Going Home To Myself

I feel the shift long before the first frost. I see it in the angle of the sun as it rises farther southward each morning, and dips to the west earlier and earlier each day. I hear it in the particular crackle that tree leaves make in the breeze as the sap begins its return to the root. Long before crimsons and bronzes and golden yellows touch them, the leaves begin to sing a song of autumn. I smell it in the earth and taste it on the wind. Winter is coming.
This time of year holds a special place in my heart. Oh, springtime, with its green and aliveness, its flashy promises. Who wouldn’t love that? But autumn, the softening and giving way, the seeds, and even the death. I can’t help but love something about all of this.
We had an early hard frost this year. After a few hours scramble of last minute harvesting, laying on row cover with the hopes of extending life, tucking in here and there, we step away; take our hands off. Most of the summer-harvest plants perished in the cold. Of course they did. They are summer’s residents, not near hardy enough for 28 degrees. I did feel a bit melancholy viewing the aftermath; death everywhere in the shriveled blackness of zucchini leaves and tomato vines, okra stems toppled like pick-up sticks.
How could I love this time? And yet I long for it!

From death, life…
I thrust my hands into the deep richness of our year-aged compost pile. The discarded fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, scraps of paper, egg shells, now unrecognizable. No need for it to age that long, but it became the home to a mass of volunteer hard squash plants. I could not deny them their excellent choice of real estate! So much life from that heap of compost. We picked at least 24 squashes of several varieties which had found their roots there. And the compost is not used up. It is waiting for more work.
With great confidence I create piles. Piles of fruit and vegetable scraps, piles of plant debris, piles made up of layers of cardboard and soil, manure, leaf mulch and straw. I water them like living things. They are. Next spring these piles will be soft mounds very much alive with mycorrhizal fungi, microorganisms, insects and earthworms. And filled with nutrients upon which plants thrive. Three months of wet winter weather will turn the compost pile into very rich fertilizer. The gifts of death are right there.
And this is the time of the going home. The life of the plants go home to the earth. The sap goes home to the roots. The seeds settle in and wait. And I go home to myself.

A time of choice…
This is the time of choices. The sorting of seeds, the time for decisions about what to nurture through the cold of winter. Such a parallel to my life.
What have I harvested? I love giving myself the gift of taking stock. Considering what I have learned, how I have grown, what has challenged me and what has been the teacher to my growth.
What shall I send on to the compost pile; releasing it to the cycle of death from which comes life? I love this part! I get to move things out of the way to make room, to make space in my psyche and nervous system. As I get rid of clutter and things that are spent or that no longer fit my needs, I feel free, I breathe easier. I notice and release some old patterns I am ready to shift.
With that space created, what shall I bring inside to tend, to give my energy to? I want to choose carefully, to consider all the options to which I might devote myself during the winter months. I claim what I choose to serve these winter months.
And what have I completely forgotten about? Sometimes that happens in the garden. A forgotten plant buried in leaves makes it through the winter and pokes up its hopeful hand in the spring for some tending. Just as often the forgotten one perishes in winter’s tough claw. I forget about important things in my life, too; things that I want to care for, people and relationships and projects. Sometimes I forget what is most precious to me. I must forgive myself the forgetting. When I can, I return to them in the best way possible.
In this time of sorting, it is so wonderful to exercise the freedom of choice. With a little attention and devotion of time I can do it with consciousness and an eye to spring when that which I have carefully tended will grow to fruition once again.

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