Today’s harvest may be the last for tomatoes and eggplant. It’s been a glorious year of copious rain, hot days followed by just-cool-enough nights, and constant harvest from the veggie garden. The backyard microclimate keeps leafy vegetables safe, and root crops nestle under the warm ground until we’re hungry for them even into December; but the tomatoes. Oh, the tomatoes. The cold seems to be taking bites out of them. I see a few rotten ones on the vine. Fall is here.
Fall is still my favorite season. Sure, Spring is bright and giddy, Summer is corpulent with flowers and fruit, and Winter is serene in its austere minimalism. But Fall is the most interesting season.
When drawing portraits or figures, I get the most pleasure from an older face or a “flawed” body. Little imperfections (if they can even be called imperfections) show the character and drama of life in a figure, adding to her beauty. In the garden, some of my happiest times involve luxuriating in the derelict textures of Fall. Fungi emerge, proving the health of the soil and making dead things into nutrients for the perennials. Leaves shift from a monotone green to multiple hues of infinite subtlety and depth, changing day to day in glowing tones particular to the autumn’s light. Seed heads rattle their happy song, “we are going to seeed!” because death in the garden is never death. Change is never the end, only part of a process.
If only we could see ourselves as plants, as part of a bigger picture. Oh, to be a peach tree (thank you, Harry Partch.) The Buddhist view is that all things are interconnected. If we could see ourselves this way, world peace would be instantaneous. We would never cry over lost loved ones. We would feel how they are still part of our world. We would not fear our own death. We would see ourselves and all other things as part of a process. And we would do much less harm in the world if we were no longer fighting so hard. What are we all fighting against all the time?
Perhaps science will prove soon we are all part of a larger organism. You, me, the plants and animals, the bacteria and worms: all of us. I really like that idea.
For now, until I become enlightened and really see all things as interconnected, I guess I’ll have to make do with lying in damp grass after an excruciatingly hard day. Down here on the ground I can see the little old man wisps of milkweed seeds bearding the asters who are themselves hopelessly tattered by bunny nibbling.
Zinnias’ and daisies’ perky flowers are brown stumps now. A random colorful bloom looks so out of place I’d pluck it if the bees were less enthusiastic. The early girl tomato keeps making fruit no matter how haggard her branches are from the chilly nights; this girl won’t give up; she’s such a fool.
I enjoy the pace of Fall, the way time changes in the revelation of slow death. The lingering demise of foliage annoys and frustrates many gardeners who cut it all back, but I relish the colors winding down, the sloppy seed heads scattering in wind, the fallen, battered warriors of summer gently falling into sleep.
Fall is a good time to give up. Give up all hope and striving. Let go of expectations. Why fight against the reality of transition and impermanence with so-called Fall clean-up? Do forests and fields clean themselves up? Let the flowers die. Let the leaves fall to the ground. Let the debris of the year pile up in a sensuous mulch protecting and feeding next year’s garden. Let go and wallow in the woody fragrances of leaf piles, burnings logs, and cool air.