Sunset This Evening

August 19, 2010

I opened the back door at sunset and came eye to eye with our grasshopper. He was clinging to the baking hot bricks right along the doorframe; his legs startled me as I opened the screen door. The slant of the sun lit up his antenna, the fuzz around his body, turned him golden in the rays. When I picked up my camera and started making images, he barely moved. Calm, collected and aloof, he slowly and subtly poised his legs for an immediate jump away if I came too close. When I opened moved to a different angle, he decided that now I was a threat and leaped to a nearby eupatorium leaf, making it bounce it with the force of his landing.

He lives there in the eupatorium, hostas, impatiens and sedum. I see him almost every day and irritate him to no end when I water those impatiens.

The sun lit everything up, pouring honey over leaves and seeds and blossoms. I did not work in the garden today save pulling a tiny new cluster of lamb’s ear out of the pin oak bed.

But I saw amazing things!

One of my hibiscus bushes has been very unsuccessful, with buds drying to a crisp before they opened and bloomed. Researching this, I see it could be bugs, it could be the weather, it could be the water levels. I am intrigued by this, and like Tony and his golf swing, am wondering what to tweak to make it a success.

The lavender I transplanted is drying and crackling, sweet and tight smelling. Lavender is terribly hardy in the right spot and that bed, with drainage that keeps it dry and sun exposure that bakes it hard, is exactly what it likes. It is originally from the Mediterranean where it grows profusely in poor soil, baking in the sun.

A crabby, pinched-in face is what I find in the sunflower buds. I mentioned that I think of them as male. This one in particular is an old male, dentures out, lips pulled together in a grimace. The face looks like it’s about to bitch and complain about the food or the sun or its position on the stalk. I think his name is Alfred.

The milkweed bugs continue to spread throughout the butterfly garden, getting bigger and starting to show some adult markings. I haven’t found any in the molting stage, or any shells left behind, but I am keeping my eyes open. They crawl and scurry, in all stages of development, up and down the milkweed, across the butterfly weed, in and out of seed pods, on the butterfly bushes. I am hoping this is an auspicious omen for next year’s butterfly garden as well.

The butterfly weed seed pod continues to split, and the individual seed parachutes are beginning to peel away and float free. They are caught in an aurea of sunlight, caramel and straw. One pod split downwards and the seeds are caught in a pillow of fluff. The milkweed bugs navigate in and around the fluff easily; they do not catch their feet or antenna. Ironically, spiders, who build swinging bits of fluff themselves, are caught and cannot escape this different kind of fluff, silky and smooth. There are at least 3, all the same kind, caught in this open seed pod, now with legs drawn up in dried out death.

Bees all over the oregano, dozens of images made, not one even passable.

The cinnamon plant that I had pulled has spread its seed (no Biblical reference intended) all over the front bed and those plants are merrily unfurling their leaves. They are unaware of their imminent demise; I will be hitting them with vinegar doses this weekend. I may go a little vinegar crazy….

Sea thrift emerges in a clump of rosy coreopsis… green peppers thrive again, no longer overshadowed by watermelon vine… garlic chives are ready to burst into bloom… the sun continues to set, throwing gold and yellow and rose and sparkle all over the garden.

I think that drying clematis blooms inspired Dr. Seuss (so glad I’m just writing that and not pronouncing it – apparently I say it incorrectly and am corrected every time – with increasing irritation – by my beloved daughter) to create those truffula trees. Those dried flower heads swirl and twirl like truffula trees. They sit on thin, unlikely stems and they have a certain fuzz to them which can be imagined to be the raw material for thoseThneeds. And you don’t really need that much imagination.

The Lorax was always one of our favorite read-aloud books when the kids were little. The spooky Oncler had a snotty, rude voice; the Lorax sounded like a gruff little old man (maybe Alfred?) and all the animals chimed in with different personalities, accents and woebegone dialects. I always had to pause in my reading and swallow back tears as the Oncler hands those truffula tree seeds over to the narrator. It’s such a great teaching book, showing little kids so very clearly what happens when we are not good stewards of this planet. It helped give my children an easily-understandable base of loving our environment, thinking about trash and waste and recycling, of helping the whole world’s garden grow.

Eliza started her first day of her senior year today, standing in the garden with the “first day” sign and actually at peace with it, knowing it’s her last year for this tradition.

We have truly begun the sunset to her childhood. There will be the last Homecoming, last fall play, last choir concerts, last musical, and the last cast parties with sweaty teens, loud music and pizza, pizza and more pizza. She stands in her own aurea of light, honey-sweet and golden, spreading those rays of joy and love and hope and dreams. The sun will rise on a beautiful young adult this time next year, one who is ready to start a whole new life, with new promises all around in her own life’s garden.

I will swallow back tears all year.

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