Saturday, September 3, 2011

for a special bunch of zinnias

The zinnias are gone. Maybe forever.

It all began in the earlier days of my life here. I had been in the midwest for a few months. On one bright sunny day, I saw them. I couldn't take my eyes off them.  The zinnias. Oh they were so alive! Lush, vivid colors -- red, magenta, pinks, yellow, orange, they seemed to scream "HAPPINESS" and life. That one narrow strip of rollicking blooms filled me with delight. They  were beaming at me and I must have beamed right back, trying to take them all in greedily. Till then I hadn't known that zinnias grew here. Possibilities! The fact that they reminded me of home  added to the euphoria  they generated in me. That was going to be one of the flowers that will wave its pretty face in my garden, once I had one of my own, I decided right then.

And I wanted to know who the creator of this wonder was. And on another bright day I saw him. An elderly gentleman. He was tall, thin, and a little stooped. He never glanced at the people who passed by, as he ambled to his flowerbed, in his brown pants, and grey shirt. He looked alone and not minding it at all. I stared and stared as if to memorize his face.So this was the person who created this little bit of miracle! I marveled at his skill, his love for his flowers. I did not want to talk to him, I did not imagine him as a young man, or a child, or his "story" , or guess at the type he would be in a mystery, (as I am wont to  do)I did not wish to intrude. But still I was a part of it, because the result of his work made me smile, everytime I looked at them.

Winter came, all the flowers were gone. Whenever I passed that flowerbed, I looked for signs of the plants. Nothing remained. But I was not worried, because I knew for sure that come spring, the plants will return. Sure enough, in spring, I saw the man coming out to tend to his bed. Soon there were little plants, and later the happy healthy zinnias.

Even as I was enjoying them, I saw that the old gardener looked older. The first niggle of worry could not be put down. I was afraid. Of the coming emptiness of that little strip. I willed him to live on. A childish wish, I knew. But those zinnias became important to me. And they did come up for a couple more years. And I did see their owner a few more times. The lines on his face were deeper, the stoop became more prominent, but he was there. But last summer, there were other flowers in that bed, no more zinnias. I had no idea what happened, and I preferred not to imagine or surmise.

This summer there were no zinnias . The flowerbed looks abandoned. Dead. Not a sign that they were there at all. I did not want to think about what happened to the person who made that magical world. I am used to the inevitability of certain facts by now. I expect them to be so at this point.What  I did not know  was that one can be encompassed  by warmth and coldness at the same time, at certain times. The warm glow of a fleetingly joyful moment mingled with the sad knowledge of a loss of someone or something -- who had nothing to do with me, or that was never mine. I seem to be unable to remember his face, only the bent grey back , with  the brown pants walking away, but I have not forgotten the way it all made my day. And I am grateful.

 I wonder at the next owners -- will they know that there was once a whole lot of bright jewel- hued zinnias in their yard, lovingly grown by a proud man, who was watched in turn by a stranger who was cheered up everytime she saw them?

pictures from google images