It starts with a frost, it ends with a frost, although it never ends but begins, again and again.
It’s 10am on Friday 3 November. I light a candle to help me write. Outside the window, there is a distant patchwork of trees. Some orange, some red, some yellow, some green, still, and some completely bare. They look like little cauliflowers lumped together in a supermarket display box in the veg aisle, except they are the colour of a burning fire, from red to orange to yellow to brown. This colourful phenomenon of autumn foliage lasts only a few weeks, making it even more wondrous and savour able, our most transient season. These warm colours are present in the leaf all year but dominated by the green of the plant’s chlorophyll, when daylight dwindles and temperatures cool, the amounts of chlorophyll decreases, showing all the pigments that were also present in the leaf, but hidden. The sky is heavy with cloud but bright, sectioned out in linear layers of blue-grey, muted white, and brilliant white, defined and resembling a staircase near the horizon that you could almost climb to the blue above. The clouds become more and more featureless higher up, thinking of cauliflowers again, to an expanse of moving grey. In just a few minutes, they have changed form, escaped definition, and I think a change in the weather is on the way.
The farming year starts with a frost and ends with a frost. Two bookends with everything sandwiched in between. When the last (or first?) frost of the year offers its last dusting in May, it is like a call to action. It is only then when it is safe enough to plant annual seedlings outside, that’s when the work really starts. The plant growth becomes wild and careless, swallowing up everything around it, sometimes including me. Most days, it feels like a race. Everything is growing and expanding all the time, while I was gardening, while I was walking, while I was thinking, while I was sleeping, while I was dreaming. It’s beautiful but exhausting. We call an end to the growing season once that frost descends in October, to which it did, right on time on 23 October. This can change everything and nothing. The dahlia foliage turns black, brown sogginess replaces green and supple, other plants remain the same but stop growing, bit by bit every inch of the garden is revealed. I’ve been to the end of every dead-end and back again. Suddenly everything becomes abundantly clear and next year paves a new road to explore. Time equals patience and pace for the gardener. At this time of year, after the happy exhaustion of it all, and the contentment and the pride, creeps in a new feeling of urgency of planning and ambition and nostalgia. I looked at some of my images of narcissi from the past couple of years and felt a giddiness so deep, it drives me forward. You might wonder why something so simple and mundane as a frost is so significant. What it offers is a welcome boundary, setting a natural limit on how much we work, how much we can do, it signals when to let go. I can’t think of anything else in life so reliable, so strict, and yet to gentle. That something in our natural world could kill off yet rejuvenate at the same time. The moment of exhale right before you fall asleep.
Thank you for reading flower friends!
Lauren and Louisina x