Book Review—Enchanted April

This book was written in 1922 by Elizabeth Von Arnim yet it is still timeless in the description of people and plants.  I imagine that in any book I read I can find a plant reference.  I’m going to try, of course.  I enjoyed reading this tale of women, a medieval Italian castle, wisteria and solitude.  After finishing it I was swept up into a world of light.  A place that I remembered from my past.  How could one forget such a place or a time?  Following are two excerpts.  The first from the book Enchanted April.  The second from a piece I had written in 1988 after attending a friends wedding at a Vineyard in central California.  There are times and events in our lives that create memories, and often plants and flowers are woven in.  The wheel weaves, but not without plants, right?

Enchanted April (upon arriving in Italy):  “She stared.  Such beauty; and she there to see it.  Such beauty; and she alive to feel it.  Her face was bathed in light.  Lovely scents came up to the window and caressed her.  A tiny breeze gently lifted her hair.  Far out in the bay a cluster of almost motionless fishing boats hovered like a flock of white birds on the tranquil sea.  How beautiful, how beautiful.  Not to have died before this….to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this…She stared, her lips parted.  Happy?  Poor, ordinary, everyday word.  But what could one say, how could one describe it?  It was as though she could hardly stay inside herself, it was as though she were washed through with light.  And how astonishing to feel this sheer bliss.”

“Wistaria and sunshine….she remembered the advertisement.  Here indeed were both in profusion.  The wistaria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them,and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour.  The cherry trees and peach trees were in blossom—lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show.  And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea.  Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour, piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers—-the periwinkles looked exactly as if they were being poured down each side of the steps.”

The Romantic View.  March 13, 1988 Sal and Anke’s Wedding, Santa Cruz California. “Color and light, a garden, a dream.  Light.  Bright light, tremendous waves of visible light giving everything a glow, a shimmer, a vibrancy, a life.  Shimmering colors.  Blue blues, red reds, yellow yellows.  Balloons and bows, my teeth ached from smiling so.  Our world was everything, like the garden of Eden.  It was peace, purity, loveliness surrounding us, like a warm permeating sense.  Words of joy and unfailing trust.  Friend, lover, companion.  Wandering blissfully through sun-drenched fields.  Beautiful smiles.  The breezes laughed in uncontemplated happiness.  The hill tops uncovered all their secrets and the sky did the same.  Light colored doves and birds in blue came softly.  Mountain greeness shone upon the hills.  Color and light, white light, visible light, bathed us.  We swam merrily, without reserve.  Careless, having love just re-awakened, looking through new eyes, clear light eyes.  More real than reality.  Purer than school days.  Sweeter than dreams.  Blissful living.  A pause in the natural order of time—the final dimension.  Fun-trailing cake, 4 seasons of Vivaldi, water and wine.  Inhaling scents of roses and becoming entirely incapable of rational thought.  Breathing roses until they were throughout the head and heart.  Like hyacinths!  Like Rhapsody in Blue!  Overwhelmed in nature’s perfume.  Absorbed in smell, astounded with sight, entranced with touch, refreshed with taste and startled by sounds so fresh,  light and lovely.  For everything there is a season.  This time exists as poetry, thought, feelings  unnumbered, remembrances, visions and contentment for having lived in this sparkling world.”

I smile and laugh to read what I wrote when I was twenty-something.  But I am glad that it’s written because that time comes swirling back into my life and I remember my friends Salvatore and Anke from Moss Landing Marine Lab and their beautiful wedding day.  Where are they now?  Who knows, but it’s always fun to have an enchanted April….

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