In 2017, we hosted Salem's Artists in Action in the gardens. They were free to wander the gardens, paint, sketch, photograph, and write poetry. Inspired by the gardens and the stories of Edith and Elizabeth, two poets agreed to share with us their writing here.
Elizabeth and Edith of Gaiety Hollow, 1932
~ Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) and Edith Schryver (1901-1984).
~ Gaiety Hollow: their home, the house placed to enhance
their garden, one of 250 they designed together.
Elizabeth, taller, might’ve reached the breakfast preserves, hung linens
on the clothesline. Perhaps Edith set their table beneath the window,
early northern light giving shape and color to backyard blooms,
paths dividing into rooms lilac, camellia, olive-yellow, thornless rose,
grape vine, pink clematis entwined atop the pergola’s beams; a shaded, backless
bench tucked beside small trees and ferns, a bright green riot;
a friendly garden shed within a separate, sunlit space, for tools and rakes
to tend and mulch the plants. The yard there, rubbed down to earth--
by working men? or, by the owner-women, in slippers and peignoirs?
Just next door, Elizabeth nursed her ailing mother. During years
of witnessing decline, did the garden’s birdsong and promise
bring, with every glimpse, a released breath?
When Elizabeth’s turn for help arrived, did Edith offer care? We only
speculate, the women having burned their personal papers. The full account
is lost to us, a stony pact within their legacy, their era guarding privacy.
We have been told of Edith’s way, when aging and alone: she gazed at
the garden from her kitchen-window seat … perhaps, at the hollyhock,
stalk of creamy bells—in Edith’s room of memory, a taller, more precious bloom.
A coral rose stationed
ten inches above the soil
beckoned to me
through leaves of cobalt,
viridian and chrome green
gathered my gaze past paving bricks
and sweet alyssum and purple veronica.
All else in shadow. When I sold our house thirteen years ago and vacuumed the living room carpet for the last time, I found a small red Lego against the baseboard and picked it up, knowing my future self would need that piece of the past, viewing the scene as if through water, as if through mist, as if on the screen of another mother’s film.
August with no rain only feathers
scrub jay, junco, chickadee, crow.
All hushed with historic heat.
Three spent leaves of yellow-brown
looked on as I painted that rose,
that beacon in times of doubt
tints of quinachridone and vermilion,
red-orange radiant in the garden.
“I’m glad I have a mother like you,” Elliot said yesterday from his swivel stool in the kitchen. I took a moment to think. “Thank you. I work at it.” “I know,” he said. I added, “And I haven’t always been like this.” “I know,” he said again. And his beacon blue-green eyes looked into mine. We have had our shares of darkness and anger, shadow and sorrow.
A white-crowned sparrow tilted its head
trilled its beacon song from the camellia tree
s water trebled behind a green lattice fence.
raffic shrilled and screamed on Mission Street
around the left side of the house. Then stillness.
ink snapdragons conversed with chickadees
dee dee dee as the three yellow leaves looked on
and the coral rose, poised and observant,
ignaled its beacon prayer.
C. Herron, 2017