Don't be fooled. After months of our persistent, dedicated nursing, there may well be more color in the garden right now than there is at any other time of year, more ripe brilliance. In some corners, it's pure holiday. Out here on the edge of the plains, all that gaudy pigmentation is almost embarrassing.
But then nothing gold can stay, said Frost, the old New Englander, and he was right. The camera lens makes abundantly clear that peak beauty is already somewhere behind. Maybe a week or two ago, we could have caught the abundance all around without the slightest wince, but that glory hasn't lasted and never will. Right now, right there in the middle of all that color, signs of the seasons' imminent demise are all around. Tomorrow it'll be worse.
Right now, you'll read it only if you look up close. From a distance, even an arm's length, we're in Eden. But put a lens on all that beauty and intimations of mortality sing what'll surely be a dirge.
They're wildflowers, not the hybrid production of some greenhouse genius; and none of them, really, is anywhere near perfect even during their prime days. In a swirling mass of their peers, a gaggle of black-eyed susans is perfectly darling; but up close you can't help but realize how easy it is to be deceived. "Woe and woe and woe," they say; The voice of Jeremiah in every last one of these aging beauties is too evident: "the end is near."
Look for yourself.
It could be depressing. Could be enough to make someone leave the garden altogether. Up close and personal, death is already stalking right here amid the profusion of color. It's unmistakable, as sure as solstice.
But amid all these blazing symbols of the fall, here and there some late bloomers appear, including this miracle. I don't know its name, and its delicate character seems an anomaly.
It rises on a stem so thin that you can't help but wonder how it holds its head up at all, and there's no other way to describe the pink than "unnatural." But there it is, in the heat and the wind, in the storms that come around in spades. All around, cone-flowers are showing their age, but this pink miracle rises as if out of nowhere, despite the fact that everything moves it. It can't be still unless the world is, and out here on the edge of the plains stillness a rare blessing. This beauty, bare-naked, is as momentary as dawn.
Traditionally, the Navajo call the blessed way of life "the beauty way." I can't say I know the doctrines of that faith with any exactness, but from what little I know I think it means trying to live like this little late-season apparition, trying to bring to the world what this little beauty does in my own backyard, if only for a little while.
Like everything here, I guess. If not the light of the world, its blessed, beaming color.