It happens every September, that surge of new growth that surfaces at the end of summer. This year, perhaps more than most. As a gardener, I am familiar with this feeling of straddling the place of letting go to embrace the new. This year it is different.
If you follow my Instagram posts, you’ll see that I am packing up the family house. I took photos of the small details of a home that made up the life of my parents for over 40 years. The day we began stacking furniture for the big move, it was no longer a home but a house.
This is a rite of passage that naturally comes with age and is hopefully done with grace. Often anticipated, and filled with dread, it can be a slow, thoughtful process, or dismissed as something to endure. It can feel like hard work or viewed as a privilege. I’ve been asking others how did you manage? I am learning from the experience, but also that everything follows a cycle, just like in a garden.
September is the time that all the planning for a spring garden comes to fruition. The garden takes on a life of its own, weaving together, layering, and building connections both above and underground. No garden ever stays the same, can never really be controlled and once the first frost knocks everything back, usually in September, it’s all over. This is what I love most about being a gardener, the thrill of the unexpected. Yet in life, letting go is not so easy.
It’s been said that gardens are all about the way they make you feel, and not the individual plants. This is true for a home. I am absorbing details from our family home as a total landscape, with everything familiar and whole as it was left. The moment the first painting came off the wall, I could see how all the small things made up a whole, and my sense of letting go took over. There was no turning back.
And yes! There was the exciting discovery of the box of love letters in an unmarked box in the attic, the piles of photo albums with crumbling bindings, and the file drawers of papers that are no longer relevant. It’s a cliché to say that our generation won’t be leaving behind photo albums or handwritten letters, yet also a sad truth that our kids will simply delete our data files. I rest assured that my garden may live a little longer, if I continue to support native plants, and tend the weeds.
At both my mother’s and father’s service, we read the poem by Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things. If you don’t know it, take a moment to follow this link: The Peace of Wild Things. Close your eyes and listen. It’s a reminder that we don’t have to cling to objects, thoughts or try to make meaning.
I was worried that once the furniture left, the house would feel empty. Instead, what’s left behind is even more beautiful. Just as I am noticing in my garden, the faded blossoms leave behind exquisite seed pods, these will grow again in a new place. Everything ends up making space for something else.
Last night as I sat outside under the full moon, I was aware of the mass migration of birds in flight that can’t be seen. Guided by their instincts, they know exactly what to do. When we lose a place that reminds us of who we are, and those we love, it’s important to also remember we can always build a new nest.
From my garden to yours,
Ellen Ecker Ogden