Life flows. The garden and managing it’s bounty takes hours of my time. Whole weekends get dedicated to putting in spring starts, preserving tomatoes, catching up on weeding when I fall behind, which is often.
And then, in the turn of a season, the garden coasts. Weeds slow, crops round into maturity of their own accord. She needs a little top dressing maybe, a little harvesting, but basically she knows what she’s doing and I just enjoy the result, relaxing into the kind of satisfaction that comes when the work pays off.
I just put my daughter on the bus to school. She, too, is rounding into maturity. She is not yet a young woman, but there are moments when I can see her girlhood fading into memory.
She knows what she’s doing, where she’s going, what she needs to do. She manages her own affairs far more than I could have imagined nine years ago, when she was just thinking about worming, belly-down, across the carpet over to grab some particularly interesting toy.
My son, too, is starting to need me less. I can’t say I’m upset by this. I’ve always been the kind of mom who thinks my job is to raise independent people, and unending, unceasing giving to others, even to my own flesh and blood, has never struck me as a particularly balanced way to live. And yet, you get what you get, and my son for those first three years was the kind of kid who took up a lot of space in a room.
Making space for him was a full time job, and it damn near killed me. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. He’s wonderful. Charming, thoughtful, funny, smart, and very, very goal oriented. He wants what he wants, when he wants it, and he doesn’t want to take no for an answer. This is a personality trait with which I deeply sympathize, since he got it from me. And if I had the choice, I’d do it all again without question.
But, within the context of my life, which is quite blessed and easy as these things go, those first years with my son, my son who never slept, my son who feels his feelings, my son who goes from zero to meltdown just like that, they were just hard.
Mom’s aren’t supposed to feel frustration, or resentment, or anger towards their babies. Well, let me declare publicly that I am a damned good mom and I have felt all those things. And not just once – in those first couple years with my boy, I felt those “bad emotions” often. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said something like, “Can you give mommy three minutes to finish….oh, fuck, where did you get those oil pastels? Not the couch, are you fucking kidding me? Fuck!”
And yet here we are. Life flows. Seasons change. He’s sleeping, I’m sleeping. For the first time in nearly three years I feel like I can breathe. I want to see friends, go out with my husband, invite people in instead of hiding away inside my little bubble. The self-medicating with wine and chocolate has fallen away as I’ve clawed my way back up the stacked mountain of obligations and challenges and moments of pure bliss that we call life and realized I really can do this, and more than that: I really want to.
Seasons change. My son starts preschool today. I don’t have an infant anymore, or a challenging toddler, I have this remarkably fun little guy who asks punctuated questions and runs for the joy of going fast and can do lots of things for himself, which is, I think, all that he’s wanted all along.
Outside, too, we’ve moved on from the pressing eagerness of the summer harvest, where a million things cry to be dealt with right this instant. The weeds still grow, the tomatoes still ripen, there is still plenty to do.
But squash plants and cucumber plants are taking on that tell-tale yellowing that is unavoidable as the cooler nights and rains return. Leaves are getting blotchy as mildew finds conditions to it’s liking. Fall cabbages and chard and kale start to move to the forefront, lovely and unassuming and finally, in the crispness of the evenings, the makes of an appealing cool-weather meal.
Fall is my favorite time of year. The air feels like the crunch of a tart apple against your teeth. Damp earth, wood smoke, slow-braised suppers and clean, crushed cedar mingles into this comforting, honest scent that begs you to breathe in deeply, to clear the dazzle of summer from your lungs and to turn you back towards home and hearth.
A season is a period of the year related to the earth’s position with regards to the sun, of course. But it also means to flavor something, or to become accustomed to particular conditions. A bland soup must be seasoned. You can become a seasoned writer, or a seasoned gardener.
Some periods in our life add more spice – seasoning, both sweet and tart – and some season us, make use stronger. Here, on the cusp of the seasons, pause. Look back on those well seasoned times and know, gratefully, that they seasoned you.
Seasons change. Whatever’s next, bring on the turn. I’m ready for fall.0
Your description of the changing seasons both external and internal is quite moving and reflects my own life. My lovely challenging will not take no for an answer daughter is now 23 years old but I remember the growing up years – with a nostalgic wince. You strike me as a woman wise beyond her years.
I absolutely treasure your recipes and preserving posts. You have inspired me to “put up” tomatoes, salsa, sauce and jam.
Thank you for taking the time to photograph and document your adventures.
Lisa W. says
I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Fall is my favorite season and you captured it perfectly. And it’s nice to hear “real” thoughts and feelings about raising children in the early years. It was like reading something out of my my own journal, although I only have one child who has turned 10 this year. Out of all the blogs I’ve weeded out over the past 3 years, yours remains as your posts are always informative, entertaining, and relatable.
I could not say, with enough emphasis, how much I relate to this post. Thank you for the musings and the colorful images of garden, season, and life that it brought to me this morning.
Beautifully said! Thank you for drawing my attention to the internal aspects of season-changing. And thanks for being an honest, good mom!
Thank you for this wonderful post about fall. Fall is awesome. The season feels like story time before bed after a great day. The perfect wrap-up.
I can relate – my daughter is off to college and my son is in 8th grade. From day one and throughout their lives thus far people have chimed in ‘oh, that’s such a nice age’. From the beginning I’ve thought there’s something short-sighted about that perspective. To me, it’s bit like when people complain about the weather – if you’re not a fan of this particular moment, no worries, just wait – it will change. And, while the statement is not untrue – it’s ALL a nice age! Even the not-so-good moments. Every stage is just different and brings its unique goodness and its own ways of being not-like-before.
