Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Story About Dahlias

As summer hits its peak in early August, and then slowly slides toward autumn, a rising star blooms in the garden. The dahlia, which I love for its crisp geometry and infinite variety of reds, is that bittersweet show stopper.

Ah. I always mourn the end of summer. My heart breaks to think that sunny skies and warm afternoons in my backyard will soon give way to grey skies and soggy grass.

But dahlias have a certain way of easing my spirit into the beginnings of fall. I have a special memory of my soft-spoken father-in-law, who loved these showy beauties just as I do. Many years ago, he made a cross-country visit to my house just as my dahlias were blooming. At the time, my garden was sporting some dinner plate dahlias, so called because their blooms were as big as dinner plates. He loved to wander around in my backyard with his camera and a super zoom lens, taking one shot after another of their complex and intricate blossoms. In the midst of his photo shoot, he excitedly called to me and urged me to come right away to see something interesting. I rushed out - with a newborn in my arms, no less - and with an uncharacteristically bold grin on his face, he instructed me to look closely at a particular flower.

It took me a few moments of searching to see what my father-in-law saw. Just a few inches from my face - and from my second-born's itsy bitsy head - a bright green, inch-long tree frog was hiding inside one of the chamber-like petals of the oversize flower. This colorful cave was just the right size for the little green guy, and he was quite content to enjoy the cool shade of his hiding place.

At the time, in my hormonally-charged mother grizzly mode, I was not amused to have my precious baby so close to an amphibious beast. But now, whenever I see dahlias in bloom I remember that cute little frog in his late summer hiding place and smile to think of him, as well as the nature-loving man with the camera who pointed him out to me.

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