five minutes outside

When I came here, I couldn’t wait to plant things. It was something I never bothered to do when I rented because I moved so often. The first year I got motivated to do so, I bought a rosebush and put it near the fence separating our yard from the park behind the house. I had grand plans, I tell you. There would be five roses total, one planted each year, until I had a little oasis of beauty in this place. This is a bloom from Miss Antonia, that first rose I planted. She didn’t get very big that first year, but I coddled her and tended her and worshiped every flower she offered.

The ground our neighborhood is built on is rocky dirt fill, the kind that builders truck in so that they can lay sod and plant a few sturdy trees. The winters aren’t kind to roses, either. As the winter layer of snow came down, I wondered if she would live the next year. Debbie, our frequent commenter from New Jersey, told me she had a rose of the same variety that flourished every year without much effort. I had reason to hope.

The next year—last year—I persevered. I planted a second rose, Miss Edith, even though what remained of Miss Antonia was uninspiring at best. I bought a variety said to be hardy enough for winters here, just like I had with the first one, but this time I went with one that offered a pale yellow bloom. Edith thrived in a way Antonia never had, growing nearly three feet in one year. Antonia gave up a few small blossoms and then gave up the ghost, but Edith’s glossy green leaves and tall canes didn’t give me a single flower. I chalked it up to the dismal summer we had here last year, which ruined crops raised by professionals. I still took it hard. 

And this spring, I brought home yet another rose. Miss Iseult went straight into the hole left behind by Antonia, and Miss Edith went straight back to work, growing more healthy canes and thick leaves. It was a summer to die for here, sunny and hot with plenty of rain. If Edith were going to cough up any flowers, I would have thought this would be the year. Still nothing. “Maybe she’s a tomboy,” I said. “Maybe she’s really an Edmund. Or an Emilio.” Maybe she was offended that I didn’t give her a proper companion, as Miss Iseult never bothered to add an extra leaf before taking her own dirt nap.

It’s been warm but overcast lately. The trees are changing rapidly, shedding their leaves and bearing up under the rainy nights. Sunday, I opened the curtains to watch dogs playing in the park when I saw a flash of color near Miss Edith.

Her leaves are beaten up—it’s autumn, after all—and that’s not a yellow flower, but my goodness. What a lady she is. This is why I wanted to grow things, to be surprised by the earth.

As a PS: One of my cat’s enemies watched while I took a few shots of this yet-to-unfurl blossom. He surveilled me surveilling him, and then he ran, cover blown. The war between the baby and the allied squirrel/chipmunk forces keeps things interesting around here.