The first house Tina and I bought was a 1920 bungalow on an acre lot with a falling-down horse barn and more work to be done to it than a dedicated team could complete in a year. Aside from refinishing or painting or repairing every square inch of the house itself, we worked on the yard exhaustively as well. This was before we had children, when we had more time and energy for such pursuits, a romantic This Old House phase that we are happy to have moved past, at least until we retire.
In addition to house renovations, I became obsessed with horticulture and landscaping. Roger Swain was my oddly lovable, red-suspendered friend and Martha Stewart, when she wasn’t in the kitchen, his more elegant muse-companion. I read gardening magazines voraciously, dog-eared plant catalogues all winter with overly ambitious plans for the spring, and studied the classics of Gertrude Jekyll in an attempt to understand this strange world of form, texture, and bloom.
Fortunately, I outgrew this phase, too.
“Whisper, Love” was written just before we moved out of the house, over the winter before we learned that we were expecting our first son and decided to find a home located on a quieter street with less work to (still) be done. I remember writing it in pencil in an unlined notebook as the snow fell just outside the wavy glass windows that needed to be replaced but never were.
Dave’s photo was a great compliment to the poem and reminds of the success I didn’t realize in my blackspotted rose garden. Apparently I should have been consulting with his father. Here’s his description of the shot:
My Dad is the closet gardener in my family. I never realized it before, never thinking about where the rose bushes came from. He doesn’t talk about it — except with my wife, the other foliage fiend — just quietly plants and tends to them, I think, somewhat for my mom, because her mom loved roses, and so does she. This was shot early one morning as I was leaving after a visit to their home in Brookfield, WI, as the sun was coming up at an angle that lit up this one rose. Glad we could use it on what is probably my favorite poem in the book.