We have peonies and we have ants...boy, do we have ants. The peonies are about to bloom and the ants are busy.
There is debate about whether ants are needed to help the double buds break open, by eating away the nectar-glue that coats each one. Some say no; some, yes. I don't know.
I do know when the ants show up, within a couple days I'll have peonies in bloom at the back of the garage...a display that forces me to stop whatever it is I'm doing. Stop and stare.
Peonies are extravagant: lush blooms, opening and opening, scenting the air, nodding under their own weight in colours difficult to describe. Generous with full-bodied loveliness; layers of petals, each one a different tone, each layer coaxing, "Come closer."
The blooms make me remember summer barbecues with my great-aunts; each auntie wearing an ample hat to protect against the sun, each hat festive with silk and velvet flowers, delicate, handmade, often peonies. Make me remember the first grown-up dress I ever wore, a satin the shade of the inner lip on the palest pink peony we grow. Make me remember the gardens of my childhood with peonies spilling over their cages and filling the yard with perfume; peonies floating in a crystal dish on the table, lending elegance to our ordinary suppers.
And if an ant crawled to the tablecloth, my grandmother would shrug, capture the ant and remove it. "You have peonies, you have ants," she'd say.
Just life, this mix of irritant and perfection.
Words and photo are copyright 2011-2013 Carol Steel.