I’ve been thinking a lot about harvest this fall, naturally.
As the pumpkins ripen off the vines killed by an early frost, the potatoes await the pitchfork that transports them from their sleepy bed to the kitchen counter, and the chipmunks and squirrels gather their bounty for the long winter ahead, harvest is all around us. It seems that, like the cycles of the seasons, my thoughts about harvests come cyclically, too. I swear I wrote this blog post already, a month ago, the last time my body forced me to slow down and take in the fruits of my summer. We aren’t meant to go at full speed ahead all the time! Fall is a time for harvest, for integration, and for slowing down. Embracing the seasonal cycles around us is integral to growth and to sustainability.
And so, the potatoes I planted in spring and hilled and weeded (sparingly) now need my attention in a different way. Harvest isn’t passive, this act of gathering and celebrating the gifts and bounty of the Earth. It requires energy and it’s also a call for celebration. In a culture as bereft as ours of true celebrations, of making time for joy, of putting down the pitchfork and eating the mashed potatoes around a table of family and friends, it’s an act of devotion.
Harvesting means giving gratitude to the soul and sun and earthworms and extremely fat toad that makes its home in the potato bed I just dug up. It’s an act of attention, as Mary Oliver says: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” And, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
It's devotion, and it’s also a radical act, growing your own food and harvesting it. In doing so, we are honoring the rhythms that lead us each day into night, and each year into winter, only to be reborn, awakened, cycling over again in spring. Fall is a time of harvest but also of death, of release, of grief, of saying good bye to what was and embracing the utter lack of control, the surrender to the wind that blows off our faded leaves no matter how tightly we cling to them and then we are bare, dormant, sleepy, resting, until the warm sun comes again and enlivens us in spring.
Patience, sweet child, the potatoes tell me. Let go. Release. Trust the wind. This is a time for rest. A time to gather. A time to celebrate the fruits of your hard work. And, with a sigh, I sink back into the grass and allow myself the rest prescribed by the potatoes.