Sunday, January 11, 2009

One Single Impression -- A Summer's Day

I grew up in California. My mother grew roses, and they bloomed year round. Then I went to college in Ohio where snow blanketed the ground most of the time from November through March and nothing bloomed except in florists shops. My freshman year a young man seeking my favor gave me two yellow roses for my February birthday. I loved the roses (yellow roses were my favorites), but (unfortunately for him) not the young man. Those yellow roses were the one tiny spot of color in the first, very long, cold winter of my life. Their fragrance and color lasted in memory long after their petals were dust.

A year or two later, I was visiting my parents and had stopped in at the San Mateo Public Library. I was thumbing through various books, when a small slip of paper fell out. On the slip of paper scrawled in blue pen were the words "memory gathers roses in winter." The words burned themselves into my own memory. I've tried to incorporate them into poems at least a half-dozen times in the past 35 years. Here's one more try:

memory gathers roses in winter
filling rooms with fragrance
of summers long buried
in stark chill white,
as skin recalls
the imprint of fingers
and echos past passions.

January 11, 2009

I have searched for decades to see if that phrase was a quote, but never found those precise words. J. M. Barrie once wrote "God gave us memories that we might have roses in December." An oft used variant of "my" phrase found in thousands of places on the Internet is "Memories give you the power to collect roses in the winter." I've never found an attribution for that one. So presumably the anonymous person in San Mateo who scribbled those words nearly forty years ago also composed them.

There is a folk song that was sung by Girl Scouts and around campfires in the sixties and early seventies, the first verse of which is "Bring me a rose in the winter time, when they're hard to find..." I've also never found an attribution for that either.


Quiet Paths said...

Sue, I enjoyed the story of your youth just as much as the poem. I am grateful the way your words recalled sparks of my own memories and maybe a few flowers too.

lissa said...

I've always like found words, "memory gathers roses in winter" - is a beautiful line and I think you used it quite nicely

and I like how flowers can bring a memory back to life

if said...

fragances are able to rise very vivid events of our is beautiful what you have told

Deborah Godin said...

What a perfectly lovely story - a mysterious phrase of uncertain origin, floating around out there, being found, inspiring who knows how many people... How nice it might be to have all your 'rose poems' from over the years collected together somehow, in a box or a chapbook...

Anonymous said...

I can see why those words stuck with you. Such a nice idea. Many times, memories become sweeter as time passes, don't you think?

SandyCarlson said...

I like this phrase and its mysterious roots. Your story is rich, and so is your poem. The power of long as there are beautiful things to recall, is a great gift.

anthonynorth said...

Great poem and a good memory of youth. Enjoyed that.

floreta said...

i love the background story you explain before going into the poem! you write both well.. and what a lovely, magical surprise to have those words spill out of a library book.. enchanting.

you use the prose well in the poem. it would be interesting to see it in other poetry/prose. i think it would be a great prompt!

the last line here is great. but i love the whole piece. :)

Anonymous said...

I had a few yellow roses in bloom over Christmas. I loved reading the background story and agree with you about the power of the phrase 'memory gathers roses in winter'. You have used it well by linking it to 'echoes of past passion'.

Fledgling Poet said...

I really enjoyed your poem and your memories...roses seem to be present for so many of us during key moments in our life. They do hold powerful memories for this reason!

Tumblewords: said...

Inspiring words - who knows which words are lasting and which memories will hold the scent of times past. Nice post!

Beth P. said...

Dear Sue--
This was a most poignant offering for this prompt.

Maybe you should/could do a little poetry contest for your site of poems written to the phrase
'memory gathers rosses in winter' and see what we all came up with. It would be a lovely prompt.

Thank you--and thank you for the fun poem you posted as a comment on the Virtual Tea House--made me laugh out loud!

Winter roses to you--

me ann my camera said...

This is a lovely line and I can some how also equate it to aging as well as seasonal change. The bloom of youth fades but the memories can still fill your life.

I like your story and your seach.

Sue said...

Beth P. -- what a brilliant idea. I just started a creative writing class this week, and each class session someone in the class has to volunteer one or two prompts for 10 minutes of free writing. I've been wracking my brain for what I might use as a prompt when its my turn. That would be a great one!

Qaro said...

Beautiful post. The story, the poem and the picture. : )