By this time most falls, the potted plants on the porch at the Holmes house have run their course. I have often stood and gazed at the weary foliage, closing my eyes, thinking about autumn in my mother’s yard — not the yard of my childhood, but the yard after her children left, when she had time to throw herself into gardening. She’d be raking, and tying up the bushes, and standing with a broom in her hands, kerchief tied around her head, thinking about the winter. She would bend to pull a few dead blossoms from fading bushes, tossing them into the compost pile. I would hover at her elbow, ready to help, uncertain. I’ve no green thumb. Everything she touched bloomed full force, rising to the sun, drinking the nourishing rain.
On my porch this morning, I poked a bit at the disorganization, the clutter from the painting project still in process. The plant shelves stand away from the house and the little table has been tucked beside the rockers. The impatiens startle me with the fury of their last bloom, wild red against the dark green of their leaves. By now I usually wistfully recall the hopefulness of spring planting, the Memorial Day trip to the garden center, the unloading of the flats of annuals, the rinsing of last year’s pots. By September, the glory days of spring have usually faded and I am reminded that these plants only temporarily grace my world.
But this year, not one dead thing haunts me. The impatiens and the begonias flourish, sending bloom after bloom outward, unfolding, radiant. I might bring one or two of the hardier ones indoors for the winter to see if they will flourish. I’m thinking that if they can thrive, perhaps I can at least survive. I sling my bag over my shoulder and trudge up the walk to my car, heavily, ponderously, and turn back to gaze at the newly painted house. I see the plants on the deck, their color bold enough to be seen from the parkway even with my weak eyes. I pause, taking in their hopeful cheery air. When I turn back to the car, my mood has lightened.