Pumpkins piled high and brilliant leaves singing their bright song in a last hoorah before going to sleep for the winter are showing up on doorsteps, a blog or two and in the backs of our minds as the days grow shorter and children start picking out Halloween costumes.
The office dwellers among us realize that the precious daylight hours that we can squeeze around the work day are becoming even more scarce than they already were. For my Brazilian and Australian friends in the crowd, we Northerners trust that you will drink deeply of the long, sun-drenched days headed your way, that is, until you return them to us in a few months for our spring.
And finally, for the gardener in all of us, the barefooted steward of the Earth that listens to the moon, sings at sunrise on occasion, and can’t wait to wriggle happy fingers into damp soil, take heart! Change is, as always, upon us!
The harvest is passing and there is much to do. The end of the visions that we worked so hard to nurture into reality in our gardens over the fading summer is upon us, and it’s time to take stock and plan for the year to come as our gardens go to sleep.
This time of year is always a challenge for me. I watch my plants embrace their internal clocks, listening to the dwindling daylight hours or the cooling fall days, they yawn, falter like children that fell asleep on the couch only to be awakened and marched to bed in a sleepy trance. Some of the heartiest pump out another tomato or two, tougher and smaller than their cousins from earlier in the season, but the word is out. The plump, fertile audacity of summer’s sticky celebration is over, only a hopeful dream of springs to come remains. So, in this sobering chill, I always find time for an almost forced reflection on the year that has passed. This is truly the time for taking stock. I walk around my plot, looking for stragglers, fruit stowaways, maybe hidden beneath a trellis here, or among the perfect leaf camouflage, there. There are always a couple more to find, but, undoubtedly, they change from harvest to reminders of juicier days.
And always the question, “What have I grown this year, in my garden and in myself?”
This year I have grown and learned in ways that I will still be understanding long into the spring to come. I have taken another step in trusting the world and the soil to work if I only give them the chance, if I do the work. I trusted the soil to grow healthier and support my plants if I invested the time and energy into the future in the form of my glacial sheet mulch, and that is exactly what it has done. As many in the permaculture and regenerative agriculture movement often say, we are more soil farmers than cultivators of one specific crop. The same rings true in my life lessons from the past year as well. Like the ambitious young sprouts of spring, new people and places burst onto the scene of my life with grand claims of exotic fruit and rich reward.
While some deliver, others disappoint, and some surprise with unexpected yields, they all giggle and tremble along to a deeper song, like a river, that glides them in impassioned swirls and idle stalls across my sky only to set, like the autumn, in their own time, known from the beginning, but never expected.
So in my life, as in my garden, I thin and push aside the lovers of summer and again take stock of my soil. Soil that is neither gaudy nor vain, but lives on in a vibrant beauty that supports crop after crop, pushing each naive plant up as a fresh hope-filled expression of abundant life.
There in my soil, I see that in spite of my best efforts, in a spot or two, the grass has crept in. I know I could call down the thunder and rain a glorious sheet mulch upon this bermuda grass to, once again, make an example for the other turfgrasses to see, but that isn’t on my mind now. Like other parts of my life during this season of change, I am compelled to do a little more work. Maybe I’ll pull some grass out by the roots, maybe I’ll plant some new seeds, seeds that can thrive in the chill of winter and can teach me again about being hearty in situations that aren’t perfect, but aren’t without their merits.
Either way, it’s time to find ourselves back in the garden.
Take care of yourselves and keep growing,