Looking Forward

Our three-week drought was finally brought to an end this week, but the damage is already done and the color season is pretty much a bust. In our personal woods there are three kinds of trees right now: Those that have already dropped their leaves from stress; those that still have green leaves; and those that offer a pale imitation of their normal fall foliage.

Fall is a poignant time for me. I love the crisp, cool weather, the wonderful colors, and the clear blue skies. But I know that soon, we will be leafless and flowerless, and it will be too cold to work comfortably in the garden. I’m a daylight person and take the shrinking length of sunlight as a personal affront.

Dan said, half-jokingly, not to think about the loss of the gardening season, but to look forward to the spring plants. Well, that is why we plant bulbs in October, isn’t it? As I think more about it, one of the pleasures of living in a four-season region is that each season has its own charms.

The big changes in our garden fall into two categories: Warm weather and cold weather. In the warm weather, with our hundreds of trees in full leaf, the forest forms a kind of cocoon around us. Hidden from the view of passers-by, we enjoy a sense of privacy that borders on otherworldliness. But neither can we see out, and our focus becomes more inner-directed, as we narrow it down to the immediate area around the house. That works well for the garden, where I can follow the progress of each and every plant.

As the leaves float downward in fall, one of the first vistas to reveal itself is the lake at the golf course across the road. Because we occupy the top of a hill and the lake is in the valley, we enjoy views of the entire lake from both the house and the garden house. At just the time of year when gardeners start daydreaming about what their space could become, our vision is broadened by our focus turning outward.

My office window faces east and, as the sun traces a lower path in late fall, winter, and early spring, my work space is filled with the brilliance and warmth of morning light, an instantaneous cure for those days when I fall prey to a mild case of SADS.

Besides, watching our Labrador Retriever frolic in the snow and enjoying the ornaments we’ve placed for winter interest in the garden balances out the grudging trek across the ice to dump kitchen debris on the compost pile.

Anticipation is a lot more life-affirming than regret, especially in the garden. We all bemoan the fact that we didn’t get all of our hoped-for projects finished this season. But hunkering down in front of a cozy fire with our catalogs and books offers its own kind of fun. In that dreamy twilight consciousness where all things are possible, our modest gardens can reach gigantic proportions of size and complexity.

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