photo by Liam Thompson. I'm about to toss them all on the compost pile. Cold front coming.
I don't know who listens to All Things Considered on Christmas Day. I don't. I'm too busy laying around and eating altogether too much and the wrong things and then playing Wii Fit and finding out I should be 14 pounds lighter and faster on my feet, or Japanese, whichever comes first. I'm betting on turning Japanese.
One of my new commentaries aired today. It's about hauling dying plants and praying mantises inside when I really shouldn't. You can listen to it on NPR's web site.
If the player doesn't work, hit "Download" and it'll give you an MP3 that does. That worked for me.
Or you can just read the transcript below.
But I kind of like the idea to talking to you over your 'puterbox. I miss you. I know, I'm taking a break. But I do.
A Slow Surrender to Winter
The sky couldn’t be heavier, lower, grayer, weepier. It’s 38, going for low in the 20’s. It’s winter, winter, winter. And I still have blooming flowers in baskets and containers on the front porch. Geraniums, lobelias, blue marguerite; plectranthus that when you brush its leaves, smells like a lime margarita.
Sure, they’re a bit brown, nipped around the edges, but the geraniums are blooming, shocking pink, red, magenta, like there’s no tomorrow. And for them, there isn’t. Unless…
I keep bringing them inside. I pile them up in the foyer and they weep leaves and dirt and petals that track all over the house. They block the closet doors. I can’t keep them inside, but I can’t leave them out to freeze. So I shuttle them in at night and out during the day, groaning with the effort. I’ve brought them this far. How can I sentence them to death?
blue margeurite on the compost pile, sighhh
But there’s a string of nights in the 20’s coming up, teens, even, and sooner or later I’ll have to say good-bye to summer for good. There’s something about looking out the kitchen window on blooming baskets of flowers that feels increasingly wrong. These bright jolts of color are somehow unseemly, when everything else is dead. And it's not just the plants that are dying.
Three times in my life, I’ve found a big praying mantis staggering weakly around my garden after the first light frost, and I’ve taken her—it’s invariably a female—inside. I set her up on a big potted plant where she sits regally all day, a weird alien pet, watching snowflakes drift down on the roses outside the window, where she once lived. I do this, knowing it’s wrong, but unable to leave her dying outside. I feed her crickets and mealworms, spray the leaves down with water, watch as she grabs and stabs, delicately dines; bends to drink droplets from the leaves, grooms her forearms and feet like a little otherworldly cat.
She turns her head to watch me when I walk into the room, holds out her spiked forelimbs to ask if she might ride on my arm to another plant, to sit in a spot of winter sun. This goes on until late January, February. I get entirely too attached. And then, like Goldie Hawn in “Death Becomes Her,” she begins to decay. First it’s an antenna, then a foot, then a lower leg, simply falling off. And then she loses her balance and falls, and busts off a forearm. And I see why mantids are meant to die with the first hard frost, and it’s brought home to me why I should never have brought her inside.
So it goes with the geraniums. I have to let them die. Tomorrow. Or maybe this weekend, with a light snowfall for their funeral shroud. Oh, the intractable human heart. It does this every year.
Hope you had a peaceful Christmas. We did.