In the Seventh Grade, we were made to memorize a poem in our English class taught by Tom Horton.
We could pick one of three works by Robert Frost. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “The Road Not Taken”, or “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Most chose “Nothing Gold Can Stay” due to its brevity blithely ignorant of its themes of mortality and the early twentieth century update of that ancient of admonitions
All thirty of us in Mr. Horton’s class stood in front of our classmates and recited from memory over the course of two days
I actually chose “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as its meter and rhyme were the easiest to commit to memory
Having heard it so many times over two classes, though, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” remains with me some thirty five years later.
It has really remained with me these last two months of quarantine and Rona, bad news on all fronts
From March through May, my beloved Lowcountry has flowered in profusion due to a surfeit of rain followed by weeks of sun
The last of the pink perfection camellias were insanely gorgeous
Mathematical in form
Our only native hydrangea, the oak leaf, has blossomed like never before
It has grown tall enough to reach our kitchen windows
It has gone from early green buds to white flowers which will then go pink which will eventually fade to brown during the summer heat
We have been blessed with the most abundant Confederate jasmine blooms in recent memory
It’s my favorite scent of all time
#iykyk as the kids say these days
The wisteria’s mild clean odor wafts through the woodlands and through thickets and borders near our house
We had one growing up in Beaufort
One of my great grandmothers was a serious gardener
She spotted the wisteria in our yard, looked at my father, and remarked, “George, you have a wisteria…mmmm…that’s a mistake”
I never thought it was
That smell reminds me of playing in our yard
Proust had his madeleines
I have my wisteria and Confederate jasmine
From all that woozy goodness, the magnolias have opened to amazing early blooms perfuming all the air around them while continuing to be the messiest trees God ever created
The antiseptic astringency of the ligustrum mixes in nicely
The sultry intoxication of gardenias, named for a South Carolinian, layer on top of all of that
It’s too much sitting outside or walking around Charleston or strolling through Hampton Park where all of these scents mingle
Our foxgloves bloomed early
In our hot summers, they count as early spring annuals as they literally melt in the hot suns of June, July, and August
Sometimes they are biennials if they get a little shade
Mine generally melt
The one hundred White Christmas caladium bulbs I planted are busting through the soil
The Kentucky Colonel mint and chocolate mint are spreading
In spite of all the gloom and bad news, we have never had a more glorious spring
The hydrangeas are budding in profusion, too
The aluminum sulfate that I spread a couple weeks ago is working its acidifying magic on the blooms creating deep blues and purples
The Southern shield ferns have never been bigger unfurling their fiddle heads to fronds all from volunteer spores spread by the wind
The annual pentas in pinks, whites, lavenders fill beds and pots with Persian shield and gomphrena along with the purple fuzzy Wandering Jew rooted from my in-laws
As I stand in our garden watering, I am overwhelmed by it all
It’s too much
I know it cannot remain
It is destined to succumb eventually
Nothing gold can stay
And, so I give you Mr. Frost’s ode to spring, youth, beauty, Original Sin, death, and life, which I memorized some thirty five years ago and recite to myself every spring with all credit given to that flinty New England sage
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.