Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Magical elements of cosmos flowers in a western romance? by Kaye Spencer

My current short story in progress (SSiP), is an October/Halloween themed western romance for the upcoming Halloween anthology from Prairie Rose Publications, Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico. My heroine is a hereditary witch for whom fate brings the last living male descendant of the judge who condemned her grandmother, of 10 generations in the past, to hang as a witch. The tentative title is For Mercy’s Sake.

In creating the heroine’s home, I drew upon three of my personal interests, which are paganism, witchcraft, and Wicca. I have an extensive collection of resources on these subjects, some of which I learned first-hand from my maternal grandfather. Although it was never said outright, as I look back on my childhood and teen years, I realize my grandfather was probably a solitary practitioner of pagan beliefs. As a youngster, I knew the community thought he was odd and eccentric, but they seemed to accept his oddness with amused acceptance.

Now, back to my heroine’s home. Since the way she supports herself is by selling the tinctures, salves, oils, powders, etc. that she makes from the plants she grows, I spent a few paragraphs in the story telling about the plants, herbs, vegetables, and flowers in her garden and around the house. One of the flowers my heroine grows is orange cosmos.

 
While cosmos have no particular herbal or medicinal attributes other than attracting certain insects that prey on 'worse' insects, it does attract fairies (but I'm not including fairies in this story). The main reason to grow cosmos in your yard or garden is for their powerful influence in sorting out life's confusions and for helping to put everyday 'things' in order. These flowers mostly offer the gift of integrating body and spirit to keep them in tune with the other so that one doesn't get out of sync with the other, and these flowers assist with a person's clarity of thinking as in keeping a sharp focus.


Although the flowers have a light, barely discernible scent, cosmos are not for picking, confining in a vase, and setting in the middle of the dining room table on display. These flowers are free spirits meant to be treasured in their natural environment. They are a silent flower, meaning they make no
sound in the wind when they rub against each otherthey keep your secrets.


Cosmos are low-maintenance perennials that actually thrive in adverse conditions of poor soil and little water, but they do need a lot of sunlight. They bloom in late June to mid-July and will continue to bloom through frost. Once the flowers dry up, the seeds are available for hand-harvesting. Store in
such a way that they can dry out before putting them in a paper sack. You don't want them to mold. Stored seeds are still viable after several years of dormancy. If you plant a new bed of cosmos, just scratch them into the ground, and lightly cover with dirt to keep birds from eating the seeds.


The word 'cosmos' derives from the Greek 'kosmos', which means order and harmony (and 'the world'). Cosmos are considered group flowers because each individual flower grows close to its neighbor to offer the strength of community effort to withstand the onslaught of the wind. To take this farther, cosmos flowers embody a balance of all four elements of Air, Fire, Earth, and Water, in that order, and here is why...

AIR
First and foremost, the cosmos is a flower of the wind. It thrives in windy conditions, which makes it a perfect prairie flower, which is where I live. Even though it is a tall plant, it reaches toward the sky and will often grow to chest high, especially the pink, purple, red, and white varieties. The orange variety, which is my favorite, has a different leaf structure than the pastels and does not grow as tall. All colors of flower heads sway in a graceful dance in the tiniest of breezes, they are flexible, yet strong enough to withstand even strong winds. The foliage is fernlike so there is an airy quality to it. The blossoms, though delicate, flutter with the wind rather than take the wind's battering, and the seeds are well-adapted to blowing in the wind for distribution. Seeds of the orange variety are longer than the pastel
seeds.

FIRE
Cosmos thrive in hot, sun-beaten conditions with little or even a lack of shade. It seems that they 'look' for places to grow that expose them to the heat and light of the sun without even the tiniest hope of shade. In the wild, cosmos choose to thrive in dry and sunbaked, ground, and they prosper
during the hottest, driest time of the year, which is during the height of the summer and into early autumn. The blossoms expand up and then outwards in the manner of the sun's rays. The centers of each flower are dark to flame-yellow, and the blossoms tend to orient their faces towards the sun. When the woody stems dry after frost, they can be used as fire-starter material.

EARTH
At first look, the main stem of the cosmos flower appears spindly, even willowy, and certainly not strong enough to withstand winds, but they are actually thick, tough, and woody. They have a strong connection to the Earth element because of their expansive root system, which is in  counterbalance
to the tall branching stems, thus allowing the plant to resist uprooting by wind.

WATER
Because the cosmos plant is made up of thin, flat, dry-to-the-feel leaves and stem that offer minimal area for transpiration or moisture retention, and that the plant physically  needs little water to thrive, the element of Water may not, at first thought, be much of an influence in this plant. The seeds are also thin and dry, which makes them easily airborne. The root system does its job in inhospitable, even hostile, soil environments in the driest growing season. However, when water is available, the cosmos takes full advantage of the precious gift and does not waste a drop. Since the cosmos is in full bloom in the late summer/early autumn and is considered an autumn flower, the Water element is actually strong in it because the ancient Celtic calendar associates autumn with the element of Water.

So, to tie this back to my SSiP, my heroine has cosmos flowers growing all around her house to help keep harmony and balance in her life. *insert evil author laughter* She doesn't know it (because I haven't written it, yet), but I'm going to turn her harmony and balance upside down like a James Bond
martini—shaken, not stirred.

Until next month,

Kaye

Fall in love...faster, harder, deeper with Kaye Spencer romances
www.kayespencer.com
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**Pictures are from Kaye's flower garden.**
Note - for more information about Cosmos flowers, visit: http://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-folklore and http://www.flowersociety.org/Cosmos-plant-study.htm

3 comments:

Claudia S said...

Maybe, that sounds like a good story to look forward to! I enjoyed reading your blog!

Kaye Spencer said...

Claudia, Thank you so much for commenting. I'm about a third of the way through writing the story. Crossing fingers that it keeps moving along as well as it has so far. ;-)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I like cosmos. They are so easy to grow--unlike the roses that always end up with black spot no matter what I do. They are independent, strong little flowers.
I look forward to reading your story in the Halloween anthology for PRP.