Well, I guess you had to be there.
By "there," I mean "a balmy afternoon, exactly one year ago." So recently returned from a two month trip to Mexico that my tongue was still burning, I was happily back at work.
By "work," I mean "hanging out with my homegirl, my partner in crime, my charge, and my best teacher." We were at her house, for afternoon homeschooling.
By "afternoon homeschooling," I mean "hand-in-hand strolling, rolling, digging, picking, plucking, reading, ringing, singing, and sleeping."
Life was nice. She leaned back in an adirondack, smiling as she watched me pick anything that looked like that photo above, from the calendula growing in her garden. The breeze was not like the wind usually gets around here in the afternoon. It was soft, just enough to cool us off and rustle the leaves of the maple trees towering over us. Her smile gave my heart a leap of joy, so I started singing a song I sang to her on our first first day of school.
Ha llegado ya el momento, de decir muy bien las cosas...
She smiled more. Uh oh.
Esto que me esta pasando, no es normal ni cualquier cosa.
As I picked what once were bright blooms, and dropped dried seeds into a zip-loc, singing to her, smiling at me, I thought, "What beauty this life holds."
I didn't think, "How sad. Those flowers are dead." or "How sad. She is dying."
Those were things I knew, but did not need to look at, at exactly that moment. That beautiful moment occurred like so many beautiful moments with her: accidental, and completely wonderful, for that suspended second the mind enjoys before it remembers to feel sad about probably having to say good-bye to her far too soon.
Eventually, I grew to expand that moment into whole school days. That was one of them.
September, 2019. I'd say I thought we were going to spend our last school year together, before I started student teaching in September 2020. But when you hang with my homie, you don't really think like that. You don't take the future for granted, at all. It's as present as the petals in that photo. What future?
Still, I know that as she chillaxed in that lawn chair, grinning at me like we were about to go rob a bank, I let myself luxuriate in September. Why, it's just sunflowers time! Pumpkins next month! Woo! I love fall! And you! And school! And you! And CALENDULAS! AND YOU!
Just the bright things. Just the pretty things. Just the song. Just your smile.
Just the seeds: dead, dry, still, for now. But, next year...right? Won't there always be next year?
Yeah, I know, I've seen my friends in seeds before. Now that I write about it, I realize it's the same two friends who are connected to these calendula seeds. In their original school garden, grown by Shelly Bowe, they grew orange, almost coral. Here, in Anni's garden, their recessive yellow tones danced to the front of the flower company. In my garden, where the seeds I sang over and gathered last year were planted this year, they bloomed in both colors, and everything in between.
This year, bound to stay in the USA all summer, I have been harvesting the abundantly colorful calendula blossoms, dehydrating them to bright crispy blobs that I've been stuffing in a mason jar. Hopefully, there will be enough of me, and enough of my time, to figure out infusing them and making a balm, putting to good use the rumored soothing properties of this humble sweet relative of marigolds or daisies (depending on which website you read.)
I think I could use something soothing this fall; though I do adore autumn, am thrilled to be a new teacher, and of course, I still hang with my homie just for kicks, on the regular. She is still smiling, and I still sing to her. Those beautiful moments are as beautiful as ever. I am more grateful for them than ever.
Still, as I embark on my first September at school without her, my new classroom blurs before me. Tears fill my vision and my face buckles under my mask. This moment between bright colors offers a different view, one that hurts, but I will not look away from it.
There is value in the lessons learned, but spinning to the sunny side of things can be a dangerous compulsion. Losing her will hurt more, later, but this moment now needs its own appreciation.
She is dying, and I am so sad about that. No school year exploits to plan for us make the finality of it stare back at me like gray seeds.
The calendula bobs in this year's September breeze, just as gently as ever. Their sunshine hues do not need to comfort me. Their light, curled seeds don't need to soothe me with a promise of next year's colorful show. Who knows who among us will be there to enjoy that? No, today was enough. The seeds, like today's smiles and today's song, are enough. They are everything.