And as we walked down the garden path, she sang to us, beautifully.
Her voice was a clear, high soprano. The notes flowed like liquid, each warble and trill inviting the next. It wasn’t clear, at first, from where her song came or what the melody was. Then, at last, discovery.
We were at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was our first stop in a visit to the Carolinas, wrapped around an October visit with a nephew and his wife.
Although Charlotte was not initially a target destination, it was the most convenient airport to fly into. We figured we’re here, let’s check it out. But after a red-eye flight from Portland, it was time for an unexpected culture shock. Who says you need to go to a foreign country?
It started with breakfast. Our waitress, while friendly and helpful, had a drawl so thick we had to recalibrate our ears for an entirely new version of English. Then it was off to the gardens.
On second thought, the initial shock was at the airport. Once free of its air-conditioned confines we encountered something foreign and unusual for someone coming from Oregon in October.
Even at eight in the morning, it was pushing 90F (32C). Once we’d finished breakfast and the gardens opened at 10, it was well into the 90s. The garden staff, being savvy on the heat, had already done their watering – now they could hunker down in the A/C. This watering had the side effect of pushing an already high humidity well into the 90 percent plus neighborhood.
So, imagine if you will, while we wandered around the grounds of the gardens and surrounding fields, we were sweltering, sweating, and swearing at the fates for slamming our cool weather acclamation with heat and humidity that would give a tropical island second thoughts.
At least we had the forethought to change into shorts.
You’ve actually seen the gardens before, if you’ve followed this blog for a while.
Remember this guy, from This May Bug You? This big, fat, furry flyer was one of the first things we saw upon entering the gardens. He’d be a bouncer at the bee’s nightclub for any of our local bees.
Wandering further afield, we felt like a fish out of water.
Speaking of wandering afield, we opted to wander across one. The site’s map showed a lake at the far end and we opted to check it out, crossing fields and woods, paths and…
Once we arrived at what appeared to be the end of the trail, the lake still wasn’t in view. I was determined to get a picture and opted to go cross-country. Stumbling through weeds, vines, spider webs, fallen trees, brush, mushrooms, and gulches, I finally found the lake.
It was a bit anticlimactic.
My wife, being the more sensible of our pair, had opted not to join me on my cross-country scramble. However, when I returned to my point of departure from the real trail, she was nowhere to be seen.
Heck of a way to start a vacation.
We did, eventually, cross paths again, and headed back to the main grounds of the gardens. By this time the heat had ratcheted up another notch or three, turning hot into damn hot. It was tempting to jump into a fountain.
Still, it was a botanical garden. There were flowers, even in October.
It wasn’t just flowers. Sculpture dotted the grounds.
While this black beauty bathes in the colors of the deepest night, in life it stood in broad daylight, light gray and black, chiseled into granite. But in my head, I saw her this way.
Another lass stood in a clearing, breathing in nature and letting it fly.
Was this the source of that beautiful song? Was this the soprano trilling away, enchanting us with her melodies?
Not likely. While by this time the heat, humidity, and exertion had my head spinning, I wasn’t so bad off as to hallucinate an opera by a copper soprano.
But music was in the air. We followed it, our ears watching that liquid stream of cheery notes, until it seemed we found its source.
Looking up into a thicket growing on a trellis, we noted our nondescript singer.
And what were the lyrics behind its glorious melody?
A garden walk past plants of lace
Sweating buckets, red of face
Will he faint and plant his head
In the nearest flowerbed?
Hey, it’s a mocking bird. What did you expect?