The Shying of A Violet

sweetly bowered
  beneath these tendriled
  branches, why turn away
from morning’s recognition?
Avert your face from plucking hands?
“True mystery,” sighs the bending bough.
 “A puzzle,”  flocked and wand’ring warblers sing.

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For more information on the Etheree, a syllabic poem that, in its basic form, contains ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, please click HERE.

73 thoughts on “The Shying of A Violet

    1. Thanks, Ellen. I was pleased that Terry allowed me to use his photo, since I’m a little short on violets around here. No matter the calendar date, when I see a violet, it feels like spring.


    1. Thanks, Karen. She’s not quite as vibrant as your coneflower and sunflower, but she’ll do. I confess I had to turn to the search engines to remember who popularized the slogan, “the pause that refreshes,” but those folks did get it right. An occasional pause is good for the soul.


  1. Love those shrinking violets. I have a few natives where once I had many. Trying to be careful to protect the remaining few. I like your poem very much. The photo of the violet blossom is quite nice. A calmimg entry for a Sunday morning.

    1. The white and yellow ones are pretty, too, but when I think about violets, I do think of the “violet” ones. When I was young, we always gathered them for our May baskets and Mother’s Day bouquets.Who needs a florist when you have violets?

      I’m glad you have some natives around, Yvonne. They are a delight. And I’m glad you enjoyed the poem.


    1. Even the quiet ones of the world deserve a little notice — but they’re better noticed quietly, so not to upset them.

      By the way, I’m not sure what the proper greeting is, but I made a note when we were engaged in all that star talk to remember the date of Matariki , and it seems this is the weekend.

      The slides used in the previous link can be scrolled through in a more leisurely fashion here. I noticed especially the saying, “Ko te reo te ha te Mauri O Te Maoritanga,” which is translated on the slide as “Language is the very life-breath of being Maori.” That makes perfect sense to me, since I happen to believe language also is the very life-breath of being human.


      1. Indeed, you have the date right for Matariki, and I am very impressed with the slide show. I enjoyed it immensely. I have also been looking for the right greeting for Matariki. I have seen a few different versions, but the one I have chosen is Kia pai tou tatou Matariki which I think says Happy Matariki to everyone or To everyone a Happy Matariki. I was going to mention Matariki in my latest post “Living on the plains” because Matariki, the planting and food aspect of it, was on my mind as I considered productivity of the Canterbury Plains. But I felt shy about adding another layer of complexity to my post! Mind you the Plains are made up of physical layers, so a Matariki layer wouldn’t really have gone astray. :)

        1. On the other hand, adding a bit about Matariki might have lifted your post to a different plane!

          I’m glad you liked the slide show. I’ve watched it twice more, and keep finding new things to be interested in.

          1. Ha! Yes! My post may have had ‘lift-off’ and an aerial view. And, I may add, the view of our Plains from the air is wonderful. I didn’t appreciate that very much when I was younger because, as soon as we flew over the Plains, I knew the reality of boarding school was not far away. It meant my lovely holiday back home in Fiji was truly over. The young female singer on the slide show, Hayley, is a Christchurch lass, a daughter of the Plains.

  2. Your thoughtful poem painted a picture for me, and suddenly I was back at my childhood home. The lawn was shaded by four huge horse chestnut trees. Around the base of one of those trees there was a bench made of stone slabs. In the spring this shaded area was carpeted with wild violets. It felt like a little pocket of fairyland, and it was one of my favorite places to settle down with a good book.

    montucky’s photo, with its delicate shadows, is the perfect illustration for your gentle words.

    1. What a wonderful memory, NumberWise. I didn’t have any place quite so wonderful, but as you came down the steps of our big front porch, on either side there were bridal wreath bushes and hydrangeas. Underneath, there was a profusion of violets and lily-of-the-valley. I think there might even have been jack-in-the-pulpit.

      In any event, you brought back another memory for me. My mother had a 3/4 length fur coat, as everyone did back in the 50s if they could afford it. She and her friends afforded it by getting muskrat rather than mink.

