When (Not If) Winter Comes

The grasses glow as October light falls sideways against their end-of-season mix of colours. More often than not, the fall winds rustle their drying stalks and fronds.

Tall grasses with jumbled mix of tan fronds and green, red, and tan leaves, in early morning October sunshine.
Grasses glowing in early morning light.

Tan fronds of tall grass lit by early-morning sunlight against darker background of copse.
Seed stalks in a rare still moment.

I smile a little ruefully. Although I’m planting tulips in anticipation of new life next spring, death is all around me this week.

A former colleague of the Big Guy had a series of final send-offs from family, friends, and retired members of the military.

A friend succumbed to pancreatic cancer: too young, for sure, but maybe not any too soon.

A neighbour’s elderly father went home from hospital to round-the-clock nursing care and the certain knowledge that his extended race is close to being run.

The director at a local theatre company stood up at the end of Friday night’s performance and spoke of the news just that morning of the death of the Irish Chekhov.

And the community garden, which erupted cheerily in the spring (Wasn’t that just last week?) and then Just Wouldn’t Quit — at least when it came to producing weeds all summer (Surely that was just yesterday!) — has begun to slide, calmly and beautifully, into winter.

Montage of four types of tulips (orange/red stripe, hot pink, purple, and soft pink) from community garden.
The garden, just last week, no?

Death is all around me this week.

I guess it always is.

As I poke bulbs into soil deep enough, I hope, to discourage predation, I consider the coming spring. I have no apprehensions, but I know I cannot be certain that I will see these tulips bloom, and not just because of the squirrels.

Squirrel on a tree branch, listening or looking intently.
Scenting a bulb?

And as I plant, I also consider the grasses, admiring their fall colours, even enjoying the gentle death rattle made by their stalks and the wind. Whenever it comes, I hope that I will slide into my own inevitable winter as beautifully, as peacefully, as rightly, somehow.

Red and tan grass leaves arcing left in foreground; out-of-focus boulder in background.

 

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13 Comments

  1. Jim Taylor

    You started me thinking, and that’s always dangerous! Grasses have been a traditional model for death, with biblical images of the grasses of the field that flourish and die. But grasses don’t really die; they just have developed techniques for looking dead and then springing (not intended as a pun, but perhaps it is) back when rain comes. We might be better using annuals as examples. They really do die at the end of their season. But if they have managed to produce seeds, a new crop will flourish when the time is right. The metaphor works for me — if I plant some seeds now, perhaps something new will spring up after I am no more.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim T – Yes, thinking can cause trouble, but usually not as much trouble as not thinking! You know the old thing of, “If you were an animal, which one would you be?” Maybe we could ask, “If you were a plant, which one would you be?” I agree that annuals provide a better metaphor for our human lives than do those grasses which keep coming up from the same root ball.

  2. Jim Robertson

    Yes death is around us all more each day it seems, a reflection of our stage in life perhaps.

    But the garden dies each fall and comes back stronger each spring.

    Once again, thank you for the garden.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim R – Yes, seeing ourselves both as gardeners and parts of the garden (although that’s a little weird), is a useful, and maybe reassuring, construct.

  3. Alternatively,
    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    I never imagined finding causes in my senior years that would drive me to “the grimaces and graceless crouch of battle” of my youthful struggles. Until now, I could not reconcile the viewpoints of A Child’s Christmas in Wales with the fierce energy of Do Not Go Gentle; yet I cannot deny I long for the order, harmony, and peace I find in your writing and in your photographs!

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – As I heard in a movie a long time ago now (maybe about an English prof with early onset Alzheimer’s?), do you want your last feeling to be rage? It struck me, for sure. Not that I want my last days to be bland, devoid of any passions, but it would be a fine thing to have a core of serenity.

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