Pussywillows, Cattails, Soft Winds and Roses

Took a short trip to Ontario last week and came home overwhelmed with nostalgia.  It all started when I visited the town of Unionville and saw these, crowds and crowds of cattails growing profusely in the pond, the fields, by the footbridge:


For some inexplicable reasons, I’m much fond of cattails. The first time I learned about them was from listening to the song by Gordon Lightfoot… before I’d actually seen one.

Some time in the 70’s, for many afternoons I sat in the art room of a high school somewhere in Alberta, working on some art project, but mostly doing nothing at all while listening to Gordon Lightfoot.  Mr. Hannington held a laissez faire art class… we could do just about anything, or nothing.  Usually, there would only be three or four of us in the room.  We would just sit around, chat, daydream, and immerse in the voice of Gordon Lightfoot on the radio.

I didn’t turn out to be an artist, while one of us did.  But I’ve remained partial to cattails, mesmerized by the song and the singer.  Those Lightfoot afternoons in the art room emerged from the depth of hazy memories, the lyrics were the soft winds caressing naked limbs as I walked in this natural reserve in Unionville.

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rainpools in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside the dust gets in your eyes
Reveling, disheveling the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Slanted rays and colored days, stark blue horizons
Naked limbs and wheatbins, hazy afternoons
Voicing, rejoicing the wine cups do bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Harsh nights and candlelights, woodfires a blazin’
Soft lips and fingertips resting in my soul
Treasuring, remembering, the promise of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

(To my artist friend CD: Keep the fire burning.)


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

6 thoughts on “Pussywillows, Cattails, Soft Winds and Roses”

  1. Arti… Thank you for the wispy, misty memories of our younger, simpler days of promise, dear friend. Thankfully, promise remains. Much appreciation to Mr. Hannington and Mrs. Hamill, both very fine art teachers.

    Have you a list of mentoring movies, Arti?



    Hey welcome… my artist friend, thanks for stopping by. ‘Promise remains’… so true. Things may not turn out exactly what one expects, but every day is a new instalment of hope and possibilities. As for ‘mentoring movies’, they’re hard to come by these days. But then again, they may come in various forms too. I’m always looking out for a good one. You’re welcome to check back, click on ‘Movies Reviewed’ page or my side bar for some ‘Top Ripples’ picks.



  2. Arti, that was a beautiful few moments, and it felt nostalgic to me too. You’ve given me a marvelous feeling of warm summertime, inside and out. Gordon Lightfoot was one of my late brother Bennett’s favorites. I had never heard this song, and it is just so lovely. I’ll never see cattails without thinking of it now.


    Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian folk icon… together with Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell… This is a song I’m rediscovering now, a large part due to actually seeing all those crowds of cattails. I like the lyrics, and the short clip is a beautiful visual presentation. Glad you like it.



  3. I’ll bet that reference to winecups is actually to one of my favorite wildflowers – the winecup grows from Texas to Canada. It’s very much like the evening primrose, but the color is gorgeous!

    Pussywillows were our first sign of spring, together with forsythia, and as for the cattails – soaked in kerosene or lamp oil, they made terrific torches at night. We’d hairspray them to put in fall arrangements, and the hunters would look for large stands of them to hide behind. Sometimes I think there were as many cattails as cornstalks in Iowa!

    I love Lightfoot – and Ian and Sylvia. I once heard the three of them


    Well of course, thanks for the lovely photo of winecups the flowers. I would never have known that possibility. And yes, we used to see cattails used in interior decorations way back then. But you know, I’ve only two mental associations with Iowa: The Writer’s Workshop and Fields of Dreams.

    And what an experience it must have been for you to have heard Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia!



  4. Beautiful visuals, wonderful song. (I think the word is ‘rainpools’ rather than ‘rainbows’, in the first verse…) Thank God Gordon is recovered from a few years ago, and touring again. He is indeed a treasure.
    Thanks for posting this. Enjoy your New Year!


    I’ve almost forgotten this post. Thank you so much for bringing it back to the forefront of my memories… I’m especially grateful that you’ve pointed out the mistake in the lyrics. I’ve corrected it now.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. A Happy New Year to you too, and hope to hear from you again!



  5. There is a great rendition of the song by the Laurie Bower Singers on the CD “The Roses and the Rain”, http://www.alannarecords.com. Only other place I’ve ever seen it. Reminds me of Ohio. Another Lightfoot song on the CD is”Rainy Day People”.


    Thanks for the info!



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