We had the first hard freeze of the season the other night, which finally put an end to the mutant squash plant that sprang forth uninvited from the compost heap behind the shed. The beauty of the universe is such that it was the most prolific of the plants we had this year, by a long shot – six or seven large squashes, at least as many small ones, and one we failed to notice that matured up in the junipers and was appreciated by the local mice. Had we not lost it to the turning of the seasons I am sure the thing would have got up into the maple tree. It was already climbing up the fence and onto the top of the shed, as well as sprawled across into the neighbors’ vacant lot.
I am not ready for the turning of the year. I am still waiting for summer vacation, in some sense; I am still waiting for the bright promise of relaxation and comfort and respite from difficult things. I do not foresee this happening until the wheel has turned. If this year was full of hard work, it will be more so before things are finished.
I knew the new year started in the autumn long before I learned to walk the pagan path. There is something about the cool clean air and the October light that whispers to me of beginnings, even as the dark time of the year approaches. This is the time of the harvest, of gathering in and drawing close, of putting things together and in order in preparation for the coming frost. We are all in this together, this thing we call winter. Winter makes people civil, it makes people behave. Not all, and not always, but in aggregate: the shared hardship of having to move frozen water around every single year leads to a certain Yankee pragmatism and willingness to – more or less – live and let live in community, however uneasily.
I take what bounty I can, where I can find it — the uninvited squash, the flickering pink and orange clouds, the chorus of voices raised at the interfaith service this afternoon.
It is good. Winter is coming. Draw closer, kindle the fire, believe something.