Blooms of June at Blackberry Rock

Drawn to flowers, I imagine what it would be like if I were able, in terms of scale, to switch with them. I am thinking of a flower so much larger than myself that its colors, textures, and smell encompass my senses; a flower big enough to make my immediate surroundings, like a room or a hillside; a flower that’s a place where my whole body can go.

Near the beginning of Ogin, when Elwood tastes the food of Ehm for the first time, his spirit leaves his body. In “a desert of white rock” he finds

a giant flower of fiery red growing up out of the floor of the waste. The stem was so bowed by the flower’s weight that the ends of two long curving petals touched the dust of the ground. Like stairs, he climbed the petals into the flower’s heart.

Now, judging by its outside, the giant red flower’s inside is not what you might expect. The flower is a portal, a passage to somewhere else—which is different from what I have been dreaming about this past Spring and early Summer, paying more attention than usual to what blooms around me. A fair-sized granite heap occupies much of the view out my second-floor study’s east window. By Cape Ann standards it is not very big; still, the portion above ground could be compared to two or three bungalows pushed together. Wickedly thorned blackberry vines proliferate on and around this mass of granite and would completely overrun it if I did not keep them in check. For that reason—and because I like the sound—I call it Blackberry Rock.

Little masonry walls built a hundred years ago remain, pieces of Blackberry Rock itself that past inhabitants had cut off, shaped, and built back into the land. Dead matter has turned to earth and filled the hollows, making places for tall grasses and staghorn sumac to grow. Mice hide there, cats hunt there. Innumerable minibeasts crawl the Rock’s surface; mockingbirds land and flash their wings. It is a whole world, or a world of many worlds (“Worlds on top of worlds,” as Elwood says); home of many and part of my own home. It is always changing with the light, with the life.

Blackberries are just one of the flowering plants that grow on and around the Rock: I might also call it Lavender Rock, or Bindweed Rock, or one of many others. For example, on a shelf on the side closest to the house, the comely chive blooms every year:

But not for long. This beauty comes and goes in just a few weeks.

Down on the morning side of Blackberry Rock, a little patch of lavender is flourishing.

Maybe my favorite flower-smell after lilac.

A few feet from the lavender grows a small colony of red carpet stonecrop.

At least, I think it’s red carpet. There are so many in the sedum genus, it’s hard for me to be sure.

Maybe even more prolific on Blackberry Rock than blackberries: mossy stonecrop.

Mossy stonecrop (again, it’s hard to be sure it’s that succulent in particular) covers sections of our place like carpet. I would like to encourage it to cover more.Bindweed, field bindweed, field morning glory, creeping jenny… this is also very prolific, especially around the Rock’s human-made walls.According to my Golden Guide to Weeds, bindweed “is one of the most difficult of all weeds to eradicate,” due to a root system “sometimes penetrating to a depth of 10 feet.”

I love the shape of the leaves, and the flowers are beautiful, furled and unfurled.

For a long time I mistook bittersweet nightshade for deadly nightshade. Because bittersweet grows everywhere around Blackberry Rock, I was constantly ripping it up. The berries are green now, but they ripen a beautiful, tomato-like orange, then red.They are not good for you either, but I gather they are nowhere near as toxic as Atropa belladonna.

And then there are the blackberries:

They also are far from ripe. I love the many white alfalfa sprout-like threads of this stage.

Finally—since I cannot mention everything, even in passing—three different shades of roses grow in the vicinity of Blackberry Rock.

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3 Responses to Blooms of June at Blackberry Rock

  1. Fred D. says:

    I loved this photographic tour of Blackberry Rock! And I’m deeply impressed that you can identify by name so much of what’s growing around you.

  2. Sheenah says:

    Gorgeous photography! It’s impressive that you know the names of so many of the flowers that bloom nearby. Blackberry Rock must be a cove of inspiration; it would be for me at least.

  3. Patrick Doud says:

    Thanks, Fred; thanks, Sheenah. Glad you both like the pictures–I’m not a photographer, not at all, but I enjoy taking pictures, looking at pictures, having collections of pictures… As for knowing the names of these growing things–shucks, it’s not really an achievement! Anyone can look things up, and finding out more about things that interest you is, of course, a pleasurable thing to do. And yes, Sheenah: I am most fortunate to have this rock right outside my writing room window–inspiration indeed.

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