation, amplified over time, to create unimaginable songbooks.
Here in our garden -- or anyone's garden really -- changes in each growing season provide ample lessons in the myriad factors of success or failure. Last summer, we were awash in strawberries, alledgedly finicky fennel and spiders. The year before yielded bumper crops of shallots, beans, cukes. And always, we grow the most enormous but still succulent butternut squash.
So far, the early celebrities in our patches include the entire herb garden which has assumed a hybrid wild and manicured look the bees will visit well into fall. The lemon balm has hopscotched all over, as has the camomile, but still these greedy growers have left room for the oregano, tarragon, sage and equally bustling bee balm and low growing thymes.
The strawberries are about to burst. Two rows of varying type, both perfect...waiting for more heat before they blush into morsels of intense sweetness.
A white clematis has claimed one of the garden gates, as never before. And the Jane Garden has taken on a whole new look after five years....rife with color and texture only imagined during the darkness of January.
There are always suprises. A lovely rose has moved in with the varigated hosta out front. The hosta holds out its broad leaves, like a welcome lap, under the canopy of the exuberant branch of thorn and bud.
A volunteer narcissus bloomed among our hill of mint, outlasting the group of narcissus in the front spring garden where it really belonged, boldly defying its required light and space requirements. A rose bush my father gave me five years ago when we moved here was placed under the shade of a large maple along the fence and in one of the wettest areas on the property. All quite incorrect growing conditions for a rose. Yet it has tripled in size, throwing dozens of blooms in summer and fall, appearing impervious to any of the many molds, fungi, mites and other maladies.
These stubborn plants bolster any flagging mood the gardener may have. Such as years of tending a perfectly sited shade area for myrtle which grows only marginally, year after year, even with reinforcements. Or the half dozen apple trees that died, introduced into a soil too wet to let them grow, but welcoming to plum and pear trees. All apple trees now go on the barn side of the house! Or the first tree we planted -- an Ohio Pioneer Elm, which did well but is now only leafed on the lower third and is becoming root strangled.
A garden is such a visceral metaphor for the order and chaos, the lovely surprise and disappointment of life. The best bets are always the unexpected, vigorous renegades.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Full Symphonic Night

Spring brings with it so many charms -- rampant green lawns, gardens, trees in full leaf. To me, one of the biggest changes in my behavior at this time of year, besides long, after dinner walks with the dogs around the creek, is the impulse to linger outside at night, especially before the onslaught of mosquitos.
I've gone on enough camping trips and stirred early enough in my bed to hear the roar of birdsong as the sun rises. It's a cacophany that begs the question: How can anyone possibly sleep past 6 am with this racket going on?
At night, there's certainly a full symphonic blast beaconing, but the songs are different. First, the earth smells different than it does during the day. After dusk, it's impossible not to inhale the growth of plants as they have plowed upward, spurred by hours of eating the light. This intoxicating scent is heightened with a tinge of dampness, a whiff of the bog. The color equivalent would be an emerald green doused with a dusting of chocolate brown.
Standing there, looking into the inky depths of the meadow, an endless night sky freckled with stars, the sounds come. The peepers who began their serenades in March are still in full song, though their volume is now tamped down with hundreds of other sounds.
I can hear the complaint of geese as they settle in amongst the hay of the back field. Little chirps of birds up past their bed times. The wind kicking up waves in the tops of the long grasses. A continuous murmur of birdsong, more like bird mumbles, peeps and calls...Perhaps the comforting salve of birds calming their nestlings? Sometimes, it sounds like a jungle...throaty declarations of toads, coos of doves, a myriad mash up of messages on waves of the lower frequency.
It's an alluring concert. A call of the wild, a reminder of the endless spin of the planet into a new season, flush with growth and procreation.
Like the fleeting blooms of forsythia, the bridal bush, tulips...these nights race by. Later on, the lightning bugs dance above the meadow, the bobolinks talk past sundown, the robins tend to their second broods. The dampness of the earth, drenched in spring showers, is replaced by the sodden summer air.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Seats for Viewing

It's always a great sensation to be in the right place at the right time. Yesterday, I was standing outside when a kestrel perched on the bird cage -- an enormous tangle of branches piled high from all the wind storms of the last three years. The bird was small but still looked fierce with those piercing gimlet eyes. Black lines adorned his face that also had a trace of yellow near the breast and robin egg blue on its cap.
