Spring’s Last Snow

Mexican Olive (Cordia boissieri) ~ Click to enlarge
snow o’er drifts
the land ~ blossomed
  blackberry, olive,
  sedge.  Ditch-bound, flamboyant,
 lilies lean across the dawn
   to greet the day’s dark greening, while
 poppies fling white petals wide ~ pristine,
flurried exuberance, melting away.


Comments always are welcome.
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.

95 thoughts on “Spring’s Last Snow

  1. ” Ditch-bound, flamboyant,
    lilies lean across the dawn
    to greet the day’s dark greening,”

    I like that image, especially the alliteration of “lilies lean across the lawn”

    1. My second brother is not quite 3 years younger. From childhood he has made it his tradition to go to the bank of the small “branch” to gather a small number of the white lilies (wild) – to take to Mama Rachel (who died age 91 not quite one year ago). In addition, on the island where we have a tiny vacation cottage is a field which grows “thousands” of white-blossomed Star of Bethlehem (wild). We now have one of those plants close to Washington, DC, as well as (wild) blue bell which blooms briefly (a week or few) and then the green plant recedes beneath the fallen brown leaves. We placed it just behind the fallen red oak (horizontal main trunk) not far from our South neighbor’s fence.

      1. I hadn’t heard of Star of Bethlehem, which is in the lily family, too. It’s been introduced from Europe and North Africa, and is found in only a few Texas counties. Unfortunately, its lovely appearance conceals a toxic reality. All parts of the plants are poisonous, and can be lethal to livestock.

        On the other hand, we have bluebells, sometimes called prairie gentian. I think I may have seen them, but I’m not sure. Now that I’m paying more attention to native wildflowers, my odds of an encounter probably have gone up.

    2. Lilies leaning across a lawn would read nicely, but the spider lilies and white-topped sedge I found were about as far from any lawn as you could get. They like their feet wet, and find the ditches congenial. That’s why I’ve taken to carrying boots in the trunk of the car — to keep my feet dry while I’m stalking them.

    1. Thanks, Bob. I thought the petals were so attractive: crinkly, and slightly fuzzy. The buds just knock me out — they’re even fuzzier, and appear to be extruding the flower, like frosting, instead of opening up.

    1. The last time I was out in the country, there was a stiff wind blowing things about, and I suspect that’s where that leaning-lily phrase came from. I’m glad you like it.

      The prickly poppy — the white one I love — is a Texas native. I’ve already found a stand of them this year, and you can bet that they’ll be appearing here shortly. You’ll like them, too.

    1. You’re welcome, Justin. I thought about you when I was out and about, taking these photos. I saw fields with corn already knee-high, and wondered if your Three Sisters were planted yet.

      Time seems to be passing so quickly. The dewberry blossoms already have turned into berries, and are ripening. Cobbler’s not far away!

    1. The clusters of flowers were hard to photograph because each contained shadowed and brilliantly-lit blossoms. So, I decided to try for a side-lit view of a single blossom or two, and liked the way they came out. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, too.

  2. Fabulous, Linda! Now that’s the snow I would love to see!

    And the photo is magnificent.

    But most of all, I remain continually impressed of your mastery of the etheree. This format is much harder than it appears in a simple description — I know, I’ve tried it. But your magnificent vocabulary and turn of phrase always makes each one exquisite. Bravo.

    1. You’re one of the people I thought of while I was writing this. Knowing how you love those long, extended winters (!!!) I was sure you’d appreciate some light, blossomy snow.

      The etherees are just a little mysterious to me. I can’t think, “Oh, I believe I’ll write an etheree,” and then sit down and do it. I’ve tried. But every now and then, something comes to mind, and I think, “This is not a story or an essay, but an etheree.” And then it comes.

      The funniest experiences I have with them involve watching words do things I’d never imagine doing with them. “O’er drifts” rather than “drifts over” is one example. But, as someone I know once said, “No rules!”

