Usually autumn in Nova Scotia is a thing of wonder and glory, especially in September & October. This year, not so much, especially October. For many of us, what is usually a golden month felt uncomfortably like November, with a seemingly endless repetition of rain, cold, wind, dreariness, cloud, repeat as necessary. And now, abruptly, we're in November.And so many garden to-dos haven't yet been to-done.It could be cause for guilt, panic, frustration and I-give-up-itis. Could be, but isn't.
A couple of things happened that helped to adjust my attitude. A week or so back I was squishing my way around the yard, complaining about the mess and begrudging the disappearing of beauty & stressing over the to do list. Then I came indoors for coffee and took a few minutes to catch up on some blog reading. My friend Kylee at Our Little Acre had written a post about what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, and it pulled me up short. She was following an exercise challenge put out by fellow garden writer Debra Lee Baldwin at gardeninggonewild.com, also talking about this subject.
Wabi-sabi, Debra writes, is “the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in imperfection and transience. In seeking wabi-sabi, one cultivates an appreciation for the ordinary and becomes aware that age offers its own poignant beauty.”
Hmmmm. Beauty in imperfection and transience. That really resonated in my soul. We’re a culture that seems to seek perfection, though what defines perfection varies with each of us. I thought about this for a while, and went back outside to look at the garden again with more open and less critical eyes. There is a lot of beauty out there, when one takes time to look at things a little differently.
We can fixate on the fading roses (which indeed hold their own beauty) and while brooding about the dying blossoms fail to see the valiant late blooms still coming on.
Such blossoms are unexpected gifts that we sometimes forget to appreciate, just as we fail to appreciate friends, family, the daily blessings we have.
So you know what happened next, don't you? I turned off the critical gardener who sits on one shoulder, listing all the to-dos that need to get to-done. And went back out into the garden.
Turned off the eyes that are mourning the winding down of summer and opened the eyes that rejoice in late season flowers like widows tears.
Saw the dying foliage and denuded stems as just the prologue to a new chapter, not the end of the story.
Instead of being sad because the hummingbirds aren't here to enjoy their feeders, I was glad that the calibrachoa was still flowering its head off, seemingly unscathed by the frosts.
Seedheads of this exuberant clematis look like cheerleader pompoms or floral fireworks, celebrating the season's finale. The way they catch and reflect light when the sun deigns to find us makes me deliciously gleeful.
We’ve had some frost, but not enough to do in all the annuals, and some are still valiantly flowering, like the verbena and lobelia (yes, lobelia!) and alyssum and osteos. They may not be as profuse as they were in July, in most cases, but that means we can focus in more closely and celebrate one single flower or cluster as opposed to being overwhelmed by a wash of colour.
And suddenly, with a shift in my thinking about the garden, everything seems to be all right, even if the beds and borders aren’t perfectly tidied and weeded. They never are. But they’re beautiful anyway.
The bulbs that I don't get into the ground outdoors can do their bit to remind me that they are "another season's promise", in the words of the late great singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, by catching winter light and turning from promise to blossom.
I’m sure most of you are already quite able to celebrate the beauty in imperfection and transience, but if not, that’s my wish for you as we go forward into November. Regardless of the weather.