I am close to letting go of this year’s roses.
I have three rosebushes. One is deep red, and arrived with a description highlighting its “incredible fragrance.”
My second rose variety is called “Grande Dame,” and it produces giant, dark pink roses that also have a lovely fragrance.
I have named my third rosebush “Charlie Brown” because it is scrawny and always looks dead by sometime in July, when heat and aphids have done their best to kill it. Yet it always manages to produce an abundant (though not fragrant) crop of small red roses—last June there were at least fifty.
All my rosebushes appear to be close to death during the heat of summer, but they grow new shoots in late August or September that eventually produce a few late flowers. This year the second growth started late. Charlie Brown bloomed first, and boasted seven roses. Grande Dame produced a record second-growth crop in September, and Incredibly Fragrant also made several new roses.
I was amazed how fast new shoots grew from the latter two plants in September, but some of the shoots started too late. Both Grande Dame and Incredibly Fragrant produced a last bud that grew to the stage of being ready to open, with some colour showing. But by then it was October, and there was little warmth or sunlight to be had on my balcony. Those buds stayed suspended in their “poised-to-open” state for many weeks. Finally, at the beginning of November I cut back my roses for their winter rest.
Yet I couldn’t bear to cut off those brave buds. I felt so much regret and sadness for them! I thought about all that beauty and fragrance still unreleased. I couldn’t help but think of those buds as sentient beings. They wanted to be roses! That was their potential; that was their destiny!
It was not to be. Four days ago I cut off each bud. I sniffed each one, but couldn’t detect any hint of fragrance. I still didn’t want to put them in my garden waste bag. I filled a teacup with water and added plant food. Then I placed the buds in the cup and put it on my living room windowsill.
Days later, I noticed that a few petals had unfurled from the Incredibly Fragrant bud. I brought it to my nose. Yes! The inimitable fragrance was there! Maybe it didn’t have the strength of a full-fledged rose, but nonetheless it expressed its unique quality. For a second, that fragrance reminded me of all the abundant, flagrant senses of summer.
Yesterday morning, before it started raining, I cycled to Sasamat Lake. I haven’t been riding much since the weather turned cold, and I found the climb very tough. The toque I was wearing under my helmet made my breath sound like distant thunder in my ears, a faintly ominous sound that amplified my perceived effort.
At the lake, I could see no living thing—not a person, not even a goose. All the colour in the beach maples was gone.
Yet I was happy to be there. To me Sasamat Lake is beautiful and familiar in every season. I’m grateful to be outside and to be healthy. I’m not as fast or fit as I used to be. But like the rosebuds, I’m doing the best I can to express my nature. My spirit. The way I love running, walking, cycling, having all my senses alive, appreciating my surroundings whatever they offer. Like the rosebushes I have my seasons, and, unlike them, my body won’t have spring or summer again.