    1. You of all people know how difficult it can be to photograph white — whether flowers or feathers. I’m not entirely satisfied with the sharpness, but I do like the contrast. I was going to experiment with fill flash, but then I realized I haven’t figured out how to use the camera’s flash. There are rainy days ahead, and that’s on the to-do list.

      In any event, I’m so pleased that you can feel the light. That’s what I’d hoped for.

  3. I’ve never heard of this flower, Linda, but it’s spectacular! Just about perfect for Easter season and Spring! Now I’m going to have to Google them so I can learn a bit more. Beautiful Etheree to accompany the bloom, too! “Flurried exuberance” is a lovely expression, you know.

    1. Until a year or so ago, I’d never seen one, Debbie. It’s native to South Texas, and uncommon up here. They don’t like cold at all — even Austin is a little far north for it, and Dallas wouldn’t do at all. The tree I found at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge had been planted, and even the volunteers didn’t know what it was. I was happy to figure it out.

      At first, I worried about “flurried” — that it might be too negative an association. Then, I decided that the implied confusion worked just fine, and allowed the allusion to snow flurries that I wanted. Done!

    1. Curt, your breeze-borne bees recall Emily Dickinson, and this delight that is, I believe, untitled:

      “The gentian weaves her fringes,
      The maple’s loom is red.
      My departing blossoms
      Obviate parade.

      A brief, but patient illness,
      An hour to prepare;
      And one, below this morning,
      Is where the angels are.

      It was a short procession, —
      The bobolink was there,
      An aged bee addressed us,
      And then we knelt in prayer.

      We trust that she was willing, —
      We ask that we may be.
      Summer, sister, seraph,
      Let us go with thee!

      In the name of the bee,
      And of the butterfly,
      And of the breeze, amen!”

    1. I’m not sure whether you could establish one, but they are beautiful. And, they’re drought-tolerant: a quality which makes them good landscape trees in far south Texas. I just read that with sufficient moisture, their bloom time can be year-round. After our next days of rain, it may be that the tree I found, which was looking just a bit sad, may come into a fuller bloom again. I’ll be checking it out.

      The white poppies I’ll have in a future post are, if anything, even more showy. You’ll like them.

  4. This particular etheree is a pine tree about flowerdrifts of petalflakes – a pretty complicated thing to think about on a sunny Saturday in northern Michigan, but I’m getting there.

    1. In the event yet one more flurry of misfortune arrives on your steps, perhaps you could imagine yourself sweeping away petalflakes rather than snow. Whether it would help, I can’t judge, but it couldn’t hurt.

      That mention of a sunny Saturday sounds encouraging. Here’s to more sunshine, a melting swamp, and deliciously muddy dogs.

  5. Very interesting image, particularly (in my view) the shadowy folds and the decision NOT to include the entire blossom. Thanks for sharing (both the image and the accompanying verse).

    1. I thought that a focus on the petals rather than the whole flower strengthened the analogy to snow. Snow is white, of course, but it arrives in a variety of flakes, and the petals seemed to me more flake-like in this view.

      As a new photographer, I’m always delighted to find someone whose nature and landscape photography is pleasing and of high quality. I’ve signed up to follow your blog, and am looking forward to exploring your archives. Thanks for stopping by.

      1. I would say that the fact that you even considered a visual metaphor to a poem at the time of capture (or even at the time of cropping, if that’s what you in fact did) puts you miles ahead of the game.

        Thanks for following my blog; it’s much appreciated. I hope you find your journey through the archives worthwhile.

    1. What sweet words, Bella. Here’s to spring, and all its flowers. I hope your pasture’s awash in those buttercups soon, and that you even have a white flower or two thrown in for good measure.

    1. When I looked at the photo rather than only at the plant itself, I wondered if Georgia O’Keeffe ever had come across Mexican olive. I decided not, because if she had, she surely would have painted it. Though she spent time in the Panhandle and in New Mexico, as far as I know she never made it to deep South Texas or northern Mexico.

