Fading Into Stillness
You can feel summer leaving – truly leaving, not just hinting at it like it did in September – today. The cooler air that whips the fallen maple leaves into my path when I go up to the garden to collect the last of the kale and lingering raspberries holds a sense of ownership. It will be sticking around, even with the warmer days that will surely still grace our weeks as the leaves fully turn toward burnt umber and ruby and tangerine. The flock of turkeys is poking around in the field that we didn’t till this year, intent on finding whatever treasures turkeys try to find in weedy fields, and their young race around the edges, unhindered by the gusty winds. The tomato forest, as dubbed by our toddler, has wilted and withered despite the green tomatoes and hopeful blossoms that still remain between the staked patches of spent vine. The Delicata squash lay exposed, the huge green canopy of their earlier life on the ground around them, interspersed with the squash bugs that insist on making their presence known year after year. The sunflowers are keeping watch as an afterthought, now in their full glory after a season of being nibbled on by browsing deer. Potato plants lie on their sides, waiting to be unearthed, their tubers snug in the soil until we are ready for them, or until the ground freezes, whichever comes first. The inevitable squash vine that grows from the compost heap looks healthy and robust as it stretches its tendrils out over the grass. It must not realize a hard freeze is likely just days away. The tiny green pumpkins don’t stand a chance. Such is life in a garden, and in the wild. After a season of cultivation and growth and newness, there comes a season of death and settling in and newness in a different way. The earth is slowing down and making ready the space for stillness and rebuilding that defines winter.
I don’t quite feel ready to let the garden go yet – this year was colder than usual, and the plants got a late start. Some didn’t pollinate, some didn’t grow as we might have hoped they would. It feels like i’m just getting in the rhythm of harvesting and sharing the abundance that we have to give. But I don’t get to decide. That’s the thing about living on the earth – we humans can make all sorts of decisions and plans, but at the end of the day, the earth always gets the last word. There is something comforting in that, even when the earth gives us conditions that we might not want.
So though summer is on its way out for the year, autumn and the stillness that comes with winter are filling in the gaps. As the cold wind blows and the leaves start to fall, I am reminded that there is no renewal without the passing away that punctuates all things in a human life.