The day always comes. The light is so clear that every leaf, every petal seems lit from within. The few clouds enhance how blue the sky is. If the day were distilled into syrup and set on the kitchen windowsill, it would glow like honey all winter. But this is a day that cannot keep; it is the day before the first frost.
The girls and I work in the garden, disbelieving frost will happen. We remember cold. We chose the seeds when this ground was frozen. We sorted the packets and started the seeds growing on windowsills. And the year finally turned, oh joy. When the sun was higher in the sky every day, we planted the seedlings out into the warming soil. We tended the plants, harvested what budded and bloomed and turned to fruit. Rain came, and sunshine, and we were out in the garden every day. But, somehow, now, the year is turning again. Tomorrow, these supple, shining leaves will be blackened and crisp. Strong stems will look charred. One cold night will shrivel these plants we have tended for months. It will shrink them to nothing.
Our lives, too, are beginning the slow evolution of shrinking to the size of the rooms where we spend the winter. We are gathering in the last of the beans and the sunflowers and the cosmos blooming wildly. We bring as much of the outdoor bounty inside as we can manage; we don't want to be alone in there.
Maybe it's because I'm a bookish gardener, but I'm helpless against the metaphor. The earthworm burrows deeper in the compost heap and probably doesn't consider why. I do. I can't help myself. The last day in the thriving garden, as I clip the buoyant peas and search for the hidden cucumbers and roll nasturtium pods off the plants, I am wistful. Gardening is participating in the life cycle, getting our hands dirty in it, our knees sore with it, our hearts too. What comes will go. And each year the bright blue day does come that will end the season, and my girls and I go out on that day and gather in as much as we can, hoping to savor its simple goodness for a little longer. Working to bring in those few tender things, even as we feel change in the air, we pause to admire that beautiful sky and still cannot quite believe what the night will bring.