[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
“Thoreau said that the flowers of Blue Vervain tell a story, because of the gradual way they open. I have heard the story, and it is passed along from blossom to blossom like a phrase in the children’s game of telephone. The story gets sillier and sillier as it travels up the stalk. The last flower to blossom, standing alone at the plant’s pinnacle, is raving mad.”
I was at a seminar on the innermost thoughts of North American wildflowers, presented by the ghost of Joseph Avens, once a distinguished botanist.
“When we were alive, my wife and I used to gather specimens together. I would identify them and she would sketch them. One day she accidentally left the house wearing all blue. The subtle differences in color between her slacks, blouse and cardigan made her look ethereal. Her sunhat was blue-lavender. When she realized what she’d done, she scolded me for letting her out like that. I told her I wished she’d be buried in that outfit.
“When she got sick, I made it my mission to absorb her into my mind. I would sit with her for hours while she tried to tell me everything she knew. I would memorize the names of people and places and important dates like I was studying for a history exam. Sometimes her mind would get foggy and she wouldn’t remember the precise names or circumstances associated with a memory. I would memorize all the possible scenarios, so that my mind would be marked by the same confusions.
“The day before she died, she promised to tell me what it felt like to be a woman without a child. I slept on two chairs in her hospital room while she died. I lived ten years longer and saw her once. I was sleeping in a house we used to rent in the country when the Maypops were in bloom, when I woke up because of a strong light in the room. At first I didn’t recognize her because she was so bright. She was made of cubes and the cubes were made of light. Her smile was serene, but her eyes were blank, and I knew she wasn’t bothering to remember anything. I loved her mind, and it’s such a shame that it’s gone now. I think that’s why I stick around.”