Monday, November 03, 2008

Autumn: the Year, in its Prime Season

“… too soon
Rich autumn time, the season's usurer,
Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees,
And see his treasure scattered by the wild and
spendthrift breeze.

What profit if this scientific age
Burst through our gates with all its retinue
Of modern miracles! Can it assuage
One lover's breaking heart? what can it do
To make one life more beautiful, one day
More god-like in its period?

Oscar Wilde. The Garden of Eros, 1890

In her prime, Jean Brodie wasn’t sentimental about chrysanthemums. Specifically, she said, “Ah, chrysanthemums. Such serviceable flowers.” I’ve always loved them, probably since I observed the care my mother lavished on her mums. Where I grew up, they were often annuals, and not necessarily hardy. Had she ever cared what others thought of her, Mom would have prided herself on her ability to coax them to life after their long winter’s sleep, covered lovingly with oak tree leaf mulch this time every year. But she didn’t give a crap what other people thought, so instead, she stole the few moments of time she could spare her large and needy family to do minimal gardening. She might not have ever noticed that I paid attention to those things she loved, and that she passed along to me her love of gardening together with her secret about the mental health benefits reaped by the gardener every season.

So, maybe that’s why, of all my maternal horticultural heritage, I like mums the best. For many years, I ordered a dozen 1” starts every spring from King’s Mums. I’ve skipped the past two years, but I’m due to try some others, maybe when their annual catalog arrives in the next month or two. The mums in these pics are the survivors, their names long-since lost history, the impermanence of labels, and my lame ass garden journal note skills. There were many victims who failed to survive the scourges of time, the drought, et. al. I’ve had more time to devote to my garden than Mom dreamed of. She had to make every minute count, where I can mess around, tweaking little changes here and there and documenting them in pictures.

Like Miss Brodie, Mom in her prime would have recognized Jean's unsentimental compliment, and agreed that mums are serviceable flowers. That never stopped her (or me) from loving them.

Maybe that’s why, the melancholy second week of November, I remember Mom with the sharpest mental clarity and love. This is the time of year she departed, and the time of year I remember her in her prime.


Martha in Michigan said...

I realize that I am now older than Mom was when you and she and Gary and I made that epic cross-country trek in the fall of 1973. I think I showed similar stamina and grace when force-marched about Denmark 14 hours a day by my girls last year — and maybe her example is the reason why. I hope she enjoyed the good parts as much as I did, on both occasions. We may not be in our prime, but this season certainly has its glories.

Weeping Sore said...

Yeah, there's that day you catch Mom's eye in the old B&W pic of her and Dad, circa 1936. She's way younger, with that blank confidence of a yearbook photo than I can now remember being myself.
I suppose, by claiming parts of our maternal inheritance that we honor her, and thank her, and whatnot.