As a perch, the bird cage affords a panaromic view, but inside, dozens of sparrows dwell. The bird cage (or beaver dam or wood reef) has expanded despite our vow to burn it, but it'll probably become a permanent feature since, from the start, it offered a wind break, a safe bubble away from the wild winds and storms sweeping in across the fields from the east.
So the wee sparrows must have quivered in fear as the small predator, who likes nothing better than dining on small birds, sat atop their manmade haven. Soon he was gone.
Later in the day I ventured to the Music Hall's new and quite expensively purchased and renovated music space in downtown Portsmouth, called The Loft to see and hear that most gifted Siren -- Patty Larkin. A much better name for the space would be The Coffin.
I think the non-profit group paid several million dollars for the space, which was once a part of Stuart Shaines on Congress Street. When I entered the new venue I talked to a staffer and asked her what the room was like. Her reply: intimate.
Like other patrons, I followed a long, narrow hallway which took a sharp left turn to a coat check and then turned again to a door. Was this a newfangled Spiral Design fit for burrowing mammals? A woman looked at my ticket and pointed across a small room with low ceilings, painted entirely in black. There was no other door, not a window in sight. In the front row, a line of small round tables almost touched. The seats were packed together sardine style.
How could anyone enjoy a show here? Even The Rat in Boston, downstairs at The Grog in Newburyport and the cave that was the Muddy River bar were far less constricted than this. Was this what several million dollars buys in 2011?
Feeling like I was walking into a fire trap, and wondering how any fire marshal would sign off on this awful and obviously dangerous design, I opted not to cross the room, and cram myself into an uncomfortable chair. I fled and while doing so, drew out pleasant memories of seeing Larkin at Prescott Park (with Bill Morrissey) and at an outdoor setting in Dover.
Which got me to thinking today about some of the best seats I've ever had the fortune to occupy at music stages.
Here are my top ten:
1. At age 14, me and my pal, Jodie, and her sister, Kim, got in their mum's car for the ride from Claremont to Hanover. Jodie's mom had tickets to see Jesse Colin Young at the campus arena. When we arrived, the entire campus was on strike against the Vietnam Conflict (it was 1970) and so in a room that could hold thousands, there were, at tops, 300. We ended up sitting on one side of the stage. The coolest intro to concerts ever.
2. When I was 16, my hippie dippie father drove us from our apartment on L Street at Hampton Beach to this spacious coffeehouse in Ipswich, Mass. I remember it was located near a river or tidal inlet, that it boasted a large tree in the dirt parking lot and that the place looked like a sprawling house. I can't remember the name of the place which bothers me.
We had been there before. It had a loungey area and you could order food and the main room had a nice stage and a lots of tables and chairs. We had seen Mimi Farina (Joan Baez's sister) perform and she was quite impressive. So adept on guitar and a voice less soprano than Joan's.
Anyhow on this occasion, we were going to the coffeehouse for a New Year's Eve bash featuring Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, the creators of that hit, Hot Rod Lincoln. We arrived to find that all the tables and chairs had been pushed to the back of the room to make way for dancing. It had been snowing and yet the place was full. The band was two feet away from where I stationed myself. I met a boy my age who had tagged along with his older sister and we spent the night dancing and flirting, vowing to meet again the next month. When we returned at the appointed time, the coffee house was closed.
3.) In high school, I ventured with a group of friends to my first Boston concert -- Delaney & Bonnie & Friends at the Hynes Auditorium. Never actually realized that those Friends included Eric Clapton and Dave Mason until I got there! Never heard a more powerful female voice than that of Bonnie Bramlett. This performance set the bar high for future concert experiences.
4.) When I was 17, I ended up at Shamrock Park somewhere in Brooklyn (I think) with a boy I had been introduced to by another friend. The Park was huge, the seating was on the lawn and the most unusual thing about the space was that an elevated subway encircled the space behind the stage. So you'd be listening and looking and along would come the subway. Unreal.  Headlining were The Allman Brothers. The opening act was Savoy Brown (yet another incarnation of the origianl group; didn't recognize any of the players) and as surprise guests, The Grateful Dead showed up. Unfortunately, I had taken a toke of a passing joint which had to be laced with something strange...I was so stoned for most of that concert. I think I fell asleep on that boy's lap. Never been to a setting like that since and have never taken a proffered hit on any drug since then.
