We still haven't had a lot of frost in the city, but the community garden closes on November 1, and it's a requirement that all the plots be cleaned up before then. The sun was shining, in spite of the cold air, and I was feeling better yesterday afternoon, so I went over to the garden and worked for an hour or two, cutting back and composting all the stalks of perennials, stacking the peony rings, and taking down my trellis fence. The earth was soft and fragrant, and the dried leaves spicy underneath my feet. It did me a world of good.
When I finished my own nettoyage, I locked up the tool shed and took a last walk around the periphery of the garden. While there's a poignancy about this time of year, for sure, I also love the richness of nature coming full circle: tall grasses with lush plumes of seeds; the full-grown stands of perennials bearing their dried seed-heads; deeply-cut thistle-leaves shimmering silver above their chocolate-brown undersides. I had cut off the dried heads of species delphinium, nargilla, and digitalis and turned them upside down, crushing the pods and scattering the seeds; some would sprout in the spring. And there was still growth and bloom: tiny nodding yellow heads of clematis on newly-extended tendrils; a few sweet pea blossoms, paler than they'd been in July; a clump of anemones; some deep pink snapdragons that I cut to bring back to the warm house as a reward for their plucky vigor.
Three of the gardeners wouldn't be coming back next year. Two for unknown reasons, and one because the gardener had died at the end of the summer. She was someone I had known a little, and I walked past her garden and thought of her sweet face and soft voice; she had gone gracefully, when her time had come.
There's a tendency to go too deeply into the finality of autumn, especially for those of us who live in harsh climates -- I certainly do, sometimes -- but yesterday, in the sun, feeling my body recovering, I thought more about the sheltering quality of the earth, the way it enfolds and protects the seeds and roots and bulbs, regardless of the arctic wind whistling overhead. We flower gardeners are an odd lot, connected by our tenacious love of fragile beauty and our wonder at the miracle of each spring, wanting to be active participants in the cycle rather than mere observers. I love how each of the forty gardeners in our particular garden are uniquely themselves, expressing that passion entirely differently. I was glad I'd made some drawings of the garden during the season, and took a few pictures before I left, thinking maybe I'd do one more, trying to capture the beauty of this late October day.