Why should I buy chrysanthemums in August?

Why should I buy chrysanthemums in August?

This morning dawned chilly, the air no longer feeling like summer, more autumn-like with dawn coming minutes later each day now.  How does it happen that mid-August often signals the end of summer instead of mid-September?  I like cool mornings, but I prefer those steamy summer mornings with bright sun poring through the windows instead of the filtered sunlight of August.

Mid-August signals summer’s end in other ways, such as the ads for back-to-school clothes and supplies, articles on healthy kids’ lunches and how to manage frantic school morning routines.  This morning’s ad from Lowe’s featured mums on sale.  Mums!  Aren’t they a fall flower?  Why do I need to buy them now?  Actually, I rarely buy mums.  They make me sad, signaling the coming of winter, and with a brief growing season, they hardly seem worth the effort or the money.

During the summer months, I know why I live in upstate New York.  I can even find wonderful moments in September and October, with the glorious colors of autumn leaves and pumpkins and squash at the farmer’s market.  But I know on the heels of autumn will be the first winter snows, exciting only in the first few flakes.  The cold, biting winds and icy roads now seem too much to bear, and I often wonder how I have endured these northern winters for so many years.

Good Morning America is doing a series on the ten most beautiful places in America.  I voted for Sedona, Arizona.  I think I long for Arizona at least ten times a day, remembering the colors, the majesty of the buttes, the pure blue of the sky, and the cleanness of the air.  There are seasons in Arizona, depending on the part of Arizona you visit and the time of the year, but the snows are short-lived, the cold temperatures replaced quickly by sunshine and warmth, the incredible scenery making anything glorious.  The June morning my oldest daughter graduated with a Master’s Degree from Embry-Riddle University in Prescott dawned sunny and a little cool.  Sitting on folding chairs on the athletic field on campus waiting for the ceremony to begin, we began to notice ominous dark-gray clouds boiling up above the mountains rising in the distance, and before the diplomas could be given out, hail was upon us, pelting down on heads and the bare arms of those of us expecting a warm day.  Within an hour it was over, bright sun and comforting warmth in its place.  Arizona is like that.  New York is not.

Maybe the day will come when I can leave the certainty of cold and snow in New York for the impulsive storms of the southwest and the glory of the aftermath.  Until then, I will breathe in the diminishing warmth of summer, take in the beauty of the few remaining roses, soft-blue hydrangea blossoms, and rosy-pink impatiens still flourishing in the gardens, and reject those ads for chrysanthemums a little while longer.

Sedona Spirit: Red Rock Walk

Sedona Spirit:  Red Rock Walk

It’s already hot at 7 a.m.
as I step onto the trail around Red Rock.

Even the dust on the path is red.
It lifts into the air with my footsteps,
settling in between the laces of my boots
and layering onto the white of my socks.

I love this heat,
and the quiet,
and the clarity of the air,
and the western sky cloudless today,
tinted ocean blue.

My spirit here has changed,
is everchanging even now
as I walk where hundreds of years ago
soft moccasins of the ancient Anasazi caressed the red dust.

I no longer feel alone.
I am walking with spirits,
feeling their connection to earth and sky,
feeling the diminution of my body
and the elevation of my soul
as I stand at the base of the butte
4500 feet above sea level.

Some come because of the vortex,
the whirling mass of energy,
seeking spiritual awakening,
an energizing force.

I instead am calmed by the heights above me,
connected to all around me,
connected to the lizard skittering across in front of my feet
seeking the shade of the prickly pear cactus with its crimson flower,
connected  to the touch of the sun on my skin,
connected to the almost audible ancient cry echoing in the silence.

The trail circles around the base of the rock,
shaded occasionally by a pinon or a juniper pine,
and I make my way back to the beginning,
wondering if ages and ages in the future
someone will walk where I have walked
and feel my spirit
and be forever changed.

© Barbara Flass 2001