I still have potatoes, broccoli and kale left to harvest in the garden. Soon, I must begin applying compost and mulch to prepare the soil for next spring and plant the garden along with other fall plantings of flowers and herbs.
Fall always arrives in a rush and I, as usual, am unprepared for the wave of hopelessness that overcomes me. The tomatoes, peppers, beans, flowers, and the lush colors of the summer suddenly give way to browns and decay leaving one in a general state of despair. Luckily, this feeling is only temporary and can be assuaged through the hard work of preparing the garden in anticipation of the following spring when the plants will once again begin to sprout and grow to full bloom. There is also the work in the kitchen of preparing and storing the harvest from the summer and fall. It is a time to grow closer to family and community.
I, like many people living in suburban communities, feel a disconnect with my neighbors. I am treated as a sort of oddity by my neighbors. They arrive in amazement during the summer to witness the bounty I have managed to grow, but seem puzzled by my efforts and slightly taken aback in wonderment over my motivations. Am I a survivalist, hippie, malcontent, liberal, conservative? All these questions seem to be forming in the backs of their mind as they make comments on the amount of work and time my efforts must consume.
Fall is a time for reflection and with the wave of hopelessness that accompanies the end of the harvest, one can be overwhelmed with grief. I don’t see a need to run from this grief or feel a need to medicate it. Rather, I let it flow through my veins and contemplate the loss I am experiencing with the fall while being aware of loss and death in the world that surrounds me. Life and death go hand in hand and the experience of fall should prepare us for our own deaths and help us learn to live with our mortality.
As someone who follows and sometimes obsesses over political and global events, fall can amplify the hopelessness of our times. But, it is only by experiencing the despair and working through the misery that accompanies the life cycle that we can retain our sense of hope and put it to use to build a more sustainable world beginning with our own lives. But, we are a society that treats depression and grief as a disease rather than a perfectly natural response to our changing conditions. Rather than experience this grief we medicate and dull it so we can forget about it. But nothing we do can erase the fact that we are all mortal and our death stalks us every moment of our lives.
What many of us do not realize is that medicating and forgetting about our inevitable death may prolong our lives and keep the physical body alive, but it creates a spiritual emptiness. Most of us spend the majority of our waking moments in a trance that might as well be death for the experience it gives us. Our lives are not killing us, our lives are already dead. This is why we must experience grief, taste it and glorify it. That is what fall reminds me, anyway.