Fascination blooms on a gray, rain-soaked reprieve from three warm days. Its vintage pink petals remind me of my grandmother’s rose-scented candles, back in the late 1980s. Her home was otherwise humble, and these small luxuries, hidden in green-tinted jars, seemed subtly provocative. When I page through her girlhood scrapbook of valentines and signed cigarette butts now, they’re difficult to reconcile with the religious woman I knew as a child.
Last week, I drove up to the intersection of the woods and the forest, and turned left. About five miles, and another left, then nine more miles I went. There, I met an old woman in her orchard, and she showed me her offspring: apples and cultivated berries. On the ground, a bed lay made for each family: the lettuces, the brassicas, the onions. Her husband followed us with arms full of wood, which he dropped in odd piles around the property. Wordless, I wasn’t sure what mind he had left, if any. The three of us ate eggs and crackers washed down with her sweet fruit wine, and we talked about flowers.
The web of women I’ve visited lately seems to pulsate with a kind of kinship I didn’t recognize before. We’re a mass of underground aspen roots. What seem to be individuals are actually an entangled single being. As my youth fades, with my own grandmothers long gone, I want to learn how women still grow near the end. This new friend shows me her apple grafts from this summer and the years before, and where they’ve bent from the winter snows. They seem to hold, though, despite what time has brought.
Jessica Cherry, PhD, is a scientist, writer, and commercial airplane pilot living in Anchorage and Fairbanks.