At this time of year, there is an ethereal quality to the light so special that I’m moved to pause and simply bathe in it. Neither warm nor cool, it skims over my person as if to reassure me that it is real and is here to close out the days of warm weather with grace and beauty. Come late afternoon, the low slants of beams set the garden aglow. Every plant appears gilded, every wing speckled in gold dust. The golden hour of a day, a season, a year.
In the gloaming are revealed glimmers that bring so much joy, such unparalleled beauty.
Going about the myriad chores of the season, it is easy to miss the glimmers. But, I’ve learned over the years to slow down, sit down even, in order to do justice to this seasonal gift from Nature. How else would I be at liberty to observe the iridescent clusters of mason bees having one final fling with the mass of asters before the first frost claims the flowers for itself and the revelers go into hibernation.
The Amsonia scattered at various points of the garden grab the light to draw attention to themselves – their leaves having turned a bright yellow shout for attention as the rays of sunlight sets it afire. In contrast, the burgundy leaves of the oakleaf hydrangea appear like smoldering embers when back lit.
As leaves from surrounding trees silently swirl and twirl down in a bolero guided by the music of the wind only they can hear, I’m suddenly conscious of the air turning cold and pull my coat tighter. I feel privileged to have witnessed this collaborative performance of natural elements that feels both intimate and public at the same time.
In the midst of decay and senescence, my eyes stop at a tumble of rambunctious nasturtiums. The happily trailing plant still wears leaves that radiate emerald green punctuated by flowers of brilliant vermilion – as though it’s celebrating something known only to itself. I’m envious of its carefree ways.
Soon, I will harvest the leaves to make one final batch of pesto to freeze for winter meals. Memories of the growing season and dreams for the one to come will be indulged.
The hydrangea have begun to blush deeply and I take a break from some tedious chores to cut armloads of the flowers – to bring them indoors to fill big white, ironstone pitchers. They mark the season in a most graceful manner. With such a large bounty, I’m able to share it with those who enjoy them as much. Spreading the joy is a gardener’s perk.
The hydrangea perform once again at the holidays. Sprayed in gold, they light up the dark corners of the interior and chase away the melancholic shadows.
This being the time to divide plants, there are several that need to be attended in my garden. Particularly the ever exuberant asters, goldenrods and wood anemones. All beloved natives that surely every garden must welcome but they do need to be reined in periodically. All my ‘extras’ are readily accepted by friends and neighbors. It pleases me no end that a piece of my garden resides in theirs. Just as my own garden cherishes quite a few members that arrived from similar acts of generosity.
Continuing the spirit of sharing, in getting the plants ready for the greenhouse, a great deal of pruning and cutting occurs. From the rosemary and bay plants, I make little bundles of the cuttings and give them away to the keen cooks in my life. The thought that they will enjoy many winter meals perfumed by the herbs is enough to warm my heart. There really is joy in giving.
Small, subtle glimmers. Expansive, enduring bliss.
(c) 2023 Shobha Vanchiswar
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