Autumn is part of an integral cycle. This is the time we have to pull up the plants we cherished, fed, and protected during the last five months of the year. During the summer months we were proud of how strong our plants looked. We waited patiently for their fruit to ripen so we could fill our family’s tables with delicious vegetables and sweet-scented flowers. Like everything in everyone’s life all things change and nothing stays the same. In other words, everything is mortal.
Walking into my garden, I am saddened to see my tomato plants turn black with brownish green tomatoes left on dying stems. When the tomatoes were in full bloom you couldn’t see the cage through the thick foliage of green leaves and ripened tomatoes. In fact, throughout the entire summer I had to add miles of twine in order to keep my once giant tomato plants from falling to the ground. This of course made the task of cleaning up this part of my garden more difficult, because I had to separate the plants from the cages and then from the twine.
After I pulled the main part of the tomato plant away from the cages I accidentally knocked my glasses from my head and proceeded to step on them in the muck of mud and crushed tomatoes. Looking down at them and seeing they no longer looked like glasses I decided to leave them in the garden over the winter. Who knows maybe I’ll grow an eye-glass plant.
Continuing my annual task I punctured myself at least six or seven times with the metal posts that held the tomato cage to the ground I decided to tear the things up as hard as I could in order to release them from the garden. In doing this I knew I would be living with all forms of ibuprofen because the ground would prove to be stronger than me. My next attempt concerned the lines of dead bean plants that were too old to stay alive. I thought this would be an easy task because bean cages were unnecessary and all I had to do was pull up the dead plants. This went along pretty well until I felt a small itch on my forearm.
At first I didn’t think much of it but by the time I was about to pull up my third line of beans I noticed my right arm was twice the size of my left arm. My wife quickly administered anti-histamine in the form of meat tenderizer. After I could stand the itching and stinging sensation in my arm I continued the task at hand.
The peppers were the next plant I wanted to pull up and add to the giant pile of dead plants that I was developing in my backyard. I assumed this would be another easy task until I attempted to pull up my first plant. It did not move. Unlike the tomato plants that slowly gave way this particular pepper plant decided it did not want to become part of my new compost pile.
After a few moments of pulling and tugging I decided to go into my garage to get my shovel so I could dig the stubborn plants out of the garden. This seemed like a logical move because how deep could pepper roots be? After about 20 minutes of digging I still was not able to pull the pepper plant away from the ground.
I then started digging at it with my hands only to feel some stinging. I discovered that yellow jacket bees make their hives in the ground. I also found out they are not ‘happy campers’ when someone sticks their hand into their home. A few more hits of the meat tenderizer and my hand shrunk to the size of a reddened horse’s hoof. I quickly decided the pepper plants would make a nice winter display in my garden.
All that was left were the deadened zucchini and summer squash plants that looked like they were burned down. Pulling these plants up were easy because they had few roots left to hold them to the ground. The only discovery I made was of a new and strange kind of bug that lived under the dead squash leaves. It didn’t look like a normal bug because it looked more like a robot bug. It was geometric in shape and had long thin legs like that of a daddy longlegs spider. The one thing I found out about this strange creature was it had a mouth and liked to bite.
Knowing I was filled with ibuprofen and meat tenderizer I just kept pulling the squashes out from the garden understanding that if this new alien bug had the capacity to kill me it probably would. It did not. It just made my hand sting well into the end of the following week. What I thought would take me an hour took the entire day. My wife decided to go out because, as she told me later, she couldn’t stand watching me attempt to commit suicide by using our garden as my weapon of choice.
I was finally ready to cover my garden with the mounds of grass cuttings that I had saved throughout the summer. I did this every year in the hopes the cuttings would rot away and return the nutrients the plants had sucked up during the growing months of summer. As I was lifting piles of grass to place down on the garden I noticed long black stringy things in the grass. I discovered the neighborhood animals were using my grass cuttings pile as their communal commode.
Autumn is part of an integral cycle. I wish it were immortal instead of having to prove I was not.
Even our gardens are mortal by Jim Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer living in York, Maine
You can contact Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org