Hailing Gardenias and Summer Down South

NC gardenia blossum image - June 2013

NC gardenia blossum image – June 2013

Today, I could write about WikiLeaks’ support of Snowden or about the future possibilities of personal drones delivering burritos in U.S. airspace, or about Fab labs and personal digital fabrications, all of which are multi-layered topics of interest that are headlining U.S. news reports this week, but I’ll pass.

Instead, I’d like to keep things simple and celebrate the recent summer solstice and one of the uncomplicated beauties of summer – the gardenia.

The shrub, with its unmistakable, sweet-smelling white flowers, loves the heat and strongly signals the return of warmer days and nights.

How do you feel about gardenias?  Are you a fan?

Gardenias have long been celebrated here in the South.  Yesterday, a friend gave me a gardenia blossom, and, when I lowered my face to inhale the fragrance of its bloom, I had the experience that I always do when I encounter the gardenia scent – my mind was flooded with memories of summer times with family and friends that all occurred while I’ve had the chance pleasure of living down South.

In 1997, I wrote the below poem that included many things synonymous with Southern living.  Though the poem highlights the magnolia, I could have easily included a reference to the gardenia.

I hope you enjoy the poem, and I wish you a 2013 summertime that’s sweeter than the most fragrant gardenia or a “ton of sweet tea”:

Down South By Chance

Red Man, Wild Turkey and sweet red wine
Tobacco roads winding past the fields of time
Molasses n’biscuits and pecan pies
“Brother” and “sister” times seven or five

A “Pansy,” a “Ruby,” a ton of sweet tea
Magnolia leaves on mantles
Red cardinals in trees

Go Pack, go Heels and “Duke is puke”
Sun shining brightly on seersucker suits
Bar-b-que, collards and black-eyed peas
A deer, a quail, a bird dog, the sea

The Country Club and “coming over for drinks”
Hot porch nights with laughter and shrieks

Mama’s boys and Daddy’s girls
Signet rings and strings of pearls

Sunday school and amazing graces
Callused hands with careworn faces

Southern pride and circumstance
Ignorance to some at a glance

But not to me
For what I see
Is the glory of my fate and destiny


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