      She had a little spray of artificial violets that she’d sometimes pin to the coat.Those violets lasted nearly as long as the coat did. Once she got older, she stopped wearing it, because it was too heavy. The violets were incorporated into the wrappings for birthday gifts, and passed around the family in that way for a while. Now, I don’t know where they are or what happened to them. I suppose we put them on a package for someone, and they got tossed. Sic transit gloria mundi, as they say.

      Do you remember Emily Dickinson’s poem of the same name? I just did, and re-read it here. The good Ms. Dickinson doesn’t usually make me laugh, but she did with this one. Best verse? Maybe this one:

      “Mortality is fatal —
      Gentility is fine,
      Rascality, heroic,
      Insolvency, sublime!”


    1. Can you hear me laughing, Cheri? That “So…” often initiated certain conversations between young me and my mother. More often than not, it involved adult hands on adult hips, and was followed by phrases like “young lady” and “what do you think you’re up to?”

      I use it myself from time to time, usually when speaking to The Cat. “So, Miss Dixie,” I’ll say. “What do you think you’re doing?” By the time I resort to the “So…” it’s usually pretty obvious what she’s been up to, but never mind that.

      Only now does it occur to me that “Conversation with a Violet” might be an even better title. If I ever redo it, I believe I’ll make that change.

      As for your last question — quite insightful.


  3. Sooooo. (Doh – we loved Homer for some reason!)
    “Conversation” would make a good title for such a delicate but precise image.
    (All the rain this year has energized the woods violets that I brought to this house from E. TX. Normally they fade out until later fall. )

    1. Oh, dear. I usually can figure out your references, but Homer has me stumped. Surely you don’t mean “The Illiad,” and I’m not sure violets grow in Homer, Alaska. Help me out, here!

      This rain has been terrific. I’ve gone a little stir crazy the past week, but certainly did get a good bit of “home work” done. I’ve noticed the field across from my place looking suddenly purple. I need to walk over and see what’s been energized there.

      I’ve never spent much time in East Texas in spring. I suspect it’s a beautiful place, with so many understory trees and plants, like the dogwood and violets. Lucky you, to have your very own natives. I brought Mom’s African violets back to life, and they’re lovely, but they’re just not the same.


      1. Over thinking in a comical world…Simpsons. (doh!)
        Never able to manage the fancy violets – actually all my plants do best when are allowed to pick their spots and left alone.
        (No explanation as to why woods violets the hid in pine forests are wildly enthusiastic about the back yard…unless they read they are supposed to retire and move to Florida – only the car stopped here?)

        1. Now I am laughing. I wasn’t overthinking. It’s just that “The Simpsons” are pretty much off my radar. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s never seen an entire episode of the show, but I suspect we aren’t many. My lack, no doubt.

          My trick for reviving and sustaining the African violets? Water them once a week with rainwater and African violet liquid fertilizer. And keep them out of direct sunlight. Once they started putting chloramines in our water instead of chlorine, they nearly were toast. Rainwater’s better. After this week, I have about a six month supply put up for them.

          1. Even the dog prefers rainwater to what’s coming out of the tap right now
            Didn’t pay much attention to Simpsons until recently – you might be stunned to find out how much literaturary parody is in there – some of it extremely well done…have taken back all snide remarks I made about the show. Will be interested in seeing the really old episode when one channel broadcast the entire series in order.

    1. Isn’t it a pretty flower, Anne? This time, the poem came first and the image second. I was glad to find a perfect complement on Terry’s wildflower/nature blog, Montana Outdoors.

      Your encouragement’s noted, with thanks. We’ll see.


  4. Your etheree is lovely, Linda. Each time we took our girls to the City when they were young, Dr. Advice bought them each a nosegay of violets from the streetside vendors. We no longer see them sadly to say. I tried planting them in our family plot at the cemetery, but with no one there to quench their thirst, they never took up residence.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, Kayti. I smiled at the thought of Dr. Advice buying the violets for your daughters. I especially enjoyed reading the word “nosegay.” It was a word we used when I was growing up, but it seems to have passed out of common parlance. I think it’s found mostly in bridal magazines today.

      I was surprised to see that the Victorian tussy-mussy still is in favor. Some of the antique ones are gorgeous, and they apparently are often used for bridesmaids’ bouquets.

