Amy lives with her family by a waterfall in northwest Connecticut. Her garden is wild and wonderful, a source of eternal inspiration. She often needs to abandon pruning shears for the sake of pen and notebook. . . leaving her little time for weeding. She has words in Clerestory, Country Women, and Today’s American Catholic, among other places. Find more of her musings at: amynicholson14.wordpress.com.
Enjoy Amy’s poignant story of loving and letting go.
The bull thistle (Circium vulgare) grew in the corner of my garden. With its scrawny branches, it was not the most beautiful plant. Nor the most friendly with its spiky leaves spreading wide, with some falling right down to the ground to prick me when I ventured down to cut the rhubarb or kale or other fruitful plant I had invited to live in my garden. And yet, I kept the thistle, allowed it to grow its showoffy ten feet tall, bud and bloom. My patience was rewarded when a multitude of spiky, cactus-like, fuschia flowers bloomed and attracted yellow swallowtail butterflies.
When their growing season ended, the flowers died and dried up. Now it’s September and all that was green on that mammoth plant is brown and covered in white fluff because as each flower head dried, it spread open to expose a twisted bunch of numerous plume-like seeds. The sun dried them out even more and eventually the seeds parachuted into the wide world.
As I sit on the deck and miss the daughter I released into the college world just weeks ago, I bury my mind in my notebook, scrawling metaphors for this new time in our mother-daughter relationship onto the page. When I lift my gaze to the air in front of me, the beauty of the forest and sound of the waterfalls muted by the life-drama in my mind, I contemplate her new home and friend-family she adopted. A solitary thistle seed rises into view. I follow its flight. For a tiny seed that’s never left its childhood home, it seems so sure of itself. Like it knows where it’s going. But can it? It’s so young yet. But maybe the wind knows.
After that first sighting, more fluff travelers appear. The breeze picks up. They come more swiftly. Veering off on their own trajectories. Vectors that seem random to me, but faith tells me their destinies are already decided. Now I see them everywhere. As the sun sinks lower on the horizon, the fledgling aviators are shadows on the ground. Ballerina-like pirouettes in silhouette.
With this exodus cloud, surely they’ve all flown off. I walk to the mother plant to check. I’m surprised to find a dozen or more spiky flower heads still hold their progeny. Or did the fluff get caught on the parent spikes on their way to the sky? Was it the wind blowing against them that trapped them? Delayed their flight? My breath catches as a lone seed rises from the outer edge of the ball of fluff caught on Mama’s spikes. It rises straight and sure into the air. What courage to soar when others stay. And, Mama, even more courage to let her go.
I want to say there are millions and billions of these seeds. They seem infinite. But I know there are only a finite number of them on the plant. The daily departures will eventually end. Maybe by the time they’ve all blown away, I too will have figured out how to be brave.
Copyright (c) 2023 by Amy Nicholson