We walk daily circles around the yard, stretching our legs amidst long hours spent working on screens. Frost arrived this weekend, impossibly early, and now, as we walk and watch, we witness the world – birthed in spring and matured in summer – receding, one plant, one insect, at a time.
Frost has blackened leaves on the pepper plants in our garden, indiscriminately shriveling some while others remain unmarred. This morning, after three nights in the 30s, most of the Zinnias bear damage – some petals bleached white, others prematurely shriveled and brown.
It’s strange, how the touch of frost’s icy fingers produces an effect so similar to fire, both burn at the touch. Too hot or too cold, the impact is the same – the shriveling, blackening, pulling back from life.
The new purple Aster, a fall bloomer and late food source for honeybees preparing for winter, has yet to form buds. But our mums are crowned with hundreds of tight-fisted possibilities, green buds with just a hint of color foretelling the shade of flowers to come – rusty gold or brick red.
Every day, I check the progress of a monarch cocoon that dangles precariously on the underside of a giant milkweed leaf. The cocoon is still largely green, and I wonder at the frost’s impact on the caterpillar’s delicate transformation. Will new life emerge in time to wing its way south to Mexico or will it be forever suspended, stunted, neither able to return to what it was or emerge into what it will be?
Our kids are happy to be back at school, walking off to classrooms and tethered to laptop screens. My husband continues to work, steadily, at his make-shift desk in the unheated mudroom. I alone, have no place to be. I have no work to return to and what I will be, what I will do beyond the daily, has yet to emerge.
I feel in myself the anxiety of being suspended between what was and what will be. Perhaps, this is why I visit the monarch each day – hoping for its transformation to be complete, hoping it emerges in time to head off to a balmy winter retreat. The chrysalis invites me to a stark surrender, a willingness to let go and wait to see what emerges.
Today, I scooted around behind the giant stalk of half-eaten milkweed, hoping to catch a blog-worthy picture of the cocoon. Crouched behind the plant, I saw the prominent gold specks dotted around the top of the cocoon, like a crown. There is beauty in the process.