Drawn to the Garden by the Sea
July Victoria Magazines
Victoria once again draws our hearts and imaginations
by bringing us to people and places we might otherwise
never know of.
In the first July issue of Victoria, 1990, we are introduced to
A story about Celia Thaxter, a 19th Century poet and
gardener, who lived on a tiny island -
"Celia Thaxter found every aspect of summer light, every
budding blossom, 'mysteriously beautiful'".
"I watched the thin half ring of the waning moon as it stole through the haze...an exquisite color like ashes of roses, till the sun suffuses it with a burning blush, before he leaps alive from the ocean's rim" Celia Thaxter 1893
Celia was the lighthouse keeper's daughter. She nurtured a garden on this tiny island off the coast of Maine, enthralled by the lovely blooms she was able to cause to bloom. In 1894 she wrote a book, "An Island Garden" which "established her as one of the major nature writers of her day."
"Across the little garden comes the breeze, Bows all its cups of flame, and brings me Its breath of mignonette and bright sweet peas, With drowsy murmers from the encircling sea"
'Expectations' by Celia Thaxter
Celia's father became Lighthouse Keeper of a small island in the Isles of Shoals, where Celia at the age of five began a small garden to fill her lonely hours. Celia noted that growing up isolated as such by the sea that she had, 'enough loneliness to last a lifetime'. Celia's father was later transfered to Appledore Island, built a hotel and there Celia created the gardens that inspired her poetry and writings and which remains for visitors today. "No rhythms of the sea, no detail of nature missed Celia's observant eye and hungry heart".
Celia was thoroughly involved in her flowers. She would use a magnifying glass and said of it, "one of the wisest things in the world to carry in one's pocket, for this opens so many unknown gates into the wonders and splendors of Creation"
While her parents tended to their hotel guests, Celia would read to them her poetry. Some of the guests included Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Morris Hunt, Sarah Orne Jewett and painter Childe Hassam, who illustrated "An Island Garden".
"It has been strange to write a book about a little garden only fifty feet long by fifteen feet (wide)," Celia noted.
While living on Appledore Celia and her two brothers were tutored by Levi Thaxter. Celia later became engaged to Levi at the age of fifteen, married at the age of sixteen and at the age of seventeen gave birth to the first of her three sons.
It was Celia's written word that provided care for her family. Celia would not only continue to write poetry, stories and children's stories, but she would also tend to her children and the every day chores of her home.
A fellow poet, John Albee described Celia,
"She knew how to play all the parts belonging to a woman. She could make a musician play his best and scholars say their best - bring forward the modest, shut the door to the vulgar...(she was) a poet with the poets, an artis with the artists, equally at home in the kitchen, or with spade and trowel in her island garden".
Not only was Celia skilled with the pen, but also with the paint brush. Celia painted the flowers she loved onto teacups.
"She sold her painted china, her watercolors, and 'poems by the yard' to support her family. She wrote prodigiously, 16 volumes in all - poetry, folklore, and even children's stories".
Celia's books and memorabelia can be found at the Vaughn museum on Star Island - one of the Isles of Shoals.
"So deeply is the gardener's instinct implanted in my soul, I really love the tools with which I work; the iron fork, the spade, the hoe, the rake, the trowel, and the watering pot are pleasant objects in my eyes."
|Celia Thaxter's Garden by Childe Hassam|
Gardeners understand the draw of the beauty of flowers - the desire to bring beauty into their surroundings. Gardeners understand the time spent, preparing, planting and watching over flowers that result in an unspeakable joy.
"I am fully and intensely aware that plants are conscious of love and respond to it as they do to nothing else."
Thank you for your visit,