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The Year Is Turning

September 7, 2010

Two weeks or so ago we had the first day that felt like Autumn – and now it seems to have truly arrived.

Crabapple (Malus) - I wish they'd plant real apple trees, not those silly ornamental crabapples

The sun shines with a soft warmth, not the harsh heat of Summer. The rain falls softly, steadily, not in the sudden and violent way of summer. Some days are cloudy, but I won’t complain, because this, now, is the season for it. Some mornings are foggy, many are cold – I think I’ll put gloves into my jacket pockets for biking to the train station.

It is time, now, to think about bringing plants back inside. Looking at the weather report, I worry a bit – did the temperatures really go down to 6°C tonight? The holiday cacti will go back to the staircase window, in the hope that it’ll be warm enough there all winter. The Abutilons, cut back and into the staircase, too. The Hippeastrums need to go dormant so I can store them under the desk. And the Tradescantias… where? Where? Sell what can be sold – and the rest? Into the messy living room planter?

Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

It is also the season when everything is ripening, when everywhere I go, brightly coloured fruits mock me. There are a few wild plums I can reach, handfuls of blackberries, but mostly they mock me, because I can see them, crave them, but not reach them, not eat them.

Mirabelle plum (Prunus domestica var. syriaca) - these are actually mostly gone already, and I only managed to find and eat a few.

Autumn is the hardest season for not having a garden. You’d think it’d be Spring, when everything is growing, but it’s not. Certainly, I miss having a garden then, because there is so much I’d like to do, to grow, to try out.

Plum (Prunus domestica)

But Autumn is so much harder. Autumn, when I should be bringing in the harvest, when I should be sitting on the back porch in the soft sunshine, cleaning onions, shelling beans, when I should be digging up carrots and red beets to store in damp sand, when I should be saving seed for next year… all that, I’ve lost.

Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) - mouth-numbingly sour even when fully ripe, but I still like to eat them.

Going for walks is hard this time of year. Jealously staring over garden fences, it is so hard not to throw a tantrum, hop up and down, to stamp my feet and yell, ‘I wanna have a garden!’

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

Sadly, I’m too old for that by about twenty years.

And it wouldn’t help, either, as satisfying as it would feel. Instead, I should cut back on the chocolate cookies and save that money instead, work towards that dream.

Common Elder (Sambucus nigra) - one of the plants I absolutely must have in a garden.

And it’s not just the gardens that frustrate me, the vegetables, the fruit trees – it’s the ‘wild’ fruits, too – all that I can find are planted along busy roads, soaking up pollutants. I may eat a bit here and there, but I’m not going to collect bowls, bags and baskets full of them to make jam, which is one of the things I so want to do at this time of year. (I don’t actually want to eat jam, having eaten too much of it during unhappy times in my life, so now eating jam makes me miserable, but I like making it.)

Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Which, again, makes me long for a garden, where I could plant a tangled hedge of rowan and hazel, elder and cornelian cherries, blackthorn, hawthorn, firethorn, sea-buckthorn, barberries, raspberries, blackberries, wild roses, just about anything ending in -thorn or -berry, and then I’ll fight the birds for the berries.

Blackthorn, Sloe (Prunus spinosa)

A lot of the plant I want to grow are from the Rose Family, the Rosaceae, and we are discouraged from planting them because of the fire blight danger. But I think I’d plant them all the same – and hope that, as a trained horticulturist, I’d notice and recognize it soon enough, and know what to do. (Although, this spring I had a customer who asked about a problem with his hawthorn, and it was only after he’d left that I realized it might been fire blight. Which you have to report to… umm. Some sort of authority. But I’ll know better now.)

Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea)

I like Autumn. Even though it makes it hard not to have a garden, I like Autumn. I always prefer the season where things are changing to the ones where things just are. Spring, with things growing, the world waking up, Autumn, the year winding down, going to sleep, are so much more interesting than Summer, when it’s just hot, and Winter, when it’s just cold. Not that they don’t have their pretty moments, but on the whole, I prefer Spring and Autumn. Just as I prefer sunrise and sunset to day and night, the moments of waking up and falling asleep to being awake and being asleep, as I preferred being a child and even a teenager to being an adult. I can only assume that being dead will be just as boring as being an adult, those years of working, working, working and being mature reasonable*, and can only hope that I’ll enjoy old age as much as I enjoy Autumn.

European Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) - one of the few non-edible fruits in this collection, and also one of the first plants I remember being being told was poisonous. One of my friends dragged a branch - with fruits riper than this, bright pink and splitting open to reveal the orange seeds - to the playground, and my parents warned us not to eat them.

Those are the circles life moves through, to me – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; East, South, West, North; morning, day, evening, night; childhood, adulthood, old age, death – in my most important made-up language, all these are the same four words, sitikay, anmakay, layakay, tarakay – waking up, being awake, falling asleep, sleeping.

Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)

What begins now is Layakay Gudy, the Falling Asleep of the Year… thinking about this, it makes an odd sort of sense that right now, story ideas are bubbling crazily in my mind, thoughts bouncing around, putting out strange flowers (or rather, I suppose, bearing strange fruit) – lying in bed at night, just before I fall asleep, is always the best time for thinking about my stories. So it seems strangely appropriate that the Falling Asleep of the Year should also be a good time for them.

Cotoneaster - the only one of the plants pictured here that I do NOT want in my future garden. It is used way too much.


* not that I don’t like working, and being mature and reasonable has its merits, but I want more than that – I want to skip down a crowded street, I want to yell my rage at the sky, I want to dance around a lantern pole…

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), one of our few invasive weeds, and also one of plants that screams, 'Summer is ending!'

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2010 05:13

    I love Goldenrod, it’s one of my favorite wildflowers! Actually this entire post visually made me swoon. Ripe fruits are so…enchanting. Those yellow plums made me salivate even though I’ve never even had one. Your picture of the cornelian cherry answered a nagging question I’ve had since I’ve been here. I was wondering what the dogwood by my apartment was with the large fruits and that appears to be it. It’s too cold where I used to live so I’ve only read about them in passing and never actually seen them.

    Although I’m not sure how old you are I will say I doubt you’re too old for skipping down the street or dance around a lantern pole, lord knows I’ve done that more than a few times in the last few years and I’m in my mid 20s.

    • September 8, 2010 07:11

      We’re around the same age, then.
      And I’m not letting it stop me, really – it just tends to earn me some strange looks. But then again, I get strange looks all the time. Taking pictures of random greenery tends to cause that.


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