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by Ruben Mesa

Snap peas growing on a plant

At the front of my house I planted some peas

To try and help out the neighborhood bees.

They went in the ground,

And I fussed all around,

Until I was tired down to my knees.

On the back end, to add some variety,

And, also, because it killed my anxiety,

I planted tomatoes,

And have some potatoes,

Growing next to my fruit bearing tree.

I was told by a friend I have no needs

To plant veggies and fight with the weeds

“Just go out the door,

And buy at the store!”

They say at amazing speeds.

But I fear that they have my intentions confused.

I plant and I grow because it leaves me amused!

I do it for flower and bees!

… Alright, and the peas.

It’s just not right to leave them unused.

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Updated: Apr 12, 2021

by Melanie Sievers

Photo of a large red flower with many anthers

In a black document box up on a top shelf, there is a little plastic bag containing three tiny black seeds from the mu mian hua, 木棉花, the cotton tree flower. It is beloved in Guangzhou, a city known as Flower City for its lush year-round flora. It is the official city tree, the logo of Southern China airlines, and my favorite flower. For the three happiest years of my life I lived in Guangzhou and watched the big, red, waxy flowers bloom each March on very tall trees, then cast their fluffy seedpods - like snow - all over town. When it was time to say goodbye to China, I bought three paintings of the mu mian hua and collected some seeds as souvenirs.

In early to mid-February, around the time of the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), the buds begin to appear, blossoming as March approaches. All of Guangzhou is ablaze with a red canopy of beautiful flowers. Once in full bloom, each deep orange-red flower is about the size of my hand, pinky to thumb, over four inches in diameter. An individual flower is so heavy that when it falls to the ground, it makes a distinctly audible thud. The ground around each tree is littered in plentiful big red blossoms, each so robust and waxy that they are almost completely unblemished from their fall from great heights.

People hurry to gather the fallen flowers, easily amassing enough flowers to fill large baskets, which they then spread to dry in the sun for use as a tea or soup. Square patches of drying blossoms are spread all over town. With the passing of the gorgeous flowers comes an equally miraculous sight: the snowy white seed pods, that look like gigantic dandelion puffs, wafting in the breeze and settling on the ground in drifts. These seedpods are just as useful as the flowers. People hurry to gather the silky, soft puffs before they blow away to stuff into pillows and comforters. I loved the image of nestling into a cozy mu mian hua bed.

Distance photo of a tall tree with red flowers

When I was told that I would be unable to renew my work visa, I took the bus to Wende Lu in Liwan District and searched every shop and stall for paintings of mu mian hua. I bought three and rolled them in a long plastic tube. They traveled with me on the long, long flight back to California. But I needn’t have bothered with souvenirs; the images of mu mian hua - in all its forms – along with all the sights, sounds, colors, and textures of my wonderful adopted home, Guangzhou, will blossom forever in my heart and in my mind. But just in case my memory fades, I have the seeds.

Melanie Sievers has retired from teaching three or four times, yet she is currently leading high school students through Oedipus and Macbeth in Stockton, CA. It seems you really can’t escape your destiny! In another life, she was an actress in NYC and has had many other lives in between. Melanie's best life so far was in Guangzhou, China where she taught high school Drama in a prestigious Chinese high school. Every so often she writes some poems, assembles some art pieces, and plays around creatively


Photographs of mu mian hua, 木棉花, cotton tree flower and tree by Mandy Wang 王黎.

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by Morgan Heinemann

White apple flower on a branch
Apple tree flower

I have lived in the same house my entire life. Twenty full years behind a 270 acre apple farm. Fishkill Farms has provided my local community with a slew of opportunities and family-friendly activities. Personally, this farm has given me the privilege of watching the beautiful life cycle of apple trees from my backyard. I am a witness to each stage of their life cycle. Watching the growth of these trees has been a consistent memory that occurred throughout my childhood and even in my young adult life.

The emergence of Spring means the budding of flowers. The slow warming of the weather allows for the flowers inside the buds to grow. The sweet smell of these flowers attracts bees for their pollinating capabilities. Their pollen helps the flowers grow into potential apples. The bees are unaware that they are providing a new beginning for these apple trees. You can’t help but feel hopeful for what is about to come after this stage of their life cycle.

Summer means being surrounded by the presence of apple blossoms. As the buds grow, I can watch the colors of the flowers change. Initially a soft pink and then the flower is consumed by a strong white coloring. The familiar look of the apples we eat begins to take place. The excitement for future apple picking endeavors and the opportunity for family time is ever-present.

The wait is finally over, Fall brings in full-blown apple trees just waiting to be picked and cherished. I head out to my backyard where I can hear the laughter and cheer from families apple picking in the near distance. Families from all over travel to this farm for the sweet and yummy apples it provides. The anticipation of this time of year is finally over; the trees have reached their fullest potential. Personally, apple picking has provided my family and I with a collection of memories that are heartwarming and genuine. Through these memories, apple trees have brought not only my family closer together but other families as well.

Just like that Winter blows in, for the last step of the apple tree life cycle. The trees can finally rest. They develop a protective layer of fuzz to protect them from the harsh weather that they are about to endure. As the weather gets colder, it feels like everything begins to slow down. I use this time to reflect on all the different stages that I have gone through during the year.

And then the cycle repeats itself.

Morgan is a 20 year old SUNY Cortland student. Her major is Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Environmental Studies.

Photo credit: Apple tree flower by Jonas Bergsten from Wikimedia commons.

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