The last two months have been all about reemergence. Because of the unusually mild fall weather (even after a killer frost) I was able to enjoy a few extra weeks of gardening after months of indoor confinement. As my energy and strength returned I could venture out for longer sessions of weeding, planting bulbs and harvesting the survivors of summer’s heat and drought. The decent sweet potato yield was surprising because you never know what is going on underneath those leafy canopies until the vines die back.
Like the shaggy squirrels frantically scurrying about with their nuts, we tucked away the garlic, carrots and potatoes in cool storage, covered cool season greens with cold frames and even brought in the houseplants expelled this summer when my immune system couldn’t tolerate soil molds and fungus indoors. I’m very happy to be surrounded by my green friends again, although not as many as last year. I said goodbye until next year to the annuals that would have a hard time in our dark bungalow now equipped with a little wood stove that will provide additional warmth but very dry air this winter.
The lesson I learned from my return to the garden was that life goes on despite an absence. Perhaps my importance and sense of control have been illusions after all. The flowers and vegetables that were healthy and established carried on and those that were weak and needed to be babied probably weren’t going to survive anyway. Nature has a way of doing just fine without my help with the design, it seems. As I sat in recuperation through the summer, I experienced a hit to the ego knowing how little my presence made a real difference to the world I had created.
What I found instead, as I surfaced from dark interiors into golden autumn rays was the welcome physical sensation of interacting with the retiring landscape again, to ground in spent garden beds while admiring seed heads ready to fly away toward their next reincarnations. I realized that what’s important is not tidy vegetable beds, plentiful harvests or pristine flower borders, but the immersion back into nature even when you are a little late to the party. And nature welcomes you back just the same.
Like the bounty of sweet orange tubers revealed after loss of the vine, chronic illness can strip away petty perfectionism and shallow surface adornment to reveal what has been incubating below on a level that can only be felt as I return to a world that I no longer take for granted. To be reborn into the end of a season is truly a gift.