Monday, June 16, 2008

Visiting Le Jardin Botanique

If you're not into flowers, if you're not a gardener -- you might just want to stop now. This post is about my visit to le Jardin Botanique de Montreal.

I went there hoping to see some of the things I miss growing in the Bay Area, where it's not cold enough for lilacs and peonies. I don't miss winter, but I do miss some of the favorite blooms of my youth.

In turns out I also missed most of the lilacs: it was too late in the season, and too late in day for much fragrance from those few still left in bloom. But the iris and peonies were in full bloom. And, oh my, what peonies! I'd never seen yellow peonies before and these were enormous, luscious blooms, some with contrasting reddish centers. Beds and beds of peonies, in maroon, red, rose, coral, pink and white...peonies to die for!

In the rose garden, most of the hybrid teas still looked scraggly: clumps of leafed-out sticks with fat buds promising harlot blooms in another month or so. But my favorites -- the antiques and the David Austin roses -- were blooming. Austin's Mary Rose was pretty in pink, lush and fragrant, much better than she ever looked in my former garden in Tennessee, where blackspot and mildew took its toll.

After two hours of wandering through the gardens, I was footsore and weary and headed for the exit. On my way out, I asked a garden official in a passing golf cart for the location of the nearest recycling bin, so I could unload my soda bottle before heading to the Metro station. We chatted a moment, and I mentioned my disappointment at missing the lilacs. He asked if I'd seen the rhododendrons. No, I replied, they were a little too far out for me to walk to today. "I could get you there in five minutes," he said.

How could I refuse? It turned out that my "chauffeur," Pierre Paradise, is head of security at the garden. And he was right -- the rhodos were worth a trip.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Anarachy, art and hope

I started the week in San Francisco, touring the Mission's murals with a friend. I ended the week taking pictures of peonies in full bloom dans le Jardin Bontanique de Montreal. (Look for some of those pics in a future post.)

Yes, it was a good week, my first real week off from school. Here are some highlights of my Mission mural walk:

This mural, painted on a garage door in Balmy Ave., is a tribute to women artists. Frida, I recognized, but not the rest.

Across the alley is this compelling portrait. That's my friend Nancy coming face to face with it.

The next mural, it turns out, illustrates an apocalyptic poem by William Butler Yeats:

...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...

(here's where I cut out some of the gratuitously gory get to these lines, which have always seemed to me to speak of politics and religion...especially in combination)

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Anyway, I like this mural's colorful bugs (the proverbial cockroaches, mayhaps?) crawling around the scattered grey (oh, no, are we all dead?) human forms. Instead of "The Second Coming," let's just call this one "After Global Warming."

I hate to end on such a down note, so let me close with something more hopeful. While viewing the murals, we met these lively 8th graders on a field trip. Their teachers at St. Paul's Epicopal in Oakland had asked them to pick a mural and write about its message. They described this one as "Breaking the chains of oppression."

Here they are, getting into character with the mural: Nicholas Piucci, Emily Nguyen, Rafa Moraga, Bruce Lien and Max "Cool Kid" Ornstil.

Power to the people!