i was out in the garden tonight, tidying up some of the plants, pulling out others, and picking lots of veggies.
in a post-surgical sense, this was a terrible idea. in a fill your soul with peace and gratitude sense, it was spot on.
today was a perfect autumn day. there was a cool breeze, and it smelled the way it does just before or after a rainstorm. it was chilly enough that my youngest asked me if it was winter, and i actually smelled a wood fire (btw- our house in seattle has a fireplace- woohoo!!! my dream!). this evening we had laundry in the dryer, so our whole yard smelled like warm cozy flannel sheets. my neighbor came outside and said that this weather reminds her of babies in blanket sleeper pajamas- so, the feeling must be universal!
i picked lots of vegetables that i normally would have left for a few more days, but with the chill in the air, i feel like i might be sentencing them to death by freezing. it’s an odd sensation, having the power of life and death over each tiny veggie, and even though i’ve really had this power all along, i felt it much more acutely tonight. i was part of the garden again, and i felt such a connection to each plant that i’m truly surprised i didn’t name each small vegetable.
it washed over me that, in the same way some dogs and dog owners come to resemble each other, my garden at this juncture kind of mirrors me.
it’s been quite a summer. we had the garden fiasco of 2011, smoothly segued into the job find of 2011 and the great moving escapade. oh yeah, and i had some surgery 😉
and the garden looks like it’s been through as much as i have. it looks worn out and battle scarred, but somehow ready for the calm hibernation of fall. it looks ready to be tucked into bed amid fluffy quilts and warm jammies and maybe a cup of tea.
we have had a good run, the garden and i. we opened some eyes, made some headlines, endured plenty of chaos, and created lots of quiet moments of reflection. we shared our secrets and our hopes, and helped each other find the calm in the midst of the storm.
as i picked through the plants, it was like a movie montage playing in my head: scenes of my kids out on the garden swing, snapshots of ryan helping me trellis the cucumbers (me the avid student, him the ever-patient garden guru- i remember how he was so sure of what he was doing, even as he braided the vines through the trellis. mine snapped; his twisted with a subtle grace in and out of each level, until they emerged triumphant at the top. i wish that everyone could have the benefit of a gardener like ryan- he took a monumental project and turned it into a real live garden. he was with us through every trial and test, and he never backed down or shied away. in case i haven’t said it enough: thank you for every single plant and every single vegetable, ryan- we will never forget you!!!!!). i saw us giving interviews in front of the tomatoes, and pulling out every single weed. i remember when the plants were so tiny that i worried if it rained too hard they would be trampled into the dirt. flashes of putting down the compost and the mulch, and how proud we were when it was done that we had done that! there was no sappy music in the background, but it didn’t matter, because i could almost hear the garden singing its swan song.
it’s been a long, hard, productive, crazy season. more has happened in a few short months than usually happens in an entire year. the garden shows it all- in its big sturdy plants, in its partially dead and dying leaves, in its rotting fruit just now visible on the bottom of each pile. some of the beds are empty, and others are dying back. they really look like their life-force has left them and gone to a warmer climate for the winter, but they are leaving behind one last hurrah: melons struggling to ripen on the vine before they die, cucumbers fatter than they are long practically yelling, ‘pick me! pick me!’ trying to avoid the frigid night, and tomatoes perfectly formed but still hard and green- happy to be put in my paper bag to ripen indoors at their leisure.
as we continue to pack box after box inside the house, the garden is also packing up and going home. i wish we were staying here, so i could plow under the dead plants to nourish the soil for next year. i wish we could be more plugged in to that ‘circle of life’ where i would feel like this year’s rotten melon would produce next years something or other.
but the plants are coming out as they die. not to be auctioned on ebay (although more than one person has suggested it!), not to go into the compost pile (which is also being left behind), but into the garbage like the tinsel that blows in the streets after the christmas trees have been put out for trash when the holiday is over. the straggly tendrils of once proud zucchini evoke memories of plastic grass from easter baskets strewn over the floor, disregarded in favor of the chocolate eggs.
the tomato plants still give off an intoxicating scent, which leads me to ponder why i think of intoxication together with tomatoes. maybe my unconscious mind knows that in victorian times tomatoes were called ‘love apples’ and they were believed to be poisonous. but for now their smell reminds me of heaping bowls of steaming pasta, and of thick sauces and fresh salads, and squishy sandwiches.
each cucumber makes me think of all the pickles i will not make this season, but also of all the happy neighborhood children visiting in the garden and taking home their yummy green prizes.
i think over all, we did great, my garden and i.
we braved the summer head on, and now we are packing it in for the fall.
and i think we both deserve a nice big mug of hot cocoa.