Posts Tagged With: pansies

The Green Leaves of Summer

When did it get to be September? Apparently I wasn't looking. But I just turned my back for a few minutes, I swear. A week ago, we traded the 95-plus temperatures here for the 100-plus temperatures of southern New Mexico. It may be, as everyone there points out, a "dry heat," but it would be easier to live with if it would cool off at night enough to at least consider opening a window.

While we were gone, summer not only opened its windows, but carelessly left the back door ajar as well, and fall began creeping in. Or at least it started sniffing around the opening. It was chilly here this morning. Summer, still lush and arrogant with this year's abundant rain, just hasn't noticed yet that its days are growing shorter.

Neither have our tomato plants. It's been almost six weeks since they were stripped of all their leaves and most of their fruit by a hailstorm. They were nothing but battered stalks that obviously needed to be pulled up and tossed onto the compost pile.

Before I got around to cleaning up the mess the hail had made of them, though, the plants started to recover. A few leaves started growing back, and then a few more, and now the plants are almost as tall as they were before the hail, vibrant with new green leaves and covered with blossoms.

I don't have the heart to tell them that all their hard work is in vain. There's no way they can produce another crop before the first hard frost. It's like seeing someone get badly injured in a car accident, who survived surgery and has been working furiously at rehab and making a great recovery—only you've seen this movie before and you know they're going to walk out of the hospital and get run over by a garbage truck. I can see what's going to happen, but I can't do a thing to stop it.

Meanwhile, out on the deck, the two pots of pansies that also got hit by the hail are still blooming. The first hailstorm smashed them into a quarter of an inch of green mush. About half the plants didn't survive. Within a week, however, battered stems with a few tattered leaves had managed to stagger more or less upright and put out defiant buds. Two weeks later, the second hailstorm knocked them around. Beaten but unvanquished, they were blooming again within a few days. They are blooming still, their vivid yellow and purple making the most of every day between now and the first freeze.

In her first draft of Gone With the Wind, the name Margaret Mitchell chose for her heroine wasn't Scarlett O'Hara. It was Pansy. I can understand why.

Fall may be just around the corner, but its time hasn't quite come yet. It can wait its turn.

Categories: Living Consciously, Words for Nerds | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why My Plants Are Thirsty

Warning: The following story may not be suitable for small children or those with weak stomachs. If you're eating while you read, any adverse consequence are not my fault. Remember, you have been warned.

Just before bedtime one night, I was sitting in the recliner in my office, reading. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something little and gray run across the floor and disappear under the printer stand in the corner. Trying to convince myself that I hadn't really seen a mouse, I went to bed.

When the phone rang a few minutes later and I had to go into the office to answer it, I made sure to walk as loudly as bare feet allowed, just to scare off anything small and scampering that might possibly be in there in the dark.

Two days later, needing to give a drink to the thirsty pansies out on the deck, I grabbed the watering can from under the kitchen sink. It was already full because, thrifty soul that I am, I empty half-finished water bottles into it instead of dumping them down the drain. When I watered the pansies, the water didn't seem to come out of the spout properly, but I thought it was just because I was tipping the can too far. I also caught a whiff of an unpleasant odor that I hadn't previously associated with pansies.

After the can was empty, I noticed that something gray seemed to be stuck in the spout. It took me a minute to realize what alert readers have no doubt already figured out—the gray thing was a drowned mouse. I banged the watering can on the deck railing to shake the dead little critter loose, then tried to dump it out. Instead of falling out of the rather small opening at the top of the can, it got stuck in the spout again.

I am not afraid of mice. I don't consider myself especially squeamish about critters in general, even dead ones. I am a practical, prairie-raised woman who knows how to clean a fish and pluck a chicken. But at this point I lost it. There was something about the pathetic little dead feet hanging out of the spout of the watering can that was pitiful and disgusting at the same time.

I threw the mouse, watering can and all, off the deck into the back yard.

After I recovered from my spasm of disgust, I told myself to look on the bright side. With the combination of 100-degree heat, ants, and other scavengers, I should be able to recover the watering can in a couple of weeks. And at least the mouse was gone.

That evening, just before bedtime, I walked into my office to shut down the computer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something little and gray run along the wall.


Epilogue: Three weeks later

The second mouse succumbed with gratifying promptness to an easy-to-set and—far more important—easy-to-empty contraption named "A Better Mousetrap." So far, I haven't spotted any more little gray critters. (At least not moving ones; dust bunnies don't count.)

But watering the house plants just doesn't work as well with the recycled juice bottle I've been using. For some reason, I haven't wanted to use the watering can. It's still out there in the yard.

Categories: Just For Fun, Wild Things | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Facing Up to the Pansy

I'm not sure when or why the word pansy became an epithet, a scornful term for a man who didn't seem "manly" enough. Besides, as a feminist and a parent of both daughters and sons, I could—and do—certainly take issue with why being considered effeminate is an insult in the first place.

But that's a rant for a different day. For now let's talk about pansies.

I bought a bunch of them this week, which I plan to put outside if it ever warms up enough to actually plant something. I've liked them ever since I was little and first noticed, in my grandmother's bed of pansies beside the back step, how much their blossoms resembled vivid little faces.

In the hierarchy of the garden, pansies are members of the chorus rather than stars. They don't have the fragrance of roses. They aren't dramatic and showy like peonies or gladioli. They aren’t temperamental or difficult to grow.

What pansies do have is character. The heat doesn't appear to wilt them. The ever-encroaching creeping jenny doesn't defeat them. Even the ineptitude of my gardening doesn't seem to faze them. They just keep blooming, through spring hailstorms, summer heat, and even the first early frost.

According to Merriam Webster, the word pansy comes from the Latin “pensare.” It means to ponder, and it’s also the root of “pensive.”

The name suits these bright yellow and purple flowers. Blooming is their business, and they do it conscientiously. Pansy faces aren't smiling and carefree. They wear the focused, serious expressions of those with important jobs to do.

Actually, they remind me of another group that does important work. A group that certainly would be described as effeminate and could easily be called pansies if the word meant what it ought to mean. They're tough, they have character, and they hang in there even when conditions are less than ideal.

Surely, by now, you know who I'm talking about. Mothers.

Categories: Wild Things, Words for Nerds | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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