The True Harvest of My Life Is Intangible

“The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched”


For its rich colors, its slanting light, the way the axis of the world exerts its tilt, the feeling of delicious melancholy, the accordion pleating of previous warmth with impending cold, the heartening sense of continued life amongst clear decay,

October is my favorite month.

We jump in piles of leaves and watch raptors migrate South and smell the wood smoke and plan to be ninjas for trick-or-treating–and the whole damn month feels like the last time we will stretch our arms wide, looking up to the sun with awe and reverence, before folding them back across our breasts and lowering our heads, craning downwards to watch for ice.

Plus, in October, there’s a final harvest.

Out of all possible metaphors, that of “harvest” snags me best. Planning and cultivating and nurturing and waiting? Listen, I might not be able to find a screwdriver in the basement or hop out of bed happily at 7 a.m., but the components of a harvest? Those, I can do. Thus, the whole cycle that leads to harvest assures me that I have actual life skills, even though I might drop my kids off late for their friends’ birthday parties and not really understand where in the house we file our bank statements. Harvest reminds me that some of us are good at the nebulous things. Some of us, like October, are conceptual–yet we still produce a practical yield.

Throughout the summer, we gathered in vegetables as they ripened, but the bulk of our harvest has happened in the last weeks, before the first freeze. And what a payoff, this business of biding your time and then biding it some more, until, finally, almost as a surprise, the windfall arrives. It reminds me of how I finally met, at the age of 31, the man whom I’d marry (just I was beginning to fear my eggs would require harvesting if I ever hoped to have children).

This is the one I plucked from near the footpath in my Garden of Desolation. He stood out as the sole sunflower:

Sunflowers like to chew gum, incidentally.

On a rare, sun-dappled day, our backyard and garden almost look as though they’re not strewn with plastic toys, discarded bandaids, and weeds. Good lighting is key.

A few last hallelujahs from the flowers, before they crisp and snap. In two months’ time, we will shovel the snow off our deck, onto this spot, and then jump into the heap.

If it only snowed an inch, that’s gonna hurt.

A perfect illustration of summer hanging on as fall matures: hollyhock vies with maple. Step back. They’ll thumb wrestle next, and leaves will fly.

Before Paco attacked