Like the late afternoon summer sun. Like the shocking red fire of autumn leaves. Like the daily rhythms of friendships.
Each season holds a promise, something to look forward to. But every year at this time, I swear this is my favorite season. What I love about late summer and early fall is the feeling of swimming in a sea of abundance. There are too many vegetables to eat, so much green everywhere, and as much daylight as you need. It's when dinner is fresh from the garden. It's when you can eat all the sweet, crisp apples you want. It's when it gets cool enough to enjoy baking again. The goldenrod and joe pye weed paint the fields in rich color. I have to pinch myself out of a reverie of, "I love everything, I love everything!"
The sunflowers are blooming. The third wave of carrots are ready. The potatoes are pushing themselves out of their dark dugouts. If I'd had grown corn, it would be high. (Thank you, Mr. Pig-face Raccoon for eating all of it last year the night before I planned to harvest.) It all makes me feel like dancing. Or saying prayers of thanks. Or rolling around in a fit of childish, overwhelming joy.
But we're moving. Just as I start, it ends. Suddenly, I'd give anything to have to dig out another Madagascar-sized boulder from the soil to create a new bed. Suddenly, the black fly bites are worth it. And I crave another early April sunburn got by slushing around in the last few inches of icy snow to plant peas and spinach. I realize: This gardening project hasn't really been about feeding myself. It's been about a connection to place. It's been about learning the rhythms of the land and seasons. It includes hauling in wood, usually through a couple feet of snow, after a long day at school. Spending an entire humid afternoon picking blueberries in the sun. Seeing deer and turkeys move through the front yard. Watching birds arrive at the feeders, migrating south or raising young. Listening to the chorus of birdsong, cicadas, and crickets change throughout the year. It's a slow symphony, and I'm grateful just to have had the opportunity to listen. But it's been more than that. I've been drenched during a downpour as I mended a busted chicken coop so the birds would stay dry. I've hauled water, and crossed my fingers, as rain refused to fall for 2 months and our well threatened to run dry. I've waited and worried and planned and sweated. I've loved every minute of it.
Chris got a job in central Michigan. It's a good move for him. It's more than a little rough for me. We have about 2 months left at this house. I'll continue the garden plans and chicken chores. But I'll be looking for homes for the layers and storing the lettuce and carrot seeds in the fridge instead of planting them for a late fall harvest. I'll be saying goodbye to the rocky soil and the bird chorus in the garden. The Rock Garden Project will come to an end in late October.
But it will change into something else, I'm sure. Gardening is in my veins. I'll get my hands on some seeds and some soil somehow, somewhere. I intend to record the late summer and early fall happenings in the rock garden. There's so much left to do! Chicken harvest. Potato harvest. Hop harvest. Carrots, sunflowers, melons, tomatoes...
There is a time for everything, according to Ecclesiastes. It's not that simple, though. As I harvest, I sow. As I rest, I plan. As I tear down, I build. As I mourn, I dance.
"I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless...
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work."
This is the conclusion: I have gained much because I have loved much and learned much. Everything else is meaningless. But not the love, not the wisdom.