I’m wandering from the house to the garden and back again gathering the last of the summer’s bounty. Tomatoes, some ripe but most in shades of green, emerald, jade, piling up in the woven basket hooked over my arm. I snip the few okra left on the plants and mourn the last of their flowers that will never mature. The corn was finished a month ago, the beans two weeks ago and all the squashes, summer and winter, are safely tucked away in the pantry and freezer. All the herbs are drying to be put into savory dishes through the winter months or steeping in alcohol to be made into medicines. The last struggling watermelon now the size of my fist will never be eaten.
And then there are the flowers.
Masses of marigolds, zinnias and cosmos still bloom in patches all over the garden. My house will be overflowing with vases of their beauty for days as I work at picking as many of them as possible. Morning glories, blue, pink, red, white, still cling to the fence so heavy they threaten to topple it. There are new buds on the rose bushes that will never open. This life still teaming around me defies the inevitability of the death I know is about to descend. Jack Frost is coming with his icy scythe to cut down all the life that I and his brother Jack In The Green have toiled to bring forth.
I use to hate Jack Frost. I would envision him as a mean old man all bent over with anger and malice whacking away at all the beauty and bounty of summer. I thought of him as the enemy brutally killing his younger brother Jack In The Green with every swipe of his deadly instrument taking a piece of my heart along with him. Some years he would plod along bringing an agonizing slow death to everything I cared for. Some years he would strike hard and fast smashing my green world into snow white oblivion over night. But every year the results were the same. The death he brought was absolute and all encompassing. There was nothing I could do to stop him. I would work feverishly bringing in all I could, potting up some flowers, searching frantically for the last vestiges of life to save from his icy fingers. It was almost as much work as building the garden had been through the spring and summer.
Jack Frost and I have since made our peace. I know now that he is not that old ugly being I once thought. He is young and strong and has a job to do and does it well. He works to break down all the green into fertile brown soil that will give life to the new plants of the next spring. His wisdom of death brings life. We, his brother and I, welcome him. We watch in awe now as he takes the life that is left in my garden, gently, lovingly lays his crystalline fingers on it putting it to sleep, readying it for the transformation from life to death then back again.
Dead things are not truly dead, not in the way we humans think of death. According to Jack Frost and Jack In The Green life and death are intricately woven together to create all that we know as existence. Death is just the other side of life just as life is the other side of death. Below the surface of my garden in the dead of the cold white winter life rests in the arms of death – waiting.
I think I’ll make green tomato jam with all those leftover tomatoes to give as Yule gifts.