      The first phrase — “A fragrant snow o’er drifts the land” — came to me out of nowhere, fully formed, and I never tinkered with it. It’s funny how many of my etherees start that way, with a phrase that seems to say, “Ok. Here I am. Now, do something with me.”

        1. Well, yes. There is that. I have the name of a female story character sitting in my files. It’s the best name ever — funny, alliterative, memorable — but I can’t figure out what her story is. I need to make another run at it.

          Kayti’s phrase, “lingering soft vitality,” reminds me of your photo of the leaf today.

  6. A lovely poem, Linda.

    The star of Bethlehem was our favourite indoor plant when still living in Holland before 1956. My dad loved his indoor garden. I doubt any live-stock would have ever found its way inside our lounge-room on the top floor of our block of apartments. ;)

    1. I’m sure you’re right about the livestock, Gerard. Particularly in Holland, I can’t quite imagine that sort of shared quarters, although I did once stay in a German home in the Black Forest where the cattle were down below and the people one story above.

      From what I’ve read about the plant your dad favored, it seems to be like the paperwhites and narcissus that we always liked to force during the winter. Amaryllis, too. It was such fun to put them in their little dishes, watch the roots develop, and then have the lovely blooms while the snow still swirled outdoors.

      Who knows? Maybe that’s where my association of white flowers with snow was born.

  7. Thanks. I especially like the way “flurried exuberance” echoes “snow o’er drifts.” I cannot think of spring aside from snow, and while each makes a claim against the other in the end they both sing a Gloria worthy of hearing!

    1. When I still lived in snow country, I loved the drama of blizzards, but the quiet blanketing of spring snows always was a treat. It was easier to enjoy the beauty when we knew it wasn’t going to be months before it went away. People bemoan the ephemeral nature of beauty, but sometimes it’s a plus — as you well know!

  8. I love white flowers too. The photo is lovely. I have a type of iris that blooms white with some crème. I need to learn its name. It was given to me many years ago and I have a deep blue version of it as well. Have no idea why I have not researched the names of these two lovelies. The foliage is tall and reed like. These are much taller than regular hybrid iris.

    1. Until this year, I didn’t realize how rich in floral beauty the ditches could be. Not only lilies and sedges, but iris, and a clutch of other flowers I haven’t yet identified, were abundant this year.

      One thing that surprised me about the iris was how quickly they bloom and fade. One Saturday, I found a stand of them still in bud. When I went back the next Saturday, they were at the end of their bloom. It’s no wonder I’ve missed them in the past.

      One site that I want to search next year is Nash Prairie. It never occurred to me that I could find iris on a prairie, but there’s a meander there that apparently is home to Iris brevicaulis, the so-called “zig-zag” iris. It’s something else for the “to do” list.

  9. Beautiful picture and poem. I’m sure your spring is quite different from mine. We only have brown, but the green grass is emerging. Flowers as lively as this one will have to wait till June.

    1. What a difference 22 degrees of latitude make, Arti. But it shouldn’t be long. People I know in Montana are beginning to post photos of emerging wildflowers — they’re creeping northward, and will be at your door in no time.

      I still remember that wonderful archway of trees you posted — a long time ago, it seems. Was that in your town? It must be wonderful to see something like that begin to “green up” as the temperatures warm.

  10. My instantaneous reaction upon seeing the white was white prickly poppy. The caption soon belied that, but then upon reading your words I saw “poppies” and “white” and felt semi-justified.

    The “snow” in the third line finds a pleasant echo in the “flurried” of the last line. The time between them wasn’t long enough to cause any melting.

    1. I think you’re wholly justified, Steve. The shape of the flowers differs in the two species, but there are similarities: the crinkliness of the petals, the fuzz, the general sturdiness. If I were to do it again, I might not even caption the photo, allowing for some ambiguity. On the other hand, it did introduce many people to a new plant, so that’s good.

