October 21, 2010


My garden this October is in full color, more so than in the spring. Last fall I added some plants that have done well by me as winter approaches. Not only are some of them turning the amber and red colors of the season, but an audacious few have come into bloom. The Japanese Japonica is one. I have two of them, one white and one pink providing a riot of color against my fences. October is the month when my winter begonia bursts into pink flower, too. And I’ve a little yellow plant the birds brought me. I don’t know its name but it blooms cheerfully deep into December. 

Despite the brave face of my flower beds, the temperatures will soon drop and I’ll retreat to my garden books for solace. One of my favorites is “The Year in Bloom” by Ann Lovejoy, an author who first published this flower calendar in 1987. The pages of my copy are bent and well used but I’m comforted that this resource is still in print and popular with gardeners both new and seasoned. 

I was enjoying the color changes in the park earlier this week, when I met an elderly woman walking with a cane. Seeing that I too carried one, she stopped to chat, recognizing me as a comrade in arms. As it was a chilly day, I’d donned my woolen cap while she, for some reason, was wearing a bicycle helmet from which a quantity of grey hair poked through. She was small enough for me to look down upon, giving me a clear view of a pair of sparkling blue eyes and a broad smile. She told me she had a little trouble with her balance and I commiserated. Balance on uneven terrain can be a challenge for the elderly. It’s the primary reason I walk with a cane.

We talked amiably for a time, and then my park acquaintance asked the inevitable question: “How old are you?” I answered that I was 74 and her eyes grew brighter. “I’m 88,” she replied without my asking. 

I say “inevitable” about the question because seniors are curious about one another’s age. When an 88-year-old woman meets a peer who is younger, she gets the same joy of preeminence that applies when a 6th grader meets a 4th grader. There is, even in advanced age, a pecking order, especially if one is mobile, alert and reasonably healthy. I bowed to her superiority and told her I hoped my next 14 years would treat me as well. That’s what she wanted to hear and she’d earned the tribute.

I left her in good cheer and walked away thinking of her as I might a flower in my garden. For every thing there is a season, but like the Japanese Japonica flowering beside my fence, some of us continue to bloom straight into winter.