This is my submission for Show Me Your Lits last week. It is a more literary writing site than what I sometimes write. I am learning a lot about my voice as a writer there. Each week we have a new prompt and 90 minutes to write. Sometimes things don’t work out too well, others, well, gives me this. (no editing has been done to this piece yet, though I will be finding a home for it later.)
Of Milkweeds and Butterflies
word count 684
She picked at the milkweed pod, carefully opening the brown seed case, exposing fluffy white down that would carry the dark seeds away from here. This plant, Asclepias tuberosa, more commonly known as butterfly weed, had a bright spray of orange flowers in the spring and early summer attracting butterflies and bees. The bright sprays splattered the area with color attracting a great number of butterflies and bees.
The plant was prolific in this area but for a reason. After the flowers caterpillars and beetles consumed everything except for the stiff stems and the head of the plant. Now at late fall, the stems were browning as the individual plant’s work was done. The next generation was about to take flight in the breeze.
She knew this, not only because her mother had patiently explained the process, but because it was also her job. Taking her mother’s love for the natural world further, she had gone to school to pursue a career in plant biology. She studied molecular structures, how insects and plants had a balance, a give and take, that most people still did not understand.
Give and take, trust that one would not take more than was needed and give something back. The plants produced food, the insects carried pollen to other milkweeds. It was easier to see it in plants and insects than people. When an insect overpopulated an area, more plants died, less food, less insects survived the next generation. It was not as straight cut with people.
In between two people it was not as easy to see. Sometimes it was money, that was easy enough to point out, where one spent more than the pair had. Other times it was attention, one person taking until the other had no more to give. But other times, it was hidden so deeply that neither realized what they were doing to each other.
She had tried to make him happy by taking that job in the lab. Four white walls, microscopes, computers and sterility. The money was good, but she bored of the entire process. Plants were brought in from the greenhouses outside the building already processed. All she had to do was run the tests.
She missed the feel of dirt under her fingers, the breath of fresh air, the way the sun warmed her shoulders. He had not understood that and resisted her efforts, renting a small fashionable condo in the city. He had frowned upon her little “garden” of various plants she had dug up from the park or from her infrequent forays home.
Her phone buzzed. She dug it out of her pocket, looked at the screen, and put it back. She didn’t want to disturb her peace with his aimless chatter. She had come out here to be alone, alone with her thoughts, alone with the decision. She didn’t want or need his input. He had already had his say.
She stood up, surveying the bare hillside. Golden grasses swayed, hissing their music in the air. Browning, most of the plants were reaching their end, except for a few stalks of bruise colored ragweed. Seed pods rattled and she watched a few more seeds drift through the air. The last of the butterflies fluttered around, too late to fly south unless they caught a steady wind. This is what she missed, what she craved.
Endings were all around her. Dying plants, the leaves on the trees turning the fiery colors of fall. Winter was only a few weeks ahead and this hill would be silent and cold.
But beneath it was beginnings.
She stretched out her hand and the delicate seeds took flight as she blew on them. When the snow thawed, color would return, the plants would regrow, flowers would once more bloom.
She had gone through the fall of her marriage. She could stand a few months of winter because spring would bring regrowth.
She pulled the cell from her pocket. It rang twice before someone answered. “I’ll be taking that job at the University, mom. Do you still have that room?”