Monday, May 05, 2014

Poem for Monday and National Arboretum Azaleas

Restoration Portrait
By Nicky Beer

     Van Dyke was so overburdened with commissions for portraits that he [...]
     had a number of assistants who painted the costumes of his sitters arranged
     on dolls, and he did not always paint even the whole of the head.
          -- E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art

She's practically drowning in tippets.
The windrowed stoles seize her torso
like a startled invertebrate
she'd dragged up from the seafloor
to nurse. Somewhere beneath the chemise
hides a head strangely sucking at her salt.
Her face has too many bones.

Her skin is a decadence of blue.
She has the look of someone born
to live under glass, tagged with Latin.
Something has been sketched against her elbow
to keep her from tilting out
of the frame. It is not important
whether it is a fishbowl or a tambour.
There's a bit of red in the picture where
someone's pried her stitches open.

We might peel her off in layers
and find another subject
entirely beneath the thick duff
of oil and lacquer. That sitter might even
be historical, the creature at her neck
a proper familiar after all.
There may even be scapular or habit
enough for us to see the touch of God
luminating her like a tasteful maquillage.

For now, it is impossible to say
if the likeness is good—everyone
who could have known her is dead.
A chip of white sits in the coffer
of her right eye, deliberate as a chess piece.
Her feet have been a mystery for centuries.


Adam had work at Hebrew school in the morning and needed to study for AP exams in the afternoon -- an activity so exciting to him that he took some down time working in the neighbor's yard to relax -- so since we knew he would be busy most of the day, we went downtown early to the National Arboretum to see the thousands of azaleas which are at peak bloom this weekend. It was absolutely gorgeous, not only among the azaleas but walking among the National Capitol Columns and in the herb garden, plus there was a bonsai festival with trees on display and Japanese art for sale, and there were frogs and turtles in the ponds:

There is lots of color in the Lee Azalea Garden.

A couple of years ago, the National Arboretum threatened to take all the azaleas out because they are not native plants. Fury ensued, and a huge donation guaranteed they would stay.

There is a wonderful range of rhododendron color.

A couple took this photo of me and Paul in exchange for us taking a photo of them.

You can see the National Capitol Columns through the trees at the top of this photo.

Bonsai azalea in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. There is a carpenter bee in nearly every photo I took there.

And these obviously are not azaleas at all, but there were at least eight of them in the uncropped version of this photo.

We got home relatively early in the afternoon, just as the arboretum was starting to get really crowded, so we had time to do assorted chores and enjoy our own azaleas which are also at peak bloom...we had a bunny in our backyard right behind the house beneath the purple azalea bush. Since it was Star Wars Day, Paul made Boba Fettucini Alfredo and TIE fighter sausages for dinner, plus Wookie Cookies which we ate while watching Once Upon a Time (pretty meh despite plenty of Regina until the very end, when things got interesting again) and Cosmos (great as always, as was John Oliver). Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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