Just Spring

bottlebrush in vase.jpg

I’ve been out in the garden this morning picking flowers for vases. It’s Saturday and I’ve done the Saturday wash, changed the tablecloth and now it’s time to refresh the flowers. With secateurs in hand I walk around the garden looking for spring colour. Words come unbidden into my head from one of my favourite poets, e.e. cummings:

in Just -

spring when the world is mud-

luscious …..[1]

Well it’s not so mud luscious at the moment, but we have had rain only a week ago which helped propel the plants into springtime growth. When I am at a standstill creatively, too tired, too overwhelmed, too many lists of other things to do; I walk in the garden and chat to the flowers. Many of cummings poems are about spring when :


in love and flowers pick themselves[2]

Flowers feature as motifs for beauty and joy in cummings poetry. Poetry returns to me again and again throughout my life just when I need it, becoming a source of great comfort and a way to express the inexpressible. When my mother died I read an e.e. cumings poem at her funeral.

if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have

one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor

a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but

it will be a heaven of blacked roses [3]

Coming from a matriarchal line of green thumb gardeners, I am closest to my mother and grandmother when I am in the garden. We chose this house to live in near the beach, not just for its location, but for the fabulous garden which backs onto a paperbark reserve. Birdsong fills the air, starting with the predawn chirps to the bush curlews carolling at midnight. My papermaking studio is in the garden, just next to the long clothesline. Tending the garden flowers and washing are both symbols of domestic happiness for me.

These is something very satisfying about seeing rows of clothes strung out to dry on the horizontal clothesline. My grandmother had one facing east over the hydrangas propped up with a stick. When we lived on a farm in Victoria’s high country, the children were little and the Saturday wash filled the clothes line. 

After my parents died and we cleaned out their house, I found an old copy of Mrs Beeton’s all About Cookery on my mother’s bookcase. In this classic book she set out her tips for household management including laundry work. I wrote several poems referencing Mrs Beeton and her maxims. This excerpt is from The Saturday Wash:

up to my elbows in suds

doing the Saturday wash

dreaming of Mrs Beeton………


………….outside the air is fresh, a good drying wind blows

I string out a line of smalls and socks doubling the pegs

sniff the sheets and towels, watch the shadows dance.[5]

Saturday Wash - 40 x 38cm (detail) silver gelatine print 2008

Saturday Wash - 40 x 38cm (detail) silver gelatine print 2008

[1]e.e.cummings, selected poems 1923-1958. London: Faber, 1960 p 1.

[2]Ibid. p 8.

[3]Ibid. p 27.

[4]Heather Matthew, Saturday Wash (unpublished manuscript) 2008

Heather Matthew