How to Pay Attention This Week
The frozen blooms even in their death hold seeds for what will come in the spring
When does new life begin in nature? Some say spring. The new green leaves emerge alongside the first daffodil and crocus as the snow slowly recedes and drips off the branches of the maples that are running with the sweet sap, which acts like a light switch to the buds that will open to begin the process of feeding the tree once again. It seems like the clear answer is that new life begins in spring. In some cases, this is true, but there may be another way to perceive the beginnings in nature as well.
Over the years, as I have tended my garden and stewarded this land, I have learned how we miss something entirely by only seeing the spring as the time of new beginnings. My hope is that by learning to pay closer attention to this season, you may see differently, too.
As I wander the faded and black plants in the garden or wave my hands over the golden fields by us, I can see how every last suspended bloom or fruit holds the entire garden in them. The tomato holds hundreds of seeds, like the squash I opened for the deer to enjoy. The tomatoes will degrade, and in spring, even these wild-loving plants that need such intricate seed-starting setups indoors in March will sprout new plants come June once the soil warms. The little bluestem grass is soft and feathery on the ridges I walk every day, and if I watch them now, the seeds blow across the field just like the milkweed now. Every plant is releasing so that it can begin again.
In 6ish months, these seeds, with the soil and warming temps, will birth an entirely new landscape. The thing is, though, that the seeds will need the winter to find their place in the soil and sink in deep enough so they can root and emerge come spring.
Anyone who works with the soil realizes not just how much new life is hanging in the wind and scattered over the soil this time of year but how vital these days are to an abundance in summer. The fallen leaves protect the soil and will rebuild important nutrients and mycorrhiza that will allow healthy soil to give life to new plants. The seeds released now come from plants that are resilient to the climate they have grown in. The cold allows everything to sink in and rest long enough to rebuild. Is there a chance all of this can offer us two important notes about life?
That Autumn is actually both the ending and the beginning of the world we love.
We need not only Autumn but winter as well in order to build into the growth and abundance we will soon be able to create once again.
I believe the dying plants all around us are simply a reminder that there is no end but only the possibility to rebuild, grow again, and learn a little more about what it is to exist. The seeds and dying plants are the very beginning stages of what we will see come to life in April and May till October once again.
Paying attention to the endings I thought were the last of everything till spring has taught me that not only is Autumn both the ending and beginning but that we must celebrate all it offers. It also has shown me how I not only need to discover the beauty and gifts of these darker days but also know just how vital they are to what is beginning now. This, too, is part of growth. It takes lots of attention to see the life that floats in the wind like the milkweed seeds do now amongst the skeletal branches and fading stems of all that once felt alive.
Here, even now, in the cool winds of November and driving rain, new life is all around us, just waiting, rebuilding, and preparing to emerge once again.
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