You’ve carried your mother’s book since she left it to you years ago, the one with the broken spine and fading lettering, with yellowing pages she dog-eared so many times the corners are beginning to break off. It is a guide of grainy photographs to flora of the Southwest Colorado mountains alongside her sketches in the margins of flowers in shades of violet and plum and moss. The perfume she touched to her wrists in the mornings still emanates from the paper when you touch it, smelling like the receding incense of petals.
Most days when you should be in school you take the book in your backpack, which is duct-taped at the bottom where the corners of hardbacks have stretched through the fabric. You walk from town down Coal Creek Road and into the forest, where smells of earth and foliage mingle in the air, and search for wildflowers she drew in colored pencil. Today you found elderflowers, red-berried and blooming from the base of an Aspen tree. After your last summer together, your mother pressed and dried elderflowers to preserve them through the autumn and winter and to preserve your memory of her. On days like these, you like to think that she’s leading you through the woodland to rediscover these fragments of her, as she did when you were a child.
There are flowers you want to find like primrose and red clover, but they seem to have receded back into the earth in the years since your mother discovered them. You barely remember her gathering and taking them home, where you know she would have saved them in her favorite glass vase that still sits on her bedroom windowsill. You imagine her on these sunclotted days of spring as you imagine the smell of her rose and lavender water in the air when you find yourself ambling in afternoon meadows. Some days you swear you can hear the sound of her laughter echoing through Aspen trees in the afternoon breeze. But you can never be sure, too soon that melody is carried away in the wind, just as she was.