Saturday, October 22, 2016

Last Okra Bloom of Summer

I don't have to read the weather forecast or check online. The wind outside announces fall has finally caught up to western North Carolina. Sad day, my husband said this morning as he looked longingly at the stack of shorts he was stowing in the back of the closet.

The leaves are still green on the trees in my yard. Green, I repeat, and the calendar says today is well past the Ides of October. Those few leaves that obeyed nature and started to change are being stripped from their branches today, going directly from green to brown - and then to the ground.

In all this I did find one plant hanging in there, daring winter to come, defying the looming frost. In our garden I found one last okra bloom.

There it is. The last okra bloom of summer. Okay, so it's not as well know or poetically appealing as the last rose of summer, but I go with what I see.

That okra plant is still alive and kicking it! Nearby the bloom, there are tiny okra pods developing just in time for me to add to my vegetable soup or to my western North Carolina version of gumbo.

Although this close-up shot makes them look like gourds, they are only two inches tall at best. Best means almost ready to harvest, before the green outside hardens so much it can't be sliced for cooking, and while the slimy juice from the inside still oozes to thicken the soup.

Fortitude is the word I'm thinking of right now as I see these tall plants swaying in the fall winds. Never give up. Hang in there until your purpose is fulfilled.

I've taken a little liberty here and substituted the okra concept for rose in the poem that I studied all those years ago, with apologies to poet Thomas Moore and my English Lit teacher, and thanks to  here's the first stanza reinvented:

The Last Okra Bloom of Summer

’TIS the last okra bloom of summer
  Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
  Are cooked and gone;
No bloom of her kindred,       
  Nor okra pod is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
  To give sigh for sigh.

Its theme is a little on the depressing side, but then again, so is the fall of the year when brilliant colors mask the impending winter darkness ahead. Since my teachers "encouraged" us to see ourselves or the world around us in everything we read, today I'm viewing this poem anew from a different perspective, from rose to okra, from teenage, to senior. When I was sixteen I did not understand it as I do now in the autumn (not even close to the winter, I want to insert) of my life. Like the okra bloom, I had to mature a bit to turn into the fruit that my life was meant to be. Like the okra bloom, I will fade away, but I choose to be like this one, blooming til the last possible second.

But wait!

Unlike the okra bloom, I will come back next spring, rested from the winter and ready to bloom again. Take that Thomas Moore!

Catch of the day,


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