My world is about to change. I watch the dark billowing clouds suspended above the earth—a cold front is on the way. With its passing, life will be different.

I move potted anthodium from the pool deck to the living room to help them survive. Tropical plants don’t stand a chance outside in the winter. Not in this country.

A gust of wind rattles the trees, sending handfuls of leaves into the air. Confetti-colored remnants of flame-red crepe myrtles, magenta dogwoods, and golden oaks dance to an unknown rhythm. A salmon-colored leaf hovers over the birdbath, then lands and sinks. Yellow butterflies circle the remaining lantana and periwinkle blossoms for a drink. The satsuma’s branches hang like willows, heavy with mottled green fruit awaiting winter’s alchemy to turm them gold. A squirrel scavenges hickory nuts under a Margarita daisy bush. In a far corner of the yard, fresh mounds of sand appear around the armadillo’s burrow. He must be home. Will anyone mind if he stays? When summer droughts come, will the deer be allowed to munch daylilies down to their roots?

Ginger leaves, so lush in summer, rustle like brown wrapping paper. I deadhead stocks of daisies, zinnias, and cockscomb and let the wind blow their seeds over upturned soil—the beginnings of next spring’s garden.

My friend Wanda will arrive any minute for some of the plants. I jam desiccated deadheads and stacks of plastic seedlings pots into a yard bag, ready for her arrival. Amaryllis, epiphyte orchids in baskets and terrestrials in soil pots, a small Meyer lemon, and three knock-out roses join her collection.

Frangipanis produce the flowers for Hawaiian leis. Wanda will want those. Whittie, our oldest frangipani, has been with us for twenty years. Her branches almost fill one side of the pool deck. In summer, her blossoms make us smile, even when we rake them out of the water. Last year, a smaller frangipani we’d nursed for years swelled with pink flowers, her first. Ours, too. Wanda will take her, but Whittie is too big and too old to travel. We’ll pull her in under the roof and wind her branches with sparkling lights to keep her warm.

Overhead, a gaggle of Sandhill Cranes stream south in v-formation. Like colored leaves, the Sandhills are a part of autumn. The pomegranate, a tall collection of caramel-colored sticks with yellow leaf fringes, will sprout bright orange tissue-paper blossoms next spring and wow everyone. For me, dead-looking branches are a symbol of hope.

Wanda’s white pick-up truck pulls into the drive. We load the plants and garden tools from the garage, and say good-bye. I have no need for tools. No more annuals, perennials, or trees for me. I’m moving to a condo. Like the pomegranate and the cranes, I must transition. But will I survive?


Sandra Elliot’s current novel, The Baron and Me, is set in postwar Italy, where a second daughter strives to be noticed as her American military family helps the city of Naples rebuild. When not writing, Sandra enjoys riding bikes, painting, and learning new languages.
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