i cut the last of the fall roses and put them in a vase, then clip the hydrangeas. this is the best tine of the year for drying-- when the petals are a dusty victorian purple. the trees and plants are molting, like my canary, and going quiet. the yard is fluttering with leaves and juncos, white bottomed wings and small brown leaves decorate the sky. at dusk i watch the bats, not much different than a quick little bird, against the blue gray sky.
my mother is arranging flowers in autumnal shades: chrysanthemums in yellows and golds. Asiatic lilies in reds and deep oranges. twenty years ago, when she was 7 months pregnant with my brother, she was hunched over the cavities of pumpkins in the stadium flower's warehouse, carving out their insides, one by one, to be stuffed with oasis and then filled with the same colored chrysanthemums. to this day, the smell of pumpkin guts makes her sick to her stomach. every year of my youth we carved pumpkins outside on the picnic table, our hands cold and numb, while mother watched from the yellow gold of the warm kitchen. my father cleaned up the pumpkin guts quietly and threw them in to the compost before my mother could catch wind of their scent.
how strong is smell! when i smell chrysanthemum stems i smell my mother after work. i used to bury my head in her hair and waist. when i became a florist, when i stood on my feet for hours, like she does, and arranged peonies and queen anne's lace, tulips, carnations, and chrysanthemums, i cut their stems and felt close to her, though we had never been farther apart. this is chrysanthemum season and pumpkin season and also the season of dusty roses and bright orange roses, and bright yellow and orange circus roses-- my favorite roses, the ones my mother used to bring home for me on birthdays and graduation, their faces full and happy, petals spilling open and rimmed with orange, saying "we are alive and beautiful but not for long."