This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me, —
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.”
~ Emily Dickinson
Around my house this morning are a half dozen vases and jars of wilting dahlias. I’ve learned this year that the looser, more flousy ones will fade the fastest; the tightly packed ball variety will endure days and days in the same water, unchanged.
I have vacuumed my ceiling three times in the last week to suck the flying insects away, the Japanese beetles who try to be ladybugs, the generic winged creatures, and the pinching earwigs that somehow crawl from the vase to the ceiling. I try to shake the bugs out in the garden. I try to keep the dahlias doused in the organic pesticide I picked up at the farmer’s co-op. I pick them off when I see them. But they persist, and I’ve come to a place of reckoning with them in this way: every several days I suck them up with the vacuum.
There are inconveniences I’m willing to put up with for the sake of a bouquet or a good meal or some company. Quirks of habit or annoyances of character. People are putting up nicely with mine, I think, so I try to act in kind. The way I drop the glass jar right on the edge of the granite counter top, and my husband winces and looks away; the annoying texts I send to my son who is far away in his own apartment now; the blunt questions I ask sometimes and the moody moods I wear; people are getting along nicely with me, I think as I vacuum the ceiling.
Soon the dahlias will be gone, and all their bugs with them. In my garden notebook I’m already making plans for next year’s flowers. I’ll have more, Lord willing, and I’ll get a handle on the creatures that take residence in the folds and creases of the loose blooms I love most. I’ll be sure to stake the plants up from the beginning, too, to prevent the curved stems and drooping heads. Even as the dahlias are leaving me I’m looking to the next season and planning a bigger harvest, but it really all depends on how well this year’s tubers winter over—which depends on me. I have to be mindful of getting them out of the ground carefully. I have to dry them thoroughly and store them well. I’m not always very careful, so we’ll see.
The only guarantee is that things will change. That’s it.
I’m in a phase of grief over losing my dad that feels like daily change, tides rising and washing away all in the same moment. I talk about him to a friend and I’m fine, which doesn’t feel good. I think about him while I prepare dinner and I have to leave the room, hold the pillow. My youngest son wears grandpa’s hat and his coat; my oldest has a brush of his face, the red beard, and some of the quirks of personality. I have memories and sometimes they’re easy to talk about. Every day is different.
Today I’ll cut more dahlias and refill the vases. I’ll shake out the bugs but some will be hidden there, and I know this is just another chore on my list now: vacuum ceiling. I’ve never done this so much as I have this season but I’ve also never had so many dahlias. We all have to decide on the trades we’re willing to make.
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