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Kunin: In the Greenhouse

I walk into a greenhouse to buy flowers and I swoon. The scents, the colors, the hanging plants, the trailing plants overwhelm me. So beautiful, I say to myself. So beautiful.

I draw a deep breath and I’m transformed by aroma therapy. My body relaxes. I’m calm. I say hello to everyone; one woman who pulls a wagon of bursting red geraniums, another who’s found a perfect tomato plant; she carries a dozen in both arms. We’re both in a summer trance. I can’t resist a low planter of smiling pansies in delicate hues of purple, pink and yellow. An entire carpet of them spreads before me. How to choose? When I was younger, I bought flowers that were guaranteed to last the entire summer. Now I’ve become a spendthrift. I live in the now. I know that pansies won’t last; they can’t take the summer heat. But they’re glorious now, and I put two pots - two for the price of one - in my wagon.

What a reward this glorious high-ceilinged church of a greenhouse has given us, for surviving the long gray and white winter. We feel we shouldn’t complain about the past winter because it was, comparatively speaking, unusually mild. But it still was dark from November to March. And the sun lay hidden for days on end. Now, the long awaited spring has seemed to jump right into summer without time for a decent transition. The daffodils have already folded up, the tulips have come and gone, and the lilacs are bending their branches with their heavily scented weight.

I break off a lilac sprig and hold it to my nose, feeling it fill my lungs. Then I bend down to break off two slender stems of lilies of the valley. I think my mother had eau de cologne that smelled just like that. I wish I could get some now to dab behind my ears.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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