And, yes, the garden is definitely doing its thing. For us, it’s an apple year. I’ve got a pie in the fridge, have given some away, and have food-saver bags of pre-seasoned pie filling (one per pie) in the deep freeze for winter. But the bounty of our 9/11 Apple Tree needs another outlet.
Why a 9/11 Apple Tree? I think everyone remembers … in the first days after 9/11, our nation was steeped in a deep national depression. Even those of us who didn’t personally lose a loved one felt the loss of others’ loved ones and grief for people we would never be able to know personally. Not since Pearl Harbor had our nation been so affected by a single day’s act of terrorism against Americans in a scale of that magnitude. And, the hours and days that followed were clouded by a dark uncertainty as nobody really knew what would happen next. For me, the view of my own mortality made me want to remember those who had passed away and to do something positive for the future. Something. Anything. So, among other things, I planted an apple tree. When it flowers in the spring and provides shade in the summer, we remember. And, when there’s a bounty of apples in the fall – we’re grateful that simple enjoyments can be shared with family and friends. Twelve years later, the tree is still helping us remember, appreciate today, and look forward to the future more than ever. It’s ALL good.
Ien in the Kootenays says
That apple tree is needed to remember the 40th anniversary of 9-11, coming up this week. About three thousand people died. A democratically elected government was overthrown and replaced by a military dictatorship that lasted years. Oh, never mind, it was not the USA.
I agree… ???
Then I googled: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chilean_coup
But I enjoyed reading about how this person planted an apple tree in remembrance of a day that greatly impacted her and her family.
What a great idea! Very touching.
Great article. I have a tempermentally similar 19 month old and I have often wondered at your capacity for producing. Producing a garden, and managing the abundance it provides, writting a blog, putting on lectures, and on top of it all mothering a spirited child! Imagine what you will do with a little R&R! I am inspired.
Ien in the Kootenays says
Your writing keeps getting better. I bet sleep helps, :). Love your honesty. My son was an adorable handful too, on the ‘difficult child’ spectrum, but praised Goddess he slept.
Rachel @ 6512 and growing says
Ahhhhh. Feeling it, the pause, the change, the gratitude. My husband’s been away hunting every weekend and I’ve been feeling a bit smug about how easy it is (comparatively speaking) to raise a 6 and 8 year old solo, until blammo: worst morning ever yesterday. I recall saying to my daughter after 3 hours of fighting and crying (who kept getting nasty treatment from her brother), “well then, stay the fuck away from him.” You do your best. Things always change. Thank you for you words and perspective.
So this is the remarkable writer everyone is talking about!!! Well, got to agree. Remarkable.
Beautifully conceived and written post. Thank you.
I wholeheartedly relate. I loved reading this and will come back to it again. Here’s to fall!
What a beautiful, moving, spot-on post! (Esp for a Monday morning!). My easy baby has morphed into a very challenging, argumentative 4 yr old and I forget to notice the beauty around me. Thank you for the poetic reminder!
Lovely post. I have always found it bitter sweet as I reflect on my children move on to new stages. (Ages 9 & 12 now) As proud as I am of the independent people they are becoming, I miss their previous selves. The lovely babies and toddlers that would have pushed me over the edge if the had not been so adorably cute. I love that oxytocin release you get from just looking into a babies eyes. But, I have also really enjoyed being able to invest more time and energy into myself. It feels like a new spring to have a social life again, and to have time to exercise, and persue interests and hobbies. And thank you so much for fostering and inspiring my gardening, cooking and preserving!
Beautifully said! If you prepare the ground or child properly they take care of themselves with little supervision.
I so rarely comment on any of the wonderful blogs that I read but you have really touched on something here. Just beautiful…….And your writing is superb .
Well put. I love your writing, you have summed up my harvest feelings word for freakin’ word, my dear.
What a wonderful post – I so enjoy your musings, and even though we just have a wet season or a dry season here in the tropics I fully understood your passion for fall – it made me want to go and fill the crockpot with yummy things.
Mom @ Three is Plenty says
I too feel your pain about not quite enjoying the baby/toddler stages. I’m much more mellow about parenting since Daughter Person reached 2, but those first two years are hard, and I don’t miss them at all.
I wish the cooler weather would visit us! We’re expecting 97+ on Wednesday!
Oh Erica.. what a wonderful, wonderful post to read on a chilly, early autumnal day in London.
It has been a ‘strange’ summer here, with a bitterly cold & very late spring, then a few intensly hot weather and now .. whoosh! Fall is here. Rather like age.. I have arthritis starting in my gardening hands, but Black Cumin Seed Oil rubbed onto both hands Acupunture are helping. We all grow ‘up’ in height and maturity and your descritive writing is a joy.. thank you. Sara.
Thank you for saying out loud thoughts I have every day. My little guy will turn 8 on Friday. I’m not quite as far up my “mountain” as I’d like to be, but I have more good moments all the time. Your post is so reassuring; there aren’t many people in my life I can admit these things to. Knowing you are out the on a smiliar path is very comforting. Many thanks.
Beautiful. Reading this definitely brings me the feeling of Fall, even though we’re experiencing 90 degree heat in So. Oregon right now!
I loved this post–both your emotional transparency and the descriptive prose–and I look forward to a day when every mom can safely talk about how she REALLY feels. Life is beautiful, but darned hard, and parenting (especially ‘mom-ing’) is the hardest.
Thank you! Even I (the ‘lives-for-summer’ girl) am finally looking forward to the autumn now!
I’m near tears. This was so heartfelt and touching. My 5 year old sounds much like your youngest, and I have had many days like those you describe.