Surviving the Winter

I snip the flowering tarragon, yet again, and tuck it into a wine bottle vase I had cut one day over the kitchen sink. I add rosemary, and the scents commingle, the licorice of black jelly beans and the heady evergreen of memory.

The vase sits in my car’s cupholder while I stop to ride my bike to my secret thistle meadow on the way to my mom’s for our usual weekly visit. I’ve been photographing the thistle flowers year after year after year now, from before they bloom their vibrant purple and nourish the diversity of nature, to when they progress to cottony fluff and I watch how they let go. How they let go.

Now, I document, yet again, the dignity of their death. Their stark beauty against the coming-winter sky, the power lines a musical staff holding the fullness of their singularly beautiful note. The essence of their being.

I load my bike back in the car and breathe in the intoxicating fragrance that has filled its hermetically-sealed interior.

The tarragon was huge and abundant this year, by the way. Last winter was the first it survived, and it has thrived since then. This is the first winter that I truly worry about who will survive — and thrive again. I grabbed a fistful of it one day to hang from the ladder in the garage to let dry so I would have it, in case the winds blow too strong and the snows come too long. So that, perhaps, there would be dignity in its death as well.

I do a leap in the tarragon but that’s not the photo my daughters like. It’s this one. They see something in it I don’t. They see joy, whereas I see rage beneath the surface of my sea. And perhaps, together that joy, that rage — is what I hope always survives. In them.

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