The plants are trying to write a history of our relationship with the land and some have longer memories than others...there are new areas and ancient areas and sometimes an old ditch marks the boundary between ancient and modern, woodruff and wild chervil.
I discovered Tristan Gooley's book, The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs, one day at the library when I was working on a list of books about hiking. I was immediately drawn to it because that cover, but I checked it out because I thought it might help me to understand clues when I am out hiking, especially if I am ever lost. I was happy my library had it and waited impatiently for the patron who had it checked out to return it.
I discovered a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is written n a conversational style and as the author shares tips about how plants, trees, lichen, sun, moon, stars, tides, waves, animals, and all sorts of other things can help us find our way across the space we are in, he shares little tidbits of his home country (England) that brings it all to life.
I did feel that since Utah's climate is so drastically different from England's, not all of his tools apply here. But that's OK, because I'm not sure I will remember all of his tips anyway, at least not without some practice once I can get outside onto trails again. (Oh trails. I miss you!) But what I did learn was to be more observant as I travel through places, to watch for the signs and signals in my familiar areas, and that knowledge is getting me even more excited to start hiking again. (Only a few more weeks, hopefully.)
Glad I stumbled across this one!
(This is book #10 for my summer reading challenge.)
From the window behind my laptop, I can see one of my big sycamore trees and two of my rosebushes. The sycamore has many dead branches that are just dangling, lodged or stuck against other living branches. After wind storms I examine the tree (from my perch behind my computer) to see which ones might’ve budged. There’s always one that gets blown out, but never all of them, and for six weeks I have itched to climb the tree and free them all.
And the rosebushes! They were both given to me by my parents, and during my recuperation I’ve watched them go from blossoms to bare stem heads, a process that left them in all levels of flower: bud, bloom, faded petals, naked. I could only watch the progress and do nothing.
But yesterday—yesterday I got to work in my garden.
It was awkward. The walking boot is definitely better than crutches but it’s not me on my own two feet. I nearly tumbled over at least twelve times and I couldn’t reach everything I wanted to. I could feel that in my weeks of healing, my body has grown weak and tight; my back ached and my hamstrings protested a bit. I couldn’t use a shovel and I definitely could not climb the trees for errant branches.
But I pruned the rosebushes. I pulled weeds. I thinned out the cosmos which have taken over my front flower bed.
And I discovered that two pumpkins have grown! I planted pumpkin seeds in April, on a whim because they were displayed right next to the Coban at the farm store where I buy it. (Technically it’s tape for horses if you buy it at the farm store, I guess, but I don’t care. It’s four dollars cheaper there, so horse tape it is!) I’ve often thought about planting pumpkins but never actually done it.
When I told Kaleb what I was doing, he said “Mom, don’t get your hopes up. If any do grow, the neighborhood kids will steal them.” Such cynicism in my baby! But, to be safe, I planted some in the front bed (which is, yes, a temptingly accessible spot for a pumpkin to grow) and some in the east bed, which is behind our fence and so would require much more shenanigans for theft to happen.
I’d seen a few blossoms before my surgery, but the vines had grown too thick for me to see if any of them grew into pumpkins, unless I got down on my knees which I definitely couldn’t do with my crutches and splint and my other knee sore from my pre-surgery tumble.
So when I pushed back the leaves yesterday, I discovered this cute pumpkin:
And then I made a sound like a little girl excited about her birthday cake because seeing that just—well, it just brought me this little, sweet spike of pure joy.
All the time I was in the house, looking at the world, looking at my little part of the world, it was still making progress. I couldn’t witness all of it, but it didn’t need me to. It kept growing all on its own. I was healing, my garden was growing. There is something rejuvenating and hopeful in that thought. It makes me feel less like this year has been a sort of wasteland I’ve wandered, getting chubbier and sadder. My garden still had flowers.
My garden grew a pumpkin.
Two, in fact; there’s also this perfectly round one in the east flower bed, safe from thieves:
I’d only gone out there once during my recovery because crutches+grass=nope. It was a riot of color, the zinnias and sunflowers I planted in the spring at their full, beautiful peak, and that bright orange pumpkin!
I know not everyone loves gardening and the work it takes to have flowers. But I hope I can always have a little piece of earth for my own, partly because I enjoy nurturing it, partly because of how often it nurtures me right back.
September is here!
In Utah we still have weeks and weeks of hot weather coming, but at least not as hot as July and August were, and with breaks of cooler days and rainy weather. Autumn is my favorite season and every year I think “this year I will savor every second” but it still slips away. The colors come and are gone so fast.
