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Petunias #2, Georgia O'Keefe 1924

"Flipping off winter won't slow it down, …"

You might have noticed that season ends almost always offend me. They come too early or too late to properly please me, yet I strive to be prepared when the actual shift occurs. I never complain about how early winter leaves, no matter how rainy the early spring. Likewise, I usually embrace summer when it finally arrives, though fading daffodils and tulips turn that experience bittersweet. I'm usually unprepared to let go so that the following season might simply come. I am never the one discarding perfectly matured petunias just because an overnight freeze impends. You can depend on me to hatch some season-extending scheme to defer an inevitable season end. One year, I tarped up the whole deck garden to defend against an intruding frost, and the tactic worked, extending blossoms another full two weeks before a more insistent freeze finally settled in. This year, I chose the best and brightest for sequestering in a corner of the garage, and I've extended their lives at least an additional month. I've dutifully carry their pots and planters out into the bright sun on clement days and left them tucked away through now the fifth snow event of this season.

I've been secretly hoping that the bastard deer would find them and provide a demise worthy of them.
After a long summer thumbing their petunia noses at the deer down below the deck, they're finally out and exposed. I didn't know if their scent would chase off the deer, who seem mercurial around browse. A strong scent more effectively repels them than the bitterest of flavors. Last week a doe found my prize surviving plant and gnawed off its flowering tips, leaving a perfectly viable plant behind. Since, she's returned to prune off a few more, and even those she's yet to trim have started showing signs of mildew and wilt, seasonal affective disorder. The sun's no longer really bright enough to please them; sunny-enough days finally too few and too far between.

Yesterday, I pulled the worst of the bunch, the ones which seemed to be suffering. I gently pulled each plant free of its soil, shaking dirt off the clingier parts into a tub for dehydration and over-winter storage, a more fitting benediction than I could have provided back before they'd begun fading away on their own. Each plant quietly complied with my insistent tugging, complicit and seemingly grateful. They'd served well and faithfully, their demise, nobody's tragedy. I imagine myself capable of extending life, or of extending certain chapters. I never find myself ready to accept abrupt endings. I bargain with even the most unavoidable shifts. I was not born with the gift of easy acceptance, but with the gift of explicit denial instead, even growing as I have to understand that even the most vehement denial will become the first stage of an eventual acceptance.

I might be too empathic for anyone's good. I suspect that my neighbors think me a little over the top when I trot out my pre-seasonal flower arrangements again to throw color across another melting snow. Passersby remind me that they won't last long, but that seems the absolutely wrong frame within which to hold denial of any form. A decent denial might exist to amplify points which might otherwise be too easily overlooked. Should I simply accept winter's arrival without putting up a tussle, I'd feel more acquiescent than accepting, more railroaded into acknowledging than still at least somewhat in charge. I could command the point of this demise and feel a small twinge of control rather than feeling simply swept along. I remind myself that I need not accept victimhood, and that I still carry at least one delaying vote, if not ultimately a denying one. Flipping off winter won't slow it down, but it seems to make its chilling insistences easier for me to swallow, and, I still have a hot half dozen plants left to put out into the sun tomorrow while I watch the snow fall today.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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