      I enjoyed finding a way to include another snow metaphor with “flurried” — just as I enjoyed finding side-lighting as a way around problematic clusters of flowers that were half-shadowed and half in brilliant sunlight. I think I’ve found a fine photographic mantra: slow down, back away, think.

        1. Not only that, I linked to that same article in my response to Myra’s early comment, up above. I’ve had it in my files all this time, thinking it might become useful some day — as it did.

          After looking at your Mexican olive photo again, I’m wondering if it was a katydid nymph I found cleaning its antennae on the very edge of a Herbertia flower. It was so tiny, and so funny. It carefully drew each of its antennae through its mouth, nibbling a bit as it did. I suppose it might have been cleaning off pollen grains. I must have stayed there for twenty minutes, watching it.

          1. You got nice and close. It sure looks like it could be a katydid of some sort, although there are also grasshoppers with very long antennae. Maybe BugGuide is the place to turn. I got something identified there tonight.

    1. This one would be new to many people, Anne, even in this country. Seeing it was a treat for me. It’s really quite a thrill to find a flower or bird I’ve only seen in photographs, and when I do, part of me turns into that six-year-old who comes running into the house saying, “Look what I found!”

      Of course, that’s exactly the reason I’ve supported the Children’s Woods campaign. I want the upcoming generations to have that same experience.

  11. Crisp white – almost like fresh sheets on the line in the sun. Great picture – love the parallel texture of the petal.
    We had some Spanish Olive bushes which had little flowers and big fragrance…unfortunately they grew huge and it was a constant battle to keep them from eating the house – hack them back – cautiously – so you keep that lovely fragrance.

    Have you captured the image of those little white everywhere flowers we always called onion flowers? We used to love those as kids – but could never get parents to “plant” some in our flowerbed.

    The wet winter has definitely created a wondrous flower bloom. Could do without the winds, though – been out cutting iris blooms that were knocked flat and can’t get up…Not complaining! Lake Travis is 100% full to the point they’ve warned downstream that the flood gates will likely open today as the storm goes across. (Here some of Toddville Rd became part of the bay last night.) Time to get supplies, and a good book ready to read for the next 2 days?

    1. It’s interesting that you mention Spanish olives. One of my customers has a grove north of Houston, and the family who rode the beautiful horses at the Presidio also grow olives. There was too much rain for them last year. I’m not sure how they’re doing now.

      I laughed at your description of “white everywhere flowers.” I knew exactly what you meant.The so-called false garlic, or crow poison, is one of the earliest flowers, and they were prolific this year. My photos of them in bloom are barely mediocre, but here’s a nice one.The various onions are around, too. The way to tell the difference between the false garlic and the other onions is that false garlic smells like grass, not onion. That’s an easy enough test, if you aren’t suffering from allergies.

      I laughed when I crossed Todville yesterday. There was about 3″ of marsh grass showing.On the other side, between 146 and Blue Dolphin, it was all water. No ditch, no tracks, no markers: truly a tropical storm-worthy rise. The last time I was at Brazoria, they were hoping the draining basins would encourage the birds to congregate in the ponds and sloughs a bit more. With even more rain and river flooding, they’re going to be strewn out over the whole county.

      Supplies? I did get the necessities: ink for the printer, coffee, and cat food. We’re good for the duration.

  12. Lovely on both counts. Our Spring Whites are almost arrived. We have some tiny white violets in the lawn and many of the early ephemerals are budding up. Won’t be long. Of course, some of that spring snow is pol….achooo…len. :-)

    1. We’ve had a good bit of rain and wind of late, and over the weekend I noticed a nice, green haze left on concrete where the water had evaporated. It was our friend, oak pollen. The feared “cedar fever” passed by, and likewise the assault by pine, but we’re not quite done with it, either. Sympathies to you!