      It is a problem to tend flowers at gravesites. One of the most creative entrepreneurial ideas I’ve come across belonged to a landscaper in my home town. She developed a business tending to the graves of people whose families live out of town. She not only waters and trims, she’ll decorate as the family chooses on Memorial Day, Christmas and so on. Best of all, she advises on perennials that meet any cemetery guidelines and will establish after a year or two, so they don’t seen such intensive care. Clever woman, says me. The last I checked, she still was in business, so that seems to have established, too.


    1. I’m not surprised, Curt. As soon as I read that it’s your favorite, I had a sudden vision of you, your beloved and assorted friends and tour-friends standing around some place filled with pictographs. The line could as surely apply to you, singing the praises of the various puzzlements you see.

      By the way, I may have found my Burning Man. How much fun would it be to attend this event? What could be better than a cattle drive through a Kansas City Symphony concert? They even have an instrument petting zoo!


      1. Which brings me to a very interesting thought. I don’t know if I have ever seen a petroglyph flower beyond some hallucinogenic drug.

        And you have to go to the cattle concert! It sounds wonderfully insane. I wonder what music they would play. My vote is for Ghost Riders in the Sky– a favorite since childhood. –Curt

        1. I just did a quick skim of your posts and a few other photo galleries, and you’re right. I didn’t see anything that looked much like a flower. That really would be something worth exploring… if there were someone around who was given to pondering rocks, and native tribes, and early artwork, and who didn’t mind getting off the beaten path. Anyone you know?

          I’ll look forward to it!

  5. What a lovely violet. Wish I had a dab hand with them but I don’t.

    I had to laugh at your, “So,…” It’s funny how certain familar phrases and turns of phrase can pop up outside your own family or home stomping grounds.

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that talks to objects and non humans!

    1. Violets seem to be funny creatures, Gué. There are so many species, at all altitudes and in very different conditions, and yet if things aren’t just right wherever they are, they sulk. I was doing a little reading about them and found this really informative article through the Lady Bird Johnson site. I think you’ll enjoy it.

      Ah — so. It’s one of those words that can carry a world of meaning. I just was sitting here thinking of the many ways it can be said: short, drawn out, in combination with other nice, short words (“what” comes to mind). I suspect you could come up with a few ways to use it that I’ve forgotten.

      As for talking to plants, birds, cats and other living things, of course we do. I talk to my boats now and then, and I know a carpenter who talks to his wood and his tools. Why not? Good conversation’s so hard to find these days!


  6. You’ve touched the heart of any violet lover! I don’t see violets often, and when I do, I pause and admire them. Years ago I surely painted at least one ‘nosegay’ of a portrait each year – little bitty watercolor exercises captured the sweetness of the violets.

    last year I literally stopped in my tracks to stare at a cluster of ‘escaped’ violets in a flower bed near ‘Tulipe’ Ecuador. I pondered ‘taking’ a little division and decided against it – I’m not one to take without asking, but the devil was coaxing me – ‘go ahead.. take them…’

    1. I enjoyed the thought of you pondering whether to engage in flower-napping, Z. I know a couple of people who keep boxes and shovels in the trunks of their cars for cactus-napping out in the country, but they do it on their own land or where they have permission. Beyond that, violets are a little touchy. I’d be afraid I’d bring them home, then watch them die.

      Still, it can be tempting, especially when some “escapees” are around. One spring, Mom spotted some amaryllis blooming in a vacant lot where hurricane Ike had leveled the house. She wanted them, so,being the dutiful daughter I was, I dug them up and we brought them home. They thrived for several years, filling two pots at first, and eventually eight. Once Mom was gone, I took them back to the neighborhood, where they were divided up among folks who’d rebuilt. What goes around, comes around, as we say.

      Since I’ve seen some of your botanical drawings and watercolors, I can only imagine how lovely your violets were. It’s a sign of your talent and skill, that you can handle such dramatically different styles. As you hinted with that mention of “exercises” — practice makes perfect!