5.) Hitchhiked with a friend from Hampton Beach to Seabrook. A small bright blue hatchback stopped. We piled into the front seat. In the back seat there was a long rod holding up clothing on hangers and also a doberman pincher who was contently perched and more importantly, not growling.
The driver was male. I noticed a rather ornate silver cuff bracelet on his dashboard and picked it up to look at it and asked: Are you a silversmith? To which he replied: No, I'm in the group Aerosmith. I had played trenches into the previous year's fave Christmas gift -- Toys in the Attic -- on the turntable. My friend and I gazed at the driver again. Then he said: We're playing at the TicToc in Salisbury this weekend.
He drove us to where we were going. My friend and I had a great laugh at this brazen pretender.
And I entered the TicToc main listening room, I watched as the kindly driver fobbed across the stage singing in that unforgettable screech and growl. It was none other than Steven Tyler. They put on quite a show.
6.) The Cameo in South Beach. My landlord was a part owner at The Cameo, which is a doppleganger to The Orpheum in Boston. Watched David Byrne and his huge contingent from South America perform their Rei Mo Mo album, and Talking Head hits, from the sound booth. Later, David Byrne bummed cigarettes off me while a small group of us were drinking and snacking at a nearby watering hole after the concert. David is shy and an observant guy. Before the show, he was taking photos of his wife and infant daughter outside the main doors.
7.) Best seats ever at the Boston Garden to see David Bowie in his Thin White Duke tour with TVC15 (Fame)...also Jethro Tull, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Jefferson Airplane, and others. Had tickets to see Led Zeppelin in 1970 at the Garden but then swine ticketbuyers trashed the place and Mayor Kevin White cancelled the show. I still have the tickets...they were $7 each. Biggest rock and roll bummer ever.
8.) A last minute outdoor concert at Philips Exeter Academy featuring James Montgomery Blues Band. I think my junior year in high school. Splendid.
9.) Seeing Crosby, Stills and Nash in a daytime concert at that outdoor place in North Conway was nice. This was before Crosby fell off the edge with that weapons bust and before his liver failed. He was pudgy and probably stoned but he was by far the most talented of the three that day. He sang his heart out.
My pals decided on standing in front of the stage but I opted for the stadium seating on the far side. Here, quite amused, I watched as a lone police officer snatched bags of pot and mushrooms from attendees as he paced up and down the aisles. I mean folks of all ages were taking drugs in broad daylight. The arena itself resembled a giant bong as cloud sized plumes of smog lifted into the air, almost in time with the music.
10.) Hearing Bo Diddley perform, with my beau Michael Kelly, at the Lone Star Cafe in NYC was thrilling. The place was not too crowded as it was a weeknight and some insane chick in the audience got right on stage with him and suggestively danced all around him during his set. She had this long scarf she used to carress herself and also Bo. It was part comedy, part sexy cabaret and pure swamp beat music. He was surprised and pleased and the entire crowd was completely engaged. He thanked the woman who returned to her seat to much applause. He wasn't at all upset at the interloper. A real pro.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Miracle of Parsnips

So one day it's suddenly warm and the snow, so recent, has been soaked up by the already soggy earth or sipped by the brightening sky. Broken into paper thinness, the fallen leaves of last autumn appear, a throw blanket over patches of garden. From under this mulch of damp, mud and stone emerge those first hardy heralds: the tips of daffs and tulips, the incredibly delicate crocus, the shaggy leaves of poppies.
Hidden below out in the big garden we dig, as if for treasure. Have the parsnips grown? Have the mice gotten to them over the winter? Have they rotted where they once stood upright?
Carefully, we tug at their muddy tops, but not too hard or they will break like overwrought pencils at test time. Memories of shattered carrots come to mind.
After some muttering -- pleading actually -- out pops a long and straight specimen. Pearly under the grime of a long winter. Matured under the fire of wicked frost. Damp and frozen and yet in the early spring, ready to reap.
Into the sink they are piled for a quick shower, followed by a more rigorous massage with veg brush. They come clean and already emit a heady perfume; a tang of pine with creamy undertones.
