As I sit here typing, the rain pounds the windows and the deck, the ground and the garden. Unlike the fresh warm rains of spring that bring growth and life, this rain seems to be beating a cold, beckoning rhythm of an ancient song. It sings to the earth a lullaby from Ecclesiastes, in lyrical harmony with the northern wind, “to all things there is season, a time to plant, a time to pluck from the ground” … and to the leaves they gently nudge, coaxing the them to the ground, reminding them that, after all, “Nothing gold can stay.” Soon, a white blanket will cover the sky, the earth and all will be hushed as the growing world sleeps
Autumn is often closely associated with death and dying. It does have a way of reminding us of our mortality. Almost all plant life and gardens die in the fall, however rigorously planned, religiously watered, relentlessly weeded and regularly fed! In the same way, no matter how well we take care of our bodies there is only one common end to us all and it is not that different than what happens in our gardens in the fall and winter. We wither, we dry up, and we die. It is no accident that Halloween and the Day of the Dead are part of fall celebrations. Like many others, I dread the end of the sunny growing season and the darkness that seems to wrap the world in a shroud here in Indiana during the fall and winter months. And though there is no doubt that the benefits of gardening are many and far reaching, yet, I have to agree with the musician Arthur Schnabel who says, “The notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses- ah, that is where the art resides.” Even The Divine Gardener rested after six days. There is a cycle to life, a rhythm which enables life. And it requires rest, hibernation, Sabbath and sometimes death. Could fall and winter be thought of as a Sabbath for the garden and the gardener?
Several weeks ago, I cut my last bouquet, arranged it in a vase and posted the picture on Facebook, announcing the end of my garden in the post: “The last of my summer flowers” or something like that. A sad day, indeed! But the next day I ventured outside and began collecting something different. Not as colorful or typically pretty, but still full of beauty and life. As I walked along the back row of my garden, I looked at the brown curled up sunflower heads, and there I saw them–seeds. Each sunflower had one large head or a dozen or so small flower heads, and each flower head had seeds for dozens upon dozens of sunflowers.
I find sunflowers so amazingly beautiful. The way the seeds are arranged within each head like a mandala, a pattern so intricate and rhythmic, a glorious testament to The Divine Biologist, Artist, and Gardener. And then, of course, there were the marigolds. I could collect seeds from those flowers for days and if each flower has roughly 25-50 seeds. There would be enough to give everyone I know a garden full of marigolds.
Everywhere I look as I drive down the road the land is turning brown. But when I look carefully, I still see an abundance of life and hope. Encapsulated in a seed pod, held tight by the head of a shriveled-up flower or buried by the feet of well-meaning gardeners, seeds are at rest, like fetuses in wombs, fast asleep and awaiting warm breezes and an ancient, triumphant song of birth and life. To everything there is a season, after all.