|Bouganvillea glabra 12 November 2021|
As November is fading into December there are few plants that I am able to scan to keep me distracted and busy.
But sometimes surprises happen that can be so lovely that they will make me smile while at the same time drive me to tears. That happened when Rosemary’s bougainvillea was in bloom in the upstairs guestroom.
In our Kerrisdale home Rosemary and I converted an old house so that the ground floor and the garden were so spectacular that Americans came in buses to see it once we were featured in Better Homes and Gardens. We were strapped for cash so we did few repairs to the upper floor that had two bathrooms with leaky tubs and toilets that did not work well. The basement where I had my darkroom had exposed asbestos and mold. I developed what seemed to be mild flu and a persistent cough that has only subsided this 2021.
The situation meant that while I had many visiting friends and relatives we could never really invite them to occupy either Ale or Hilary’s former rooms. It was a shame.
Now in our Kits duplex we have a guest room on the upper floor with its own bathroom. Folks from abroad that come to play for Early Music Vancouver stayed with us as did my Portland bassist Curtis Daily. I hope that soon as the pandemic disappears some of my Buenos Aires family will come and stay with me.
An interesting feature of the guest room is that it has a whole wall with shelves of my collection of books in Spanish.
And because of the warmth and light Rosemary kept a Bouganvillea glabra. By 12 November it
had a flowering branch and I was ambivalent about cutting it to scan it. I waited for my daughter Ale to see it who was in town until last Saturday to see it and they cut it I did. It is pleasant for me to now know that the guest room can be occupied and the bathroom does not leak.
A death in one’s life always brings that thought which is a universal one, “Why was it she that had to die and not me?” And then there is looking at the plant and I think, “You are alive and she is not. How is that fair?”
It was a few years ago that I discovered W.H. Auden’s poem about a guest room. I believe that now is the right time to place it here.
For Friends Only
(for John and Teckla Clark)
Ours yet not ours, being set apart
As a shrine to friendship,
Empty and silent most of the year,
This room awaits from you
What you alone, as visitor, can bring,
A weekend of personal life.
In a house backed by orderly woods,
Facing a tractored sugar-beet country,
Your working hosts engaged to their stint,
You are unlike to encounter
Dragons or romance: were drama a craving,
You would not have come.
Books we do have for almost any
Literate mood, and notepaper, envelopes,
For a writing one (to “borrow” stamps
Is the mark of ill-breeding):
Between lunch and tea, perhaps a drive;
After dinner, music or gossip.
Should you have troubles (pets will die
Lovers are always behaving badly)
And confession helps, we will hear it,
Examine and give our counsel:
If to mention them hurts too much,
We shall not be nosey.
Easy at first, the language of friendship
Is, as we soon discover,
Very difficult to speak well, a tongue
With no cognates, no resemblance
To the galimatias of nursery and bedroom,
Court rhyme or shepherd’s prose,
And, unless spoken often, soon goes rusty.
Distance and duties divide us,
But absence will not seem an evil
If it make our re-meeting
A real occasion. Come when you can:
Your room will be ready.
In Tum-Tum’s reign a tin of biscuits
On the bedside table provided
For nocturnal munching. Now weapons have changed,
And the fashion of appetites:
There, for sunbathers who count their calories,
A bottle of mineral water.
Felicissima notte! May you fall at once
Into a cordial dream, assured
That whoever slept in this bed before
Was also someone we like,
That within the circle of our affection
Also you have no double.