This year will be harder than ever to savor, because I can’t get on the mountain trails like I usually do. This week I graduated from crutches and no weight bearing to being able to walk in a boot. But you can’t really hike in a walking boot, so I have at least three more weeks of not getting on any trails. And then when I do I’ll certainly not be in any condition to deal with much vert. Hopefully by the end of October I’ll be back to longer hikes (and running! oh how I have missed you, running!) but by then the colors will be long gone.
Which is sad.
But I’m making a list of things I want to do to help me savor fall this year anyway. Even without hiking boots and dirty feet.
∙ Drive the Alpine Loop. This is a mountain road in Utah near where I live. I get on it quite often to access hiking trails, but it’s been a few years since I drove it just to drive it. Stop and admire the view, get close to yellow aspens and orange scrub oak. Just enjoy the drive. Not sure if I’ll do this on my own or go with Kendell—that choice totally changes the experience. Or maybe I’ll do it twice.
∙ Visit Cascade Springs. This is a spot in our mountains that has short trails that are mostly boardwalk. I haven’t been there since 2006. After wandering I want to leave by the new Heber side of the road and find a fun little spot to eat lunch.
∙ Learn to like green tea. Recent gastronomical adventures have brought me to a horrible place, where almost all caffeinated beverages can no longer enter my body. Except green tea, which is actually supposed to help heal gastritis. I’m really not a fan of tea, but I am a dedicated fan of the ritual of a warm drink in the morning (even in the summer!). So I’m trying to learn to like it. Right now, in fact, as I write this I am drinking a green tea latte which I made with green tea, almond milk, and a titch of vanilla. Tomorrow I will try it with honey instead. Any advice or tips on this appreciated!
∙ Bake. Oh baking, how I have missed you too! It’s just too complicated to do while on crutches. I have a delicious pumpkin bread I will just keep in permanent rotation for a little while. And I think this week I will get my hands on some peaches and make a peach crisp.
∙ Start working on my “get strong” goal. During the Olympics, I remembered how it felt when I had a strong gymnast’s body. I will never be that lithe and strong again, of course, but I had one of those nudges from the universe that I need to concentrate on getting strong. This won’t be able to happen immediately (see: walking boot) but I started yesterday by just stretching and reminding my body how to move. I have two smaller goals to help me reach the bigger one: get strong enough to do pull ups and to hold a handstand.
∙ Go outside every day. I did not do this in the summer. The air quality here has been so awful, the result of the wildfires on the west coast. I’m hoping by the time I can run, it will be manageable. But even before then: go outside. Work in my yard. Waddle down the street for a little walk. Admire the last of the flowers. Sit on my porch with a beverage (my choices: water, green tea, apple juice) and read. Just get outside every day.
∙ At least one box of pumpkin spice donuts. Probably two.
∙ Make a big meal for my kids and wish Haley could be here with us.
∙ Make some curry. I know that in theory curry isn’t seasonal, and I make it in all seasons except summer (just too hot for so much stove time), but in my mind curry is an autumn tradition.
∙ Actually get out my Halloween decorations. I didn’t last year and it was a sad, sad October.
∙ Quilt my other Halloween table topper. I can freeform quilt now on my machine, without much terror, and think I can manage something appropriately swirly.
∙ Harvest my pumpkins. Can I carve them? Who knows. Don’t care. I’m just excited I have some I grew all on my own.
∙ New cardigan acquisition. Do I need more cardigans? Absolutely not. Do I need a new one to celebrate this fall? Totally. Perfect cardigan for me: longish, with pockets, elegant shape, soft fabric. I’m going to try to not go with black.
∙ Sewing challenge with my sister.
∙ Fall reading challenge. I’m not sure what that will look like but I’ve so enjoyed my summer challenge (which I am finishing next Tuesday as the first day after Labor Day feels like the start of fall). It’s helped me read more and I am all for that.
∙ This blogging challenge (I’m trying to blog every day in September) and an October Daily challenge on Instagram. I find that if I have some social media impetus I record more and thus seek out more things to do to record.
∙ More pancakes. Before I started hiking on Sundays we used to have pancakes at least twice a month. Now I’m back on my feet again I am going to institute pancake Sunday more often. And switch it to Saturday once I start hiking again.
∙ Start walking again as soon as I can. I’ll set some fitness goals once I can wear two regular shoes again.
What are your plants for the fall?