Sunday, September 25, 2011

Warm Welcomes

or A Foot in Two Worlds

Just having the curtains open is a pleasure.  All summer we do our best to block out the sun, and now to welcome it with open arms, to let it stream unhindered through the kitchen window, is sheer joy.

Out on the patio this morning, the sun's warmth felt good again:  good early on, over a cup of tea, while it took away the dawn chill; good later, over the crossword puzzle and decaf, and later still over a notepad and pencil, when those golden rays dispensed sleepy contentment with a generous hand.  And oh, what that sunlight did for the colors in the garden—instead of being washed out in a harsh overhead glare they were backlit and glowing with warmth, filled to the saturation point with light.  They aren't showing fall colors but summer's colors refreshed.

They're a reminder that this is still just September.  Morning may have leaped into autumn wholeheartedly, but afternoon is still clinging hard to summer.  Highs are in the mid-80's F, close to breaking records yet again this year.  For now, at any rate, we still have a foot in both worlds. 

It's time to replant the microgarden.  More than time, really—two or three weeks later than I'd have liked.  Some of the summer veggies are just picking up steam, though, having waited until the worst of the heat passed to start setting on.  Now they're in a race with frost, trying to ripen in a part-sun garden in ever-shrinking hours of sunlight.  The tomatillos and summer squash may yet make it.  Meanwhile the marigolds are blooming their hearts out, and the amaranth seeds are feeding the goldfinches while its stems and leaves provide a windbreak on the little garden's north side.

Even with the things that will remain in the microgarden, plenty of others are ready to be ousted and replaced by chard, arugula, radishes and carrots.  The soil is still warm enough that the seeds should sprout quickly.  Managing new seedlings' space and light requirements will be tricky in that 2' by 4' space with the summer plants so tall around them, but it ought to be do-able.  For a while the garden will just have a foot in two worlds.

I never find seed planting as compelling in fall as it is in spring.  In spring you're thrilled when the seeds come in the mail, aware of their potential and eager to see them grow, impatient with those last few frosts.  Planting seeds is an Essence of Spring Experience like no other.  The hope outweighs every other consideration.

In fall I'm more aware of lugging soil around and of the mess of emptying out the microgarden and refilling it.  Those things are fine—they're part of the overall pleasure of gardening—but they're not the same as that rush of hope in spring, and they don't quite radiate the golden glow of autumn like, say, pumpkins and apples and turning leaves do.  Composted cotton burrs and cow manure—I dunno, there's something kind of mundane about them.  When I think of what makes up the glow of autumn, and what goes into an Essence of Autumn Experience, composted cotton burrs and cow manure just aren't it.  They're a necessary first step, however, making more glowing, harvest-y parts possible.  I will be grateful for them in December when I pull up a handful of carrots and can relive a little of fall's golden warmth.

This is the one season I can wax endlessly rhapsodic about.  Spring is delightful when it behaves, summer is lovely but has to be coped with, winter—I'll just growl now and get that out of the way.  But's the light.  It's that beautiful, golden sunlight.  I could spend hours just soaking up the rich warmth of that light. In a sense being aware of the mundane, earthy stuff like (composted)  manure is a good counterweight for autumn's heady enjoyment.  It anchors you occasionally in practical, everyday reality instead of letting you stay immersed in a world of shining, living colors.  Sometimes you want to bask in wonder at the beauty around you, but sometimes you need to get things done.

It doesn't hurt to have a foot in both worlds.


  1. I SO agree with you about the light of autumn - it's all about that magical light!

  2. The sun was a warm glow today and lower in the sky. I'm ready for the more mellow earthy tones of autumn. It's been such a strange year.. 80F... I wish. I'm been looking forward to wooly jumpers and being knee deep in leaves on dog walks for a while...

  3. Ah, such beauty you capture. It makes me stop and think and just be. Thank you!

    We were warmer than normal last week, cooler than normal over the weekend with rain, and today its just about 70 with clouds and a little rain.

    I've picked the tomatoes that were ripe. The plums and berries got ahead of me, so I will do what I can with them later.

    Thanks so much!


  4. We too were in the 80's. But the coldfront from Canada is rolling in with Saturday in the low 50's and nights in the low 40's. I already pulled many of the tomatoes and am eying up some of the annuals. I am ready for summer to be gone and fall to kick in. But you are right, a foot in both worlds right now.

  5. A beautiful post. You make me want to spend a couple of hours sitting outside and appreciating the fall light. I like what you said about summer refreshed.

  6. Ginny, I don't know why it should have such a different quality than spring light--you'd think they'd be the same--but autumn really is more magical!

    Janet, getting dressed in the morning has been a challenge lately--sometimes there's a 30 degree difference between a.m. and p.m. One of the biggest things I miss about having a dog is those long fall walks.

    Elaine, I'm glad you finally had some summer weather this year, though 70 and overcast must be kind of a relief at this point, too. Fruit trees and brambles are hard to deal with, because they're so demanding right NOW. A lot of my sand cherries just dried on the bushes again this year. Enjoy those tomatoes! A warm hug, as always.

    Donna, my family took a fall driving trip to Niagara Falls when I was not quite three--I actually still remember the leaves, they were so gorgeous. I'm looking forward to seeing your photos of it this year! Autumn is beautiful everywhere, but the northeast seems live it up more than any place else.

    Sheila, I was actually wondering if your garden had recovered a little from the summer heat. A lot of things here have gotten a second wind.

  7. So true about the hope in spring versus autumn ... I'm planting seeds, prepared that the seedlings will probably die over winter.

  8. b-a-g, that sounds like a forlorn hope if ever I've heard of one...