By Susan H. Evans
The freshly-tilled plot appeared unpromising — uneven, furrowed rows with big clods of dirt, weeds, and grass poking out from under the lumps like wobbly rows of buried Friar’s heads.
I unsealed the Cosmo’s packet, and sprinkled the infinitesimal black dots haphazardly atop the furrows, not bothering to rake the ground first. Then I tamped the seeds into the ground with two fingers, shrugged my shoulders, and told them, “Good luck.”
I didn’t expect much, since I wasn’t about to carry water up to the little hill all summer when heat and drought — like malevolent twins — come to town. But I needn’t have worried.
A week later, storm clouds blew up and a melancholy rain descended, raining every day for several weeks. I knew Cosmos to be tough customers, thriving even in poor, arid ground. The inferior soil – depleted by multiple crops of strawberries – accommodated them nicely, but the daily drenching, not so much.
The plot became a red clay mudslide on its unprotected, little incline. Despite the wet, small plants soon appeared in rows like little feathery soldiers. I divided and divided them again, yanking them out of the oozy ground, plopping them in a vacant spot, and applying a mud pack around their roots. They didn’t mind.
I weeded often because Covid-19 kept me home. On my daily crawl around the flower bed, I jerked half-dead weeds and grass out of the mud and evened the soil with the flat side of a trowel.
Soon a forest of filmy, emerald plants covered the plot. I waited for a bloom.
The sun rose warm and promising on Summer Solstice, but no flowers. July, ditto.
The constant rain finally ceased.
Frustrated, I called a Home Extension guy. He sounded young, perplexed, and didn’t know Cosmos. He said, “You might try feeding them, and, maybe, wait for another week or so.” I fed, but nary a bud appeared.
One evening in late August, when the sky was red with sunset, I sat down in the midst of the 4-feet foliage, elbows to stems, and asked the Cosmos, “Why aren’t you blooming? What is wrong here? What should I do?”
A little gentle breeze blew across my face, and the cosmos whispered, “Wait for the harvest.”
I rose from the ground and dusted myself off. I waited.
In early September, checking my Cosmos for the 1,000th time, I noticed one of the more statuesque plants looked different — its full-bodied. Plumy, fluffiness magically transformed into a sweeping candelabra growing out of the ground. Its delicate stems radiated out from a slender reddish-green stalk. A tiny, abracadabra bud popped out in the afternoon from the tip of one fragile stem.
Finally, I thought, at least one flower before the frost!
But then it seemed to take forever – all of a week and a half – before the bud opened to reveal 8, pale pink, perfect petals with golden centers. By that time, a myriad of rosy buds twinkled everywhere on the arms of my flower “menorah.”
A fleeting rain drifted through one night a week later, and the plant topped over from the masses of bloom. Its bent root reminded me of high heeled shoes stuck in the mud, no longer able to support a very buxom woman. I propped Cosmos One up and waited for her brethren to join her riotous bloom.
I bided my time.
Soon, plants that received extra sun as it sliced across the field bloomed in different shades of fuchsia and white.
By Fall Equinox, little ruby and waxy-colored marbles formed on all 24 plants.
The threshold of lightness and dark draws closer now, as the lingering days of last summer shorten. In mid-October, my plants become black stalks in a silver field. Only a small window remains open for them to express their belated-but-joyous beauty — just enough time to dance in the autumn wind, surrounded by a fading field of withered grass.
Yes, my cosmic wildflowers bloomed infuriatingly slow, but they proved valiant through this singular spring and summer.
Each time I inhale a wistful scent, touch a velvet petal, or watch honey bees collecting nectar, I receive a message from the cosmos. It is a message I cling to, like one of my tremulous butterflies clinging to a blossom. The cosmos tells me — despite this present time — it will provide protection and blessings, like showers of joyful flowers, if I practice patience and faith and take a few intrepid steps in the dance of creation.