Working It Out

After that sudden freeze we had a couple of weeks ago, we are currently experiencing September-like temperatures. Methinks Mother Nature is teasing. Or maybe she is testing us?

It is hard to be enthusiastic about chores in autumn. There is much to do and after all that work, we are faced with short, cold days and long, even colder nights. So while the weather is still balmy, it feels only right to soak in the warmth and revel in the beauty of the season. The way the colors glow without ever seeming gaudy inspires and confounds the artist in me. I am eternally humbled by Nature’s mastery.

Despite wanting to just sit outside, there really has been much activity in the garden. A great deal to tidy up, cut back, clean, prune and put away. The raking of leaves alone is a big task. It goes even slower when distracted by the richness of hues in the fallen leaves. The pots need to be emptied and cleaned; they get put away only when they’re truly dry lest some mold or bacterium settles in to taint next spring’s plantings. The very large pots, once cleaned, will be wrapped in plastic and then burlap so they can stay on site. Wisteria and fruit trees are pruned to a state of tidiness. Fall window boxes installed. The greenhouse is already harboring the tender plants – refilling the propane tanks used to keep the greenhouses heated becomes a weekly job from now till the spring thaw.
I have about 750 bulbs to plant and normally, I’d have got them into the ground by now. But with the soil still being so warm, I’ve postponed it till next week.

Yes, there is plenty happening in the garden. Putting it to bed is much more challenging than getting a 3-year old to sleep. More exhausting too. The only way to keep doing the hard work is to remind oneself of why we garden and what makes one a gardener.

Here is how I see it. To be given the chance to create a garden is a divine endowment. A calling even. It happens from within. Simply owning a piece of property does not a garden make. Look around – not every house has a true garden. Having the inner fire to make something of it is the first sign. And then, one surrenders to Nature. We make mistakes, fail repeatedly and still keep at it. We cannot distance ourselves from gardening. We are connected deeply. What a gardener gives, he gets in return. It is a beautiful, complex relationship – where each lets the other shine and thrive. It is built on forgiveness, constant nurturing, trust and love. Most importantly, there is room to grow individually. If you stop to think about this, you’ll see what I mean.

Now in the autumn, while the gardener is clearing and cleaning up so the garden can rest, the garden in turn, is instructing on accepting change, preparing for the future with grace and bringing a self-awareness so we can become more of who we want to be. As I get rid of the detritus and debris from the garden, I consciously go inside of myself. To peel back layers that I thought I needed and instead begin to feel comfortable with my exposed flaws and vulnerabilities. To accept who I really am and take joy in that.

The bones of the garden are now more visible. Without adornment of flower or foliage, it lies naked in repose. All is as it should be. I too welcome the winter to spend in introspection and gratitude. Together we will emerge next spring – renewed and ready.

Pssst! I’m starting some amaryllis today to cheer me on.

Note: If you live in my neck of the woods, please be sure to see the Northern Westchester Artists Guild exhibit at the Chappaqua Library. Nov 8 – Jan 4.

I have two paintings in this show and would love to see you at the reception on Nov 8, 3:00 – 6:00 pm.

Chappaqua Library,185, South Greeley Ave, Chappaqua, NY 10514.

Enjoy these images of fall taken today at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture ( :




(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar



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1 thought on “Working It Out

  1. Great column. Loved the comparison between putting a garden and a three year old to bed. And what the gardener gets from the garden. True, true, true. Lovely pictures – especially that exceptionally cute little dog!

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