It’s late October, getting on for evening, and in a backyard chair, wrapped against the chill, I find the same rare spot of unexpected contentment I find on my favorite path in the woods, at the place where the trees arch in a denser ceiling over the trail, swept sideways by the winds that blow down the hill day after day for years. The seasons shape our growth as well, in just that way – reshaping us where we stand and where we move.
Here in the little garden, what’s left clinging to vines or ground is either not harvested yet or probably isn’t going to be. October brings a reckoning of time, of returns on investment and love, promises kept or not, faithful soil still yielding up (although a little more depleted this year, got to pony up and get a couple truckloads of the really good compost next spring.) Grapevines and honeysuckle vines are dying back yellow-green. Lily stalks and wildflowers are spiky and brown, left in place for birds and insects to pick or nest inside. Beans shrivel where they’ve climbed. Sunflowers flare or droop, left for the birds, who know what’s coming next.
In these last days of warm sun the soil bursts out with the seed-burden of its whole history, including things I haven’t actually planted in years: mallow, lamb’s-ear, love-in-a-mist, nicotiana, poppies trying to have a second season before the hard frost. Brussells sprouts are losing that late-summer brassica bitterness and sweetening up, with that sharp tang still underneath (I snap one off to eat and my blood rejoices “green!”) Some peppers are still clinging to the plants; I’ll see if they will ripen any more. Okra stalks are withered, with a few yellow blossoms half-opened, frozen in place.
You’ve been a good garden, I say silently into the air, as I say every year. It’s fixing to be time to take your rest. I’ll do even better by you next year. But thank you for feeding me here deep in fall when I go out looking for something to eat and there are potatoes to dig up, kale and collard leaves to snap off, beans to shell and stash in a jar, and even beets to salvage from what the rabbits left. And sweet potatoes I’d forgotten I’d planted. You abide, and you provide. And I am grateful.