Flakes the size of your hand, a riot of colors, and noisy – wisecracking, chuckling, snickering piles of leaves pretending to be snow. Telling jokes, they keep cracking up before they get to the punch line. They try to hold still, then fidget, jostle for a better position, and then burst out laughing. All day I hear them rustling. Leaves. I’ll miss them in the cold, black and white silence of winter.
Up again in the dark (easy this time of year). I get the paper and look up to a lemon-wedge moon — not a “Harvest Moon” or a “Hunter’s Moon,” but a “Lemon-Wedge Moon” — juicy, tart and a little bit silly. After that it’s hard not to greet the day with a smile.
Later lemons find their way into our lunch in a delicious, vegetarian version of mulligatawny soup.
The garden is slow to go to sleep. The frost or two we’ve had have been mild. Tomato, peppers, basil leaves wilt, green tomato skins turn translucent as they freeze, but raspberries still ripen, broccoli blooms, and mint thrives.
I turn off the outside water so the pipes don’t freeze at night, but by afternoon I wish I hadn’t, because I need the water for some young trees, to clean birdbaths. I carry buckets from inside instead.
The sun is warm, warm enough (out of the wind, out of the shadows) to sit outside and bask in the glow… and slowly… slowly… go to sleep.
Roma tomatoes fresh from the garden
Tomatoes contain our entire summer, from the earliest days, still cool, still fearing frost; through heat, and fears of too much rain, or not enough; through storms and hail and advancing weeds.
They grew in our own backyard, sharing our lives, breathing the same air, basking in the same warmth and light. A part of our lives is in them, in their red glow, their juicy flesh, in the seeds we save for seasons yet to come.
We can savor the summer later in tomato sauces – a comfort in winter, to be sure – but nothing’s better than tasting it now, deeply, before it’s gone.
I’m pulling up the first bed of peas we planted. They are past their prime, and I only found about a dozen stragglers to pick before cutting them down, but I can’t help feeling sad to see them go… a whole lifetime over in just a few weeks. Beautiful, productive, delicious weeks, ending at the height of summer.
It’s a turning point, from the cooler, moister crops of spring and early summer to the warmer, dryer crops heading into fall. The bed is now a clean slate, ready for some pepper transplants
On the deck this morning, sipping a smoothie full of berries fresh from the garden, I look out and see green everywhere I look. Green piled on green, deep and broad and high, grass and shrub and tree, it fills me with its abundance. Life piled on life, rich and varied and unbelievably generous. I play at gardening, but this overwhelms me, lifts me up and gives me hope.
So the peas are fading… but the beets and broccoli are coming on strong. The weeds are vigorous, but so are the raspberries. The cardinal flowers are depleted this year, but the catchflies, the quinines are stronger. For every little setback, there is a bigger advance, and more is on the way.
rain, and heavy dew
full to bursting
brimming with tears
not quite the end of summer
not quite the beginning of fall
It’s too wet, too cool, too soon. Summer’s left rotting on the vine – tomatoes, squash, cantaloupe. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t enough. They gave all they could give, and now it’s over. Mushrooms sprout in the midst of decay. There are signs of renewal – in the mint, the chives, in the weeds. But it’s mostly tired, second growth, pale reminders of what once was, or could have been, in spring.
dank, tepid, fetid air, full of decay…
A beautiful squirrel was killed by a car on our street this morning. I stroke his fur, cradle his still supple body, all lost in an instant. Now his bleeding mouth, his bulging eyes turn into the rotting corpse I bury in an unmarked grave in the garden.
The flowers, the ferns won’t tell, but I remember where he lies.
This morning I found a crocus geometer moth (Xanthotype sospeta) – a grown-up inchworm – inside our screened porch. I scooped him up into a glass and carried him outside, but he stayed resting inside the glass for over an hour, giving me plenty of time to watch him.
I’ve been trying to plant more caterpillar host plants lately – milkweed, pearly everlasting, pussytoes, and even dill. It’s still too soon to expect more butterflies and moths because of it, but every new visitor is encouraging.
Because I know it’s going to be over 90 degrees today, and I know I have to mow the lawn, I start mowing at 6am… a side benefit of a purely human-powered mower: it doesn’t disturb the neighbors. As a result, I’m finished with all of my yard work by 8am, just as the yard begins to brace itself under the weight of the sun.
After I’m done I graze on Swiss chard from the garden, a raspberry here, a blueberry there. I like an edible yard.
Later I have some time to just enjoy the yard, from the shade, moving slowly, not sweating, and Bijou comes out from his hiding place to follow me. The Bachelor’s Buttons are reaching their peak now, delicate blue-bladed blossoms that still look cool, even in direct sun.
I lie down in the grass and look into Bijou’s wild green eyes. They remind me of the “green fire” Aldo Leopold saw in the eyes of a dying wolf, or the eyes of a bobcat, or even a mountain lion. And I know, as deep as I can go, that size doesn’t matter – not in cats, nor in a patch of ground. The seeds of great wilderness still lie at the root of it all.