      1. ha!

        long ago in that other life, ‘short stories tv’ was filming a feature about the bed and breakfast in ntz.. a friend had helped gather flowers – we drove outside of ferriday louisiana to ‘borrow’ some ‘swamp lilies’ from a ditch/abandoned yard, and they were lovely mixed with other flowers. i don’t remember if the film was rolling or if we were just talking, but someone asked about the flowers, and susan, in her syrupy southern drawl stated, ‘they’re stolen.’

        how great that you later returned the divisions to their old homestead!

        i often collect pottery shards from the beaches here in ecuador.. when i am ready to move on, i return them to the ocean as well!

        the next time i’m at ‘tulipe,’ i will ask permission and will at least take some seeds. it’s cooler there, and it’s hot here, so i suspect the violets will suffer… hmmm. i’ll ponder that a bit longer/!


    1. FeyGirl, it is a little old-fashioned, isn’t it? I really wanted to use “myst’ry” to go along with “wand’ring”, but I just couldn’t work my way around the syllables. No matter – you picked up on the style, and that’s good enough.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and I love that you called it sweet. That makes me smile. ;)


    1. Nia, I think if you were a flower, you might be a violet. You could be white, or yellow, or even a deep purple, but I can see you blooming in a lovely wood.

      Remember the post you made with those wonderful little houses made in the trees? That would be a perfect place for violets!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. Thank you so much.


      1. how beautiful and nice you are dear Linda, Thank you, you really made my day with full of flowers :) You are welcome, have a nice day, love, nia

    1. If it was divine inspiration, Jeanie, you’re the angel. It was something you said that started me thinking and led to the first three lines — the little seed that brought the poem to flower.

      It is a gorgeous photo, isn’t it? Sometimes I think these tiny flowers are best seen this way – a single bloom, without any distractions.

      I’m pleased you think the words complemented the violet well!


  7. Violets are exquisitely beautiful, and you’ve written a lovely etheree to accompany this one’s picture. (See, I’m learning!)
    My late grandmother used to raise violets — in all colors — on her back porch. She, too, had a green thumb, and her “babies” were spectacular. For many years, I continued the tradition, but sadly don’t have any of them now. Is this a hint that I should remedy that situation??

    1. I’ll bet your grandmother’s collection was beautiful, Debbie. I went to an African violet show once, and was completely astonished by the variety of colors, patterns, and leaves.

      Once I had Mom’s, I repotted them into much larger pots, and they were so happy with their new dirt they thrived. I’ve given most of them away now, and just have four: a deep purple, light purple, pink and magenta. The biggest problem I have is that Dixie loves to bite their leaves. She doesn’t eat them, she just leaves toothmarks here and there. We’re working on that.

      Here’s my double pink. If I can grow these, you certainly can!


    1. Becca, I don’t see many either. Of course we have lots of pansies and violas, which also are lovely. But there are so many in-your-face plantings by the commercial landscapers that there’s none of the delight and surprise that comes with finding hidden violets in the woods.

      Have you posted about your trips to the Blue Ridge mountains? Lucky you, to have spent some time there. I was there as a child, but remember almost nothing, except how surprised I was that all mountains don’t look like the Rockies.


    1. It’s a lovely portrait, isn’t it? I hope more people do explore his site. I went there thinking I’d find a nice violet and leave, but as so often happens, I got drawn into the archives and completely enjoyed it. I had a hard time picking a photo, too. There were a lot of good ones.


  8. I just bought a violet – I think it a miniature given the size of its home. My wife tells me it is easy to kill these plants, so I am a little nervous around it. But the other day, it’s single flower bent toward the window, which I thought was hopeful. With your poem in mind, I’ll look at this little flower a little differently.

    1. No need to be nervous, Allen. If it’s an African violet, they really are simple to care for.

      Mine are in clay pots, in a 50/50 mix of African violet soil and organic potting soil. The easiest way to feed them is with something like Schultz African Violet liquid food — seven drops per quart of water, every time you water. They don’t like water on their leaves, and don’t like to be soaked. You can tell when they’re thirsty, because their leaves get saggy. A good drink, and they perk right up. As for light, they like bright, indirect light. If your flower’s bending toward the window, it might like a little more light. That’s it!

