I realized, as I stood on the straw mulch and hairy vetch that was blanketed by expansive butternut squash vines just a few weeks before, that enjoying the crisp air on a sunny autumn day was nirvana. The tomato plants are gone, the strawberries and raspberries won't offer any more fruit, and the few remaining green beans are wrinkled, dried pods, but the garden is still full with life and, blissfully, so am I.
The chores of maintaining an active, growing garden have morphed into a more somber undertaking. I experienced and enjoyed the new birth of colors, smells, and sounds as the gardens awoke in spring. The adolescence of the vines and stalks climbing to meet the warming sun heartened me with satisfaction and pride. All components of my gardens became dedicated and productive members in our botanical community, displaying their successes to the local insects and birds and animals and me. And now that retirement and cessation slow and halt the observable signs of their verdant existence, my role is to help lay beds to rest for the long, cold slumber ahead. Nature is entering the twilight of the year.
Many aspects of the garden slow in fall. The planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting have passed. The tools that were kept ready at arm's length are stored away. It may seem to be a place easily abandoned, ignored, and forgotten, but I find comfort in the garden at all times and all seasons.
While the landscape can appear brown and still, I see color and activity. Slender green garlic shoots peek through the straw. White strawberry blossoms shout against dark green leaves refusing to surrender to the changing weather. Miniature violet-blue flowers peer from the protective shoulders of the Veronica growth. Juvenile crookneck squash lie solitary and abandoned amid gleaned garden rows, slowly decaying, but shining in golden splendor through the ordeal. Errant bees and flies continue their explorations and epic flights. Magpies, woodpeckers, jays, and sparrows jump on the beds plucking seeds and unlucky bugs from the cooling soil.
I stand in the garden and feel surrounded by life. Some actual and some invented. I study a corner and don't see bare soil and dead peppers but rather a vision of the garden in full bloom. My imagination envisions the lush plants of next year and each year beyond that. I reshape the furrows and soil mounds in my mind. I sow adventurous seeds and transplant innovative seedlings. The vibrant hues, avian melodies, and complex fragrances of the garden are as real to me today as they were last month or will be next summer.
Gardening is a state of mind. In every task in every season, gardening connects nature and the world with an individual and his psyche. Breathing air shared by plants, touching soil teeming with life, listening to the languages of insects and birds, gazing at minuscule communities through the eye of a deity. Gardeners are able to experience all of creation at a different pace, in a different manner, than the unlucky majority focused on their daily existence.
Gardening is an important part of me. It soothes and invigorates my soul. It calms and enlivens my being. In absence I see abundance. In abundance I find joy.
How, where, and why I garden is a personal experience; no one else gardens as I do. Yet every gardener is connected by similar emotions, desires, and visions. Some have more passion, some have less, but we all expose ourselves to nature, ready to absorb its bountiful forces.
If you're a gardener, revel in your gardening. If you're not a gardener, become one. Enjoy the opportunity it offers, to stand still in emptiness while surrounded by action and abundance. See more of nature, gaze upon what it can be. Be happy.