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NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY
October 1, 2003
 
Downright chilly in the house yesterday, and again this morning. Q fishes out his Irish sweater and, in honor of the change in the weather, I wear socks. Kate the cat realizes that winter is coming and demands a second breakfast -- she has gotten much too thin over the summer. Even What's-Her-Name's flanks are filling out, after a summer of concavity. Santi has a bare tummy where they shaved him for his ultrasound -- it's taking its time about growing back. Maybe somebody can knit him a sweater.

It's the plants who present the most immediate task, though. I have been bringing them in one at a time for a couple of weeks, but now they all have to come in. I lug the large ones through the door and up the stairs. I wheel the largest in on its own trolley; I don't think either of us could lift it any more. I line the kitchen window sill with tuberous begonias in bloom. One of them is unaccountably long and leggy -- I should pinch it off, so it can get bushier, but there is a pair of scarlet flowers at its very tip, and I can't bear to lose them.

Outside the front steps, there is an enormous purple coleus in an urn. Its velvety leaves take up more than half the sidewalk; I think it's three feet across, at the very least. It has stopped visitors in their tracks all summer: they pause in their walk up the sidewalk to admire it.

Here is what will happen: later this month, we will get a frost. The coleus will not survive: in the course of one night, its glorious branching stems of purple leaves will wilt and hang over the side of the urn, a sad purple pour of spent velvet. A Salvador Dali coleus.

Unless. Unless I bring the urn into the house where it's warm. The thing is three feet across. Where do I put it -- on the couch?

It is hard to let lovely things die, even if you know it is time. I could dig up all kinds of annuals and bring them in for a few weeks more of bloom, but Q and I would have to move into a storage unit.

To everything, a season. It is in the nature of life that it comes to an end. There would be no room for new life if this were not so. We long to live to a grand old age. We are informed that our children will think nothing of living to 120, 130, even 150 years old. Perhaps. But it is important to the future that the past get out of the way. I have clippings of this magnificent coleus. Over the winter, I will take more clippings of the plants that grow from these, and next spring I'll plant them in the urn again. And, again, something magnificent will grow. Magnificent. Just like its grandmother.
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