We’ve long since closed down the garden this year---rather, the unseemly weather has done it for us, with super-chilly nights which caused the six huge potted tomato plants to shudder, wilt, and give up the ghost, leaving only the great slumpy twists of gnarled, blackened limbs dotted with dozens of small round globes of green, pink, red. How the vines withered into such ugly heaps in so short a time is amazing---we’ve had no freeze here yet, but each and every “annual” on the place seems to have breathed its last.
The grapevine, so lush in its pursuit of more and more climbing space, has dropped its leaves, and the tendrils are sere and crisp, with no hint of the life that will surge back into being in the Spring---the sad sticks of it wave from the garage, the potting shed, the light and phone wires in every direction, like a spread-out bird’s nest wrapped and clinging tight against the wind.
The last three bell peppers are still swelling fatly on the paling green plant at the back door. There’s just something about the crisp freshness from a five-minutes-from-stem vegetable---I could eat these like apples. All the houseplants have come in, arranged around the sitting area and the living room as best to catch the sun. The Perennials in the herb garden are still swaying in whatever sun the days bring---the marjoram and oregano and thyme and sage, the mint and the tarragon and the three butterfly bushes---they should all return next year. And the lavender is still waving its long velvety fragrance into the air---I never fail to give it a pet like a favorite dog, for the scent on my clothing and hands follows me into the house, and I’ll soon cut great sheaves of the limbs, to perfume the linen press and the quilt cupboards.
The tomatoes, all the lovely basils---lemon and Thai and the bright plump leaves of the plain old herb, are gone, as well as the petunias, though the few hardy pink Susan Komens that Caro transplanted into the perennially-cheerful pot of geraniums which have graced the front porch for years are standing proudly in the corner of the living room, soaking up the warm beams from all the big windows. The blooms, sad to say, though perky and happily growing in their new home, have been plucked off one by one by small hasty fingers, pressed to a little nose, then presented to me with the happy flourish of a courtier.
The hostas have yellowed, the daisies slumped into still-green limpnesses over the borders, and they will be cut to the ground this afternoon, with blankets of crisp leaves swept on for the Winter. The whole yard craves the attention of the lawn crew, and they will be here next weekend; I believe the trees will have dropped the greater part of their leaves by then, and it will be time to snug in, to seal the windows, to get out the Bounce-packed blankets and Winter coverlets, to fill the house with the aroma of an afternoon-long stew and banana bread and the bubble of a berry cobbler.
Time to put some casseroles in the freezer, for Thanksgiving and for all the crowds at Christmas, here in this fallow time, when the wind is just beginning its season’s whistle---I marvel that only COLD wind sounds in the windows and in the eaves; I cannot remember that a Summer wind makes a noise like that---only the ones trying to seep their chilly fingers into a warm house.
Time’s turning with the colors, and now is the preparing, the buttoning up and the battening down, covering our beds with down and our selves with fleece for the long cold. I haven’t seen a roly-poly caterpillar in years---something about the way they cross a road, or the thickness of their coat, or how high they climb a branch---a predictor of the severity of the Winter to come. Something in myth-memory stirs, but I cannot remember what. But we’ll prepare for what comes. We’ll be ready.