In a time of death and great anxiety, we look to the tree and its unfurling leaves, or to the climbing pea and its orchid-like flower at the end of a tendril. One day, at last, its pods are fat and translucent, and my son peels it open and each pea bursts in his mouth, sweeter than the soil and he proclaims them to be his “garden candy.” The zinnias, impossible to imagine from their thin slivered seeds that get lost when a gust of wind blows them out of my hand, grow tall and bright in the heat of summer, and for the first time in my life, I am a person who has fresh cut flowers on my table. But the pumpkins, who had spread marvelously over everything, get a pest, and the tomatoes, a blight, and eventually even the quiet cocoon of a swimming pool cannot save me. But somehow, the zinnias thrive and keep blooming and reaching for the sky, twisting their stems as the sun moves with the season. They are so tall they fall over, and even get spots and start to rot, but still they bloom, and every time I think I should cut them down, I see a bee or a butterfly floating above and ready to land in a sea of yellow pollen, and so I wait another week, even though I know the white winged creature is a cabbage moth that will ruin my fall garden. It was the right decision, I think, to wait another week, and then another, because finally I see a monarch, nervous with me hovering so close by, but hungry enough that it stops to unfurl its proboscis and drink. It needs food for its journey, but I worry that it is all alone and too late and I wish it would stay with us. At last the frost comes and the zinnias brown, their petals crumble like ash, but the stalks, when I cut them down, are strong and hollow, anchored by their roots, deep in the soil.
Desi Allevato lives in central Virginia with her husband, where they are raising one child, two cats, and a hundred tree saplings in a suburban backyard. She has a brain tumor, ADHD, and an unfinished dissertation about Russian history. Her recent work is published in Longridge Review and she is a contributing writer to Grow Christians. Follow her on Twitter, @desirosie.