In the peeling, comes the first sensory bonanza: the sweet smell fills the kitchen. Then later, from the cook pot they invite a dash of orange juice, a spray of curry, butter. Whipped into a cloud of pale orange, festooned with a freckling of fresh parsley, they command the dinner plate. Their long journey from summer to fall and through the long winter is noted. Like the crocus, the parsnip announces rebirth, the victory of spring over winter and other welcome sights to come: chives, asparagus, the first deep green of the yards before the first cut, the arrival of the bobolinks, all the way from South America to this Maine hay field, so effusive in their song despite their long journey.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eliot Farmers Union

Like the Agway franchise, Farmers Unions popped up all over Maine, perhaps much of New England. There's still the Paris, Maine Farmers Union and for a time in the 1930s, the ell of our place was the site of the Eliot Farmers Union...a store to sell goods of all kinds from area farms, including the apples and wool from the Staples family who lived in the house and operated the EFU.
It is not hard to imagine that the EFU did a brisk business as Route 236 back then was a railway and depot located on the other side of the field. We have receipts showing that EFU actually took delivery of goods for the railroad. Perhaps when the train sat at the depot, the engineer or conductor was met by one of the Staples with an order of hot food and goods.
In honor of that time, we call this place Union Farm.
The industrious and successful John and Rose Staples lived here, where they ran a huge dairy farm, a quite productive apple orchard, raised sheep and therefore sold wool and lamb. Four children were born in the upstairs bedroom we now occupy. The three Staples cousins who sold us the farm bequeathed many old photos of their family pile, including a fading sepia one of John Staples standing next to two gargantuan oxen he raised from birth. Another depicts a flock of sheep lazing under a copse of densely leafed apple trees. We even have a photo of the house and barn with the Staples family standing in the driveway -- John and Rose, two daughters and two sons (who would build their own houses across the street) -- with a sheep dog and horse. At the edge of the photo is the edge of a second barn, long gone.
All of the doors in this house, with the exception of a formal, never used front door facing Depot Road, face the driveway. One of the Staples cousins remember this side of the house was called the Door Yard. All doors led to the barn and work. In the basement the vestige of a summer hearth crumbles, a testament to all day cooking, no matter the season, that kept the farm functioning.
The attic is partially walled indicating a bunk house at one time, much needed to accommodate the apple harvesters. There are three staircases inside our home, and like the front door, the best staircase, rising from the foyer just off the formal front door, is in pristine condition. The Staples, even in their advanced years, preferred to use the much narrower staircases from the kitchen to master bedroom (better for Rose to pop down the steps at dawn to start breakfast for family and farm hands) and the one from the front parlor to a back bedroom. An ingenious Yankee blueprint emphasizing efficiency that also preserved the fancier bits at the front of the house.
A front porch was added to the driveway side of the house in the 1940s. It's sagging, the screens need replacing but still no better place to perch and gaze over the fields in their various incarnations, from sodden bog, to the brightest, dandelion dotted green before the first cut, to a respendent hay field, then down to stubble before the snow falls.
We recently learned from a neighbor's book about the town, that the original residents of this house -- Sylvester and Clementine Bartlett -- created a diversified portfolio of businesses from this address. It is they who began the orchards. With his brother, Sylvester also operated a meat business and enjoyed much success in shipping. The Bartlett clan owned property all over the area, stemming from the lands surrounding the original garrison atop Rosemary Hill. They were prosperous, they were cunning in reaping the wealth of the valley beneath the Hill.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mud Season

Walking the dogs around the entire farm, for the first time since December, inspired a sense of awe. The knee high drifts of snow and ice now departed. All was muddy, sodden, yet green. Daffodils already erupting. Buds on lilacs and trees. Grackels, robins, woodcock all here.
The herb garden fared well and the sage looks ready to grow into the enormous bush it became last fall. Verdant blades of chives poking through a matt of straw. The stepping stones of slate all akimbo as frost departs. Winter mosses already on the crawl.
The dogs inspected their usual haunts. Sadie sniffed the two still standing Brussel Sprouts stalks, which she regularly poaches in fall, while Sofie lingered at the fence where the green beans grow. These two canines are adept harvesters. Sadie even eats the berries off of the crab apple, digs out parsnips and nibbles on strawberris. Sofie loves the grape tomatoes. The only crop safe from their scavenging are the blueberry bushes.
Bird song, mud, rain all herald the miraculous return of growth. Tree mosses hug elephant skinned maples. The smell of earth wafts freely, as enticing as the best perfumes of jasmine and sandalwood and ginger. The arbor promises a bouquet in two months time.