Planting A Life: How Keeping a Garden is Good for the Soul (Nov.)

By Rev. Judith Laxer

At the beginning of November, I am like the squirrels: seemingly everywhere at once in the November garden. Perhaps my hair is not quite as overall grey as theirs, but I scurry to get it all done between the Pacific Northwest raindrops just the same. I collect the last of the still green tomatoes, placing them inside on the windowsill to slowly ripen. I cut another hearty sprig of lemon verbena and hang it on my drying wrack anticipating that future cup of tea. I pull up a few more carrots and praise their length as I inhale their earthy sweetness. I count how many more beets are still nestled in the soil waiting for the first frost to enhance their sugar content. I check on the kale starts I planted a few weeks ago to make sure they have taken. I deadhead the multiple blooms on the surprise sunflower that graced my garden this year, hoping to coax those last little buds to flower, their bright and cheery yellow extending the presence of Summer color.

I begin putting the beds to bed for the Winter. I clear the trellis of empty vines, remembering the royal purple string beans I savored this past summer and the bag of beans I collected and dried for next years crop. It satisfies some ancient, primal instinct of preservation in me. I pull up tenacious dandelion roots to chop and dry, knowing that adding them to winter soups and stews will support my immune system during the cold months. I prune the apple trees, thinking of the jars of sauce and chutney I canned in August, now waiting to treat my loved ones at Yule. I clip and prune, pull and compost, rake and haul, recalling how it all flourished not so very long ago.

I mow over piles of colorful fallen maple leaves and use their mulch as blankets to cover the spring bulbs and perennials now going dormant. I am a Mother tucking in her children for the night, making everything just so, humming a lullaby, my heart filled with love. I make promises to watch over them while they sleep, that I’ll be here to welcome them from the deep dream time when they awaken in the Spring. It causes me to ponder: What is this potent inward mystery of Winter dreaming? Nature knows She must rest to restore. Why must I always forget that I am Nature too?

Somehow I just can’t feel sad at the end of the growing season. Gratitude fills the space my sadness would take. Of course, this is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving! In Natures’ life cycle, the hard work of tending the bounty of the Earth is over for a season and now it’s time to rest, reflect, and relish. My soul feels in alignment with the Earth. I am a squirrel storing food against the Winter's cold. I am Mother Nature blanketing Her children with Her own body. I am the mystery of dormancy taking a grateful sigh of relief as I sink down into the darkness for reprieve.

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