Taking Down the Garden

December 2, 2013

1384804498053I love to garden. It’s a spiritual practice and therapy and a path to peace and all that kind of perspective-inducing thing. And I say that without an ounce of sarcasm. It’s also about food, of course, but mostly this stuff is all interchangeable. Watching a garden for even a season will teach you that time isn’t something you get to master. Things cycle. In a garden, the lines between death and rebirth are blurry at best. The lines between wild and cultivation are gray; there’s really no beginning or end. I could go on.

As I was taking down the garden a few weeks ago, a few days after the first frost had killed off the last of the green tomatoes, I noticed my sons and our youngest dog playing off to the side. Laughing, throwing leaves in the air, and running their cars through the soil they were clearly not feeling the weight of a coming dormancy. Instead they were mystified by the process of pulling up a garden and the beginnings of decay, and they kept running up to ask me questions about the roots and soil and the birds hopping around frantically before winter.

There I was holding the cold plants, thinking about how long it would be until the next Spring and how (literally) pregnant I would be by then, yet they were focused on the coming of dormancy like it was as magical as planting seeds.

1384804498497It is, of course, just as beautiful. At least logically speaking.  But very few humans like this part. It’s a lonely part, a quiet part. Most of what’s happening we can’t see, and there’s a metaphor that goes on for days. But my boys were fixated on the wonder of it all and mesmorized by the feel of the cold plants in their own small hands.

Inspired by their observations, and an attempt to deal with this concept of dormancy (something I’ve been ruminating on for years now), I decided to share some photos of my dead garden. Any gardener knows it’s never just about the spring. So why do our pictures always suggest this? isn’t this dishonest, really? To focus just on the ripening? The harvest is nothing without the dormancy, right?

So I’ve decided to refuse to talk only of harvest. Everything cycles, even if this is something I don’t always welcome.

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4 Responses to “Taking Down the Garden”

  1. Nelda said

    I remember a line from Leslie Prosterman’s book about the state fair… what was it called? Ordinary Life, Festival Days. She’d been talking to a farmer, who was looking at a perfectly plowed field, saying that that was beauty. I’ve always felt that a torn out garden felt like being tucked into bed. The gardener asks so much of that ground, and putting it to bed for a season seems only fair. If I get back to the refugee garden before it snows too much, maybe I’ll take some photos!

  2. Kimberly said

    I love this Meredith! I wrote similarly on this theme last year (http://yallsettledown.blogspot.com/2012/08/on-community-compost.html), and having the pictures just seems to be a form of meditation – to sit and be present with the season as it is. Thank you.

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