Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hastening the Inevitable

"Blackie" Sweet Potato Vine
or Letting Things Go

When I lived in the northeastern US, I actually found the early weeks of fall to be a little bit stressful, ironically because they were so beautiful—I was keenly aware of a pressure to enjoy the moment.  Every time I walked past a maple tree, I felt like I ought to be having an intense aesthetic experience:  marveling at every nuance of color on every leaf, soaking up the glory of the entire tree, shuffling my feet joyfully through the fallen foliage, inhaling its musty, damp fragrance and saying "Aahhh" with deeply felt satisfaction.  A lot of fuss is made of leaf-peeping season in that part of the country; interactive websites even guide peepers to areas of peak color.*  If you happen to drive past a breath-taking scene while distracted by work or your grocery shopping or—heaven forbid—the road conditions, you feel like you're letting the side down.

It doesn't help to know that the steely jaws of The Unicloud (as my older nephew refers to it—the vast, gray layer of altostratus that settles in in November and doesn't leave until—well, that doesn't leave)—that steely jaws, I say, are about to clamp down on the horizon any day, and that you won't be seeing much color again until the trillium bloom in spring.  You feel like you'd better get a lot of appreciating done before it's too late.

So I was always relieved when the leaves would get just past peak color.  I no longer felt like I should be having a transcendent, life-changing experience every time I saw a tree but could go back to enjoying things in the regular way.  You could let expectation go, and allow autumn to run its course (as if it wouldn't have in any case) while you rode its rhythms comfortably.

This past week has been a more than ordinarily intense CFS week.  I caught a minor cold, which in turn caused a serious flare-up.  I've had to let a number of things go, and one of them has been the care and upkeep of the micro-garden.  That little 2' x 4' garden has given me sautéeing greens, scallions, and herbs—an average of two cups a day—for several months now, in exchange for a few minutes a day of watering, dead-heading, pest-chasing, and the like.  We're closing in hard on frost, so the season will be ending soon anyway; I've just ended up hastening the process a little bit.

Purple basil in bloom at long last
Now the "Blackie" sweet potato vine, which would normally be, um, blackish, is drying up enough to enjoy its own private little autumn.  I'm no longer dead-heading the marigolds, and perhaps they'll have a chance to set seed before frost.  The basil has finally been allowed to flower, and it is blooming happily away.  The whole micro-garden, small as it is, has an unkempt, "don't you dare photograph me like this," going-downhill-fast messiness to it.  It's not particularly attractive, but frankly, it's kind of a relief.  While many of the things CFS forces me to let go of frustrate me or grieve me, it is nice to look forward to a few months of not watering vegetables.

One of my friends in Vermont at some point every autumn declares momentously, "I'm not dead-heading my container annuals any more."  She always sounds a little defiant about it, a little defensive about letting flowers that are still going strong run to seed; but she always sounds a little gleeful, too, about taking the plunge into...inaction.

Often, having to let things go is a burden.

But sometimes it's a lovely, lovely grace.

* Thanks to P.H. for bringing this one to my attention!


  1. I understand the feeling completely, especially now that I live in an area where the weather turns inhospitable in the winter. There's this pervading sense that I'd better get out there and ENJOY the brilliant color and waning sunshine RIGHT THIS MOMENT before the other shoe drops. This is mixed with the dread of the bitter cold to come.

    Hope your flare fades quickly. I've been fighting to get out and stay out of a flare for about six weeks now. To say these things are tiresome is a terrible understatement, isn't it? :0)

  2. I haven't around to visit lately, so stopping by this evening, I was pleased once again to drop into another very nice piece of writing.

    Hope you are feeling better soon.

  3. klbrowser—Yes, I can imagine that the pressure to live it up NOW is pretty intense in the Dakotas. Though it sounds like as of today the pressure might be off... My boss is stuck in Fargo today b/c of the winds.

    Tiresome is such a nice, mild word. :) Your trip home really cost you in terms of energy/well-being, though it sounds like the price might have been worth it?

    kinked hose—Thanks for your well wishes! It's always a pleasure when you stop by.