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Mum’s the word

Discoveries within my home

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 3 months ago 3 min read

Chrysanthemum florets of yellow and rusty red, too numerous to count, brighten my table. They curve like half canoes, catching all droplets, sliding them inward to nourish themselves and their community.

Such harmony! Does their cooperative behavior inspire longevity, for this humble bouquet is my longest living of the cut variety. And I was not initially impressed with it as a birthday gift.

The day is grey and I do not wish to fall into a doldrum daze. I pull the clear, rectangular vase across the table until we sit, nose to nose. I study its intricacies.

Individual florets do not appear to contain more than one color, but united, the community creates that illusion as color softens outward toward reds. Pink blends and darkens the mass of flowers, culminating in dark rust or red or even a purple periphery.

Strange to be told these petals are not petals at all. Each colorful projection originates within its own seed, like a dream of democracy. I admit I am but a naive explorer in this field. The sort, I suppose, who might stumble over a cliff, not seeing it for the expansive blue sky and darkening thunder clouds.

My Gram loved these hearty flowers. I could never understand why. She kept a window box of smaller varieties in her kitchen window: button mums, pixies. The scent was pungent but not unpleasant. I thought gardenias a sweeter alternative.

Recently, I read that chrysanthemums keep bugs away- a useful quality to be sure. Perhaps I was too quick to judge my Gram with her screenless kitchen and North Dakota mosquitoes. I would not have been a fan of an occasional fly in her award-winning gingersnaps, either. I reevaluate much in my old age.

I hate to pluck a floret, to taste it, but, well, here goes. With apologies, I pull out the center most yellow blade. It releases with grace. I place its entirety between my front teeth and take a nibble, experiencing a surprising sweetness, a mellow and forgiving taste.

Is there such a thing as chrysanthemum tea? I hadn’t thought of this. My own mother would say, How dumb can you get?

Testing the effects of one floret as it wends its way through my body, I become curious. Today is a cozy day for google adventures. It is snowing outside. (Finally! A week of December fast past.)

Within the Internet, I discover fresh worlds. I never knew my floret poms were in the Daisy family, along with aster and marigolds.

Daddy grew marigolds in our rock garden. He rolled 10” stones up to the back of our yellow Ford station wagon on road trips from Gettysburg to Yellowstone to the Pacific shores. Hauled them home then nestled each one into his meticulous oval berm, setting them off with the golden glow of chrysanthemum's cousins, the marigolds. I planted the velvet-faced pansies.

But daisies? Who doesn’t love hiking upon a ridge of ox eye daisies, their yellow centers and graceful white florets bouncing to the rhythm of winds aloft? When your water bottle has gone light at higher altitudes, such a field refreshes your dry countenance.

I stumble inside a mountain of information, take a rest stop at a revealing site; chrysanthemum tea reduces inflammation, calms the nerves, boosts the immune system and even cools a fever early on. Who knew?

It may cause anaphylaxis in people allergic to ragweed. My husband had a horrific asthma attack a few weeks ago. I will spare him a floret of this medicinal Pom. I kindof like having him around, after 38 married years.

An inch of snow layers my deck, still more falling, dancing, swirling. I inhale a second close whiff of this many colored mum and experience a surge of gratitude.

I will not take another taste.


About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

Thank you for taking time to read my stuff. I love writing almost as much as I love my people. I went back to college and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and often run on that storytelling track. Enjoy!

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