      This has been the first year I’ve noticed the word “ephemeral” used so often by photographers and plant people. What I used poetically from time to time turns out to be part of the botanical vocabulary. There’s always something to learn.

      The thought of white violets is entrancing. I’m not certain I’ve ever seen one, even when I was living farther north. I’m glad you have some flowers on the verge of emerging, and I’m glad you liked this one.

      1. Back in my refinishing/restoration days I went to a lot of auctions looking for something I might restore. All paper items are known as ephemera in that milieu.

        Thanks for the sympathy but I actually have no allergies. Just a bit of empathy on my part for those who do. Lucky, lucky me and you, should you also be immune to pollen.

        I will photograph this year’s crop of violets for you. I’ve actually never shot the tiny ones. But here is a white variety of common blue violet from the yard a few years ago.

        1. I’m glad to hear you’re not afflicted. I’ll notice the increase in pollen, especially with a little extra sneezing, but it doesn’t particularly bother me. When it’s truly bad, I might take an occasional Benadryl, but that’s it.

          Those violets are gorgeous. As lawn ornaments, they surely do beat out pink flamingos.

    1. They are lovely, aren’t they? Even though our winters are more mild, and generally snow and ice free, there still is a certain blandness that’s relieved by the appearance of the flowers. I hope yours are appearing now, too. They do lift the spirits.

    1. Thank you, Maria — on both counts. I spent a good bit of time trying to get a decent photo of this flower, and when I got home, I laughed to realize how many I’d taken, and how many I was deleting. Still, if one decent photo in a hundred is the ratio, that’s fine by me.

      This much is certain: the process of learning has only heightened my appreciation for people like you, and the other photographers I follow. Even a good (as opposed to a great) photo requires the ability to see, and competence with the camera. Both have to be learned.

  13. Beautiful image and such evocative writing too. One thing I am going to miss so much this Spring is the flowering of our old Wisteria and the snow of blue petals that covered the ground for days as the flowers began to shed.

    1. I remember that wisteria, Andy. It’s one of my favorite flowers, and I perfectly understand how you’ll miss it. I found some growing wild for the first time this year, along the banks of the Brazoria river. It was even more lovely in that setting — and somewhat inaccessible. Sliding down a clay river bank wasn’t worth a better view.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the pairing here. I thought it turned into a good example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

  14. Beautiful! The other week we’d had a last (lord I HOPE A LAST) snow & then the next day the Bradford pear blossoms were blowing around. It was sort of hard to tell them apart, except one wasn’t as wet. :)

    1. And I’m such a nature girl, I know which one wasn’t so wet!

      I do hope you’re on your way to full spring, now. It’s an easy season, at its best, and heaven knows you could use a little ease in your life.

      Our Bradford pears weren’t so nice this year. The blooms seemed to come and go wtihout much fanfare, and they were sparse. No matter — there’s plenty of other beauty around, to balance things out. Here’s to a season of beauty and balance for us all.

    1. What a wonderful response. I haven’t thought much about this, but it occurs to me right now that, if there’s a choice between someone “understanding” one of my etherees, or “seeing” it, I’d go with seeing every time. I’m so glad you found it appealing, db.

    1. Oh, thank you, Dina. I’ve seen some remarkable photos of cherry blossoms from the Pacific Northwest this year, and remember the few trees we had during my childhood with great fondness. It’s really true that cherries provide triple pleasures: the bloom, the drifting petals, and the, of course, the fruit.

      Was this 1950s song popular there? I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to remember it, but your comment brought it to mind.

    1. It’s funny, Otto. Just like photographers sometimes prefer black and white and sometimes color, there are times when what I have to say only can be said in poetry. Other times, it’s the essay or researched article that’s needed. I find myself trying to hone a variety of skills, so I can serve the subject matter properly.

      I had a sudden vision of you skiing down a petal-covered mountain. Just for fun, I went looking, but it seems that remains an untried sport. It’s still fun to imagine. It would be warmer, too!

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