Now basil and parsley is chopped and in the freezer. Hot peppers are ready for drying. Tomatoes are freezing or waiting for a bit more red to color their cheeks. Chard, mustard greens, and beet greens are in the fridge. Green beans are blanched and in the freezer. Flowers are on the table and the window sill and in my office and between Henry's picture and memory light. Extra sage and parsley are tucked in among the zinnias and dahlias, just because it was there.
Maybe it won't freeze tonight and we'll eke out a few more nice days. Perhaps I'll pick a bit more parsley tomorrow or find some peppers I left in my haste. Maybe we'll get a handful more green beans (or not . . . I'm getting a bit sick of them). If not tonight, soon. Really, the garden is done, but for the clean up.
My neighbors have returned from their summer cottage in Maine. The leaves have been coming down for a while now, though they still have a way to go.
It smells cold and I put on layer after layer. I long for shepherd's pie and butternut squash soup and roasted beets and pork pie with apples. I've switched to red wine (or dark beer or hard cider).
I'm settling into cozy.
In 2007, summer lingered into November. The days were strangely warm. The leaves stayed green. I was at the hospital with Henry, and the unseasonal weather was part of the surrealness of my life. It was if summer knew my boy only had one growing season and gave him everything it had.
I remember bending over my big belly in May, using hand tools to loosen the soil, turning over little sections bit by bit, sprinkling lettuce seeds, setting tomato plants from the farmer's market.
I don't know what else I planted that year, but I remember thinking that if I could just get some things into the ground, we'd be able to eat something later. I didn't think I'd have much time for our garden. I expected to be too busy with a newborn. I didn't expect doctor's appointments nearly daily or oxygen or surgery. I didn't expect to be living away from home come tomato season.
Instead of running out to my garden for some greens or a bit of basil, I walked busy streets. I discovered a rose garden in a city park. I watched the leaves stay green and imagined it wasn't really fall.
I was not listening to the news, so when the weather forecasters said It's going to be a cold one tomorrow and Bundle up I missed the message. I went to bed in summer, got up the next day and dressed in my usual capris and sandals, and started over to Henry's room, only to be greeted by a blast of cold air as the morning shift hurried in in winter coats and hats and mittens.
The change is not that dramatic this year. Fall has been creeping in with cooler days, mostly, and yellowing and browning leaves. The garden has been slowing down. I'm ready for fall. Still, that it is October surprises me. Weren't Brian and I just outside in a cold rain rototilling the garden? Wasn't Henry's birthday and my careful tending of his garden only yesterday?
When was it that I hovered over his bed on a strangely warm October day? It seems so near and far. He came to me in the tenderness of spring. I said goodbye to him in the darkness of deep winter. Sunmer was fear and the golden glow of fresh beginnings. Fall was not garden clean up or glorious cool days but fear and hope and hope and hope. I did not see it for the winding down that it was.
Fall is still woods smoke and crunchy leaves and crisp apples and orange pumpkins, but it is also hand sanitizer and the beep of monitors and cafeteria food and watchful waiting and believing. Fall stirs up this part of my memory, but doesn't drag me down. I still revel in being here at home clearing out the garden, pulling clothes out of the attic, popping casseroles in the oven, planning Halloween costumes, planning hikes and apple picking and baking. Fall is settling down but invigorating too. I'm ready.