I managed to pull up all the sunflower stalks and burn them down to ash. It always feels a bit counterintuitive to do this, but it’s the best way. Throwing extensions of yourself to the fire is never a natural practice, unless you understand its usefulness.
This is the season of debris fire. You’ll find smoking mounds in my garden until only compost remains. Dying and expired things are incredibly useful to a gardener: it’s food for food. Also, I let the hens have at it each fall, and they till the earth beneath. The critters are some of my most resourceful garden tools.
Strangely, I can find unsuspecting beauty in death. Perhaps because I don’t believe it’s the end; it is simply the end of what we now see dimly. My home is filled with dead foliage and flowers, and I have dried roses from funeral services from nearly a decade ago — I’m just sentimental like that. I feel they’re a promise of something more, and I believe in the something more.
Garden principles reflects much of what I’ve embraced as theology. I don’t think I’ve found more relevant parallels, or imagery, and the language just plain makes sense to me. I’m not surprised that I mostly identify with simple things like dirt and plants, as I can be quite obtuse. I’m thankful for the dumbing down of lofty notions, that I may hold them in my hands like tiny seeds, and study them in astonishment. And I’m thankful for dead (asleep) things, too, I suppose. After all, that’s what a seed is.
Did you know that dormancy is actually preservation? When a seed goes dormant, it is protecting itself from germinating in unsuitable conditions. Innately, it can perceive when it is safe and not safe to begin growth. Seeds perceive seasons, perhaps more accurately than us humans. I often want to interfere with this when we have a mild winter and the fruit trees bloom early. I know a late freeze will most likely come (as Arkansas is notorious for) and the blooms will die, limiting the fruit production. But if you’re prudent, you can cover them and they may be spared, depending. Gardeners watch the sky for signs, and are attentive to the smallest movements of life. Reminds me of someone that does the same for me.
Through these next seasons everything will rot and retreat, but never for naught. If I’ve learned anything from the garden, and its spiritual implications, it’s that dying and decomposing are very much a part of living. In fact, the smaller a thing becomes, the more life source it possesses. It’s truly phenomenal and I never tire of this show of wisdom and resurrection. This is certainly one display of dying gracefully.