With warmer weather today, and cooler temps predicted tomorrow, it was the perfect afternoon to do garden maintenance. This time of year brings a bit of sorrow with it, for me, as plants die back and leaves fall and colors drain away. As I worked snipping spent blooms and pulling out dry annuals, the words faded glory came to mind often. There is much to appreciate about this time of year as well in the garden, even as it prepares to sleep.
Noticing the Energy
What I noticed as I began the task of removing annuals that were nipped by the cold last week, was how different the energy feels in the fall. I much prefer to tuck living, growing plants into pots and containers, over pulling up brown, dead plants. It is a necessary gardening task. I don’t have to like it!
I expressed gratitude, however, for each flower, each plant, as I removed them. How quickly the summer passed. Until the heavy frost last week, these flowers in Annie’s red box still bloomed. This plant on the baker’s rack still grew. There is a time and a place, indeed, for everything under the sun. A time to grow…a time to wilt away.
Sensing my mood, perhaps, one of my cats appeared and stayed close. Rilynn is the smallest of the three cats, a brother and two sisters, that I rescued as kittens. They all have their own quirky personalities, and I am hard pressed to say which among them is the quirkiest. It might be Ri though. She is tiny, with a sweet face that looks like she dipped her nose in an inkpot. And she is ornery, independent, and sometimes downright odd.
She watched everything I did, following me from the front deck, to the raised veggie bed, to the backyard garden. Rilynn loves the garden, more than the other cats. This is her domain. She suns in the garden every afternoon. The tall ornamental grasses are her playground where she hides, or naps, or pretends to stalk prey. Any container, whether it is full of flowers or not, might be selected for her nesting spot.
As I emptied flower pots and trimmed back dead stalks, Rilynn kept me company, pouncing on waving grasses, swatting playfully at my hands, running back and forth in gleeful abandon. I’m grateful for this little gardening companion. She made me laugh more than once.
Everywhere in the garden, colors had faded, green leaves and sturdy stems had shriveled and turned brown. I know this happens every year, and yet it surprises me still, the suddenness of the change. Warm temps continued well into October and colorful leaves still fluttered on trees, until the sharp drop in temperatures and a cold north wind ushered in snow.
My clematis vines had rebloomed, because of the mild fall. As I worked in the meditation area, I paused to study the blossoms that hung there. These large flowers exhibited faded glory indeed. And yet, there was beauty still as well. They reminded me of aging…and how even as looks or hair color fades, and wrinkles and fine lines appear, there is beauty that shines forth from a soul that has embraced life and bloomed with abandon. I left those flowers where they were, grateful for the visual reminder.
I did gather a basketful of dried herbs. Lemon balm, lemongrass, lavender, basil, chamomile and sage, dried by the change in temperatures, are still aromatic. I had a plan for these herbs.
Fittingly, the sun dipped below the horizon, as I completed my gardening tasks. I’ll use an electric trimmer, on the next warm day, to cut down the rest of the stalks still standing. Only the ornamental grasses will remain throughout the winter. They display faded glory as well. The cold leeched away their vibrant green color, however they are beautiful still, in shades of gold, brown, cream and beige. And their tassels wave merrily in the breeze.
I watched the sky change to reds, pinks and purples. Just as I raised my phone to snap a photo, my sister, 100 miles away, sent me a pic of the sunset in Oklahoma. How serendipitous! I felt a connection with my sister, knowing we were both appreciating the same gorgeous sunset. And I felt deep gratitude for all the goodness in my life. Turning toward the back door, I paused to whisper, “Goodnight lovely garden. Rest well. I’ll wake you in the spring.”
Offering Up Gratitude
I completed a little ritual this evening, that has become a tradition as the garden falls asleep. Using the dried herbs that I gathered in the garden, I lit a small piece of charcoal and placed it in a ceramic holder. While the charcoal turned ashen, I lit candles throughout my bedroom, tiny lights flickering against the darkness that had already fallen.
When the charcoal was ready, I added bits and pieces of the herbs. The wispy smoke that coiled into the air was fragrant with lavender, lemon, basil, chamomile and sage. Inhaling deeply, the aroma seemed to settle gracefully around my heart. This ritual is a benediction for the garden. The smoke carries with it my prayers of gratitude for another season of growth and blessing. I am thankful for the backyard paradise that I have, thankful for the beauty and peace it offers, and deeply grateful for all the joy it brings to me. So be it. All is well.