      Oh – and some of them enjoy having their own name.

      I take it you’re back home after that whirlwind week. I enjoyed all the “reports” you posted.


      1. Thanks for the advice! I’m feeling remarkably more confident. Glad to hear of your interest in our Synod Assembly. It really was rather remarkable. Years ago I dreaded them: constant bickering over constitutional changes, budgets etc. This year, after some bylaws were amended with a minimum of discussion, our bishop saw that we had extra time on the agenda, and opened up the mike for people to share what was working well in their communities. It was really rather inspiring!

  9. What is violet?
    Why, a violet.
    Just a violet.
    — with apologies to Christina Rossetti’s “What is Pink”

    1. Rosemary, I hadn’t read that poem in years. I had to smile when I got to “orange,” because of this great (if slightly mysterious) image.

      I really like your slight alteration, and I think Ms. Rossetti would, too.


  10. We have a shady area in our garden and we have allowed the violets to spread – in Spring now there is a carpet of colour, they seem to like the shade. I love that Poem, Linda.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the poem, Andy. And, I envy your carpet of violets. While I was in the process of writing this (and even after) I learned quite a bit about the ability of violets to reproduce and spread. It sounds like they’ve found a good environment with you, and some appreciative overseers!


  11. If you pronounce violet with three syllables, then it joins the plant-derived color names orange and indigo in not having an exact rhyme in English. On the other hand, if you’re among the people (like me) who skip violet‘s weak second syllable, then you’re free to rhyme away:

    Roses are red,
    Violets are violet.
    You can plant one
    On an islet.

    Alternate ending:

    You can wear one
    In an eyelet.

    1. Obviously, I’m in the three-syllable camp when it comes to “violet,” although it’s a very soft second syllable when I speak it. We had violas (the flower, not the stringed instrument) as well as violets when I was growing up, and I wonder if that didn’t influence my pronunciation of “violet.”

      But there certainly are possibilties for a two-syllable approach, as you’ve shown. Given the edible nature of the flower, how about:

      Roses are red,
      Violets are violet,
      Far better on cake
      Than perched on a cutlet.

      Not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. I’m still trying to get my mind around the fact that there’s no rhyme for orange.

  12. Hi there… Just dropping by to tell you that I have nominated you for an award. Check out the nomination here (scroll down the page):

    Congratulations and best wishes! Aquileana

    1. Thanks, Aquileana. As I mentioned on your blog, I prefer not to accept these awards. Your visits and comments are reward enough!
      Thank you, nonetheless — and thanks for your visit.


    1. I think we all have “that” part of ourselves, Matt. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, and the photo, too.

      Speaking of introverted, I bumped into this article about Robert Lax while looking for something else, and meant to pass it on to you. You may have read it, but if not, you’ll find it interesting.


      1. A quiet, reflective person most of what we know about Lax comes from Merton’s autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain.” He was a good friend of Merton and had a great influence on his life. In fact, Lax was only one of the few friends that Merton invited to his religious profession. It was a friendship that would last a lifetime.

        It wasn’t surprising to me that he spent a significant portion of his life as a hermit on the island of Patmos in Greece. It is ironic, though, that his life was much more a quieter one and closer to the hermit ideal than that of Merton’s who was a “professional” monk and hermit.

        I like it when the article states: “Lax is essentially simple and devoid of secrets.” That sums up for me who Lax is.

        Thank you for sharing the article, Linda…

        — Matt

        1. I actually found it because of Lax’s poem about the circus. I’m working on a circus post, and found this article mentioned in another essay. It tickled me to find that Lax had spent time with the circus!

  13. Love your Etheree poems. Shy violets : “why turn away from morning’s recognition”. So true ! Those tiny jewels should not be plucked but left shining their own light in remote places.
    Thank you Linda.

    1. You know, Isa, that’s one of the delights of blogging for me. There are little gems, little hidden blossoms all around the world. When we choose to highlight them, through photos or words or some combination of each, we reveal their beauty without disturbing them.

      And what child hasn’t learned one of the sorry lessons of life: that the desire to possess often leaves us with nothing but a handful of wilted flowers!


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