It is, at last, the time of year when every window - each little glass pane – in the house at the bottom of the hill is filled with green. Jeweled, sun-dappled – emerald, jade, and lime. The evening air has an aqueous feel to it - as though one is moving, at all times, slowly and languorously underwater, the overhead leaves swaying delicately to moon tide and earth’s pull.
Iris time. The stems budded out, now, swollen and ready to pop, the thick, woody leaves crowding densely over the sandy ditch soil.
She goes out with tee shirt sleeves rolled and feet bare, toes grass- stained. Kneels by the iris bed and loses herself in the scent of weeds and grass, the crumble of dirt beneath her fingers, drone of honey bee, swoop of swallowtail.
Iris – possibly the sweetest scent in the entire known universe. Something like grape Kool-Aid, childhood, and grandma’s kitchen all balled together with lemon sun and dew-wet mornings.
This patch runs the entire length of sidewalk in front of the house, and that would seem extravagant had her grandmother not lived there before her. Grandma, now – she filled the entire lot next door with her peonies and iris. People came from all over the county to marvel at the varieties, to inhale the sweetness, to find their elusive happiness along the winding paths or tucked beneath the arbor.
But these iris are her own.
“I want iris,” she’d said one morning to her husband-to-be, and the next day he’d pulled into the yard with the bed of his truck clear full. The sheer romance of that gesture had stolen her breath away. Who loves somebody else that much? A hundred iris, maybe a thousand! They’d planted every single bulb. Those are the great big pink ones – nobody’s ever seen blossoms like that, before or since, so fat they fall over in the ditch before you can pluck them
They smell like heaven – sniff them; your soul will remember.
Here, at the far end – the pale, pale yellows. They’re called Irish tune. A true-blue friend, a friend who could make her laugh and cry in equal measure, had given her those bulbs and then died hardly a year later. Nobody thinks about flowers outliving people, but there you go.
The dark crimsons come from a haunted house. She’d dug (stole) them in the middle of the night and a ghost had said, just at her shoulder, “don’t take them all!”
Purples from her mother; rubies from her sister.
Fifteen years gone by, and while that isn’t such a long time - not really – it was in those years that the kids grew up. Every May at iris time, they had weeded by her side - bellyaching, arguing, sometimes, yes, even laughing, but so there that to imagine them grown would have seemed absurd. How had it happened?
And Jewel! What a gorgeous little dog she’d been! Curly tail, laughing mouth, thick black coat that devilled her all summer long. She’d watch the work from beneath the bridal wreath, tongue lolling – every summer, all the way from puppyhood to old old age while the iris thickened and grew out front.
The sun ducks behind the hill long before it’s truly dark, but the air has cooled and taken on lavender shades when she straightens from her work at the iris bed. Swipes the dirt off on her jeans and stashes the trowel in her back pocket.
The May flower moon is rising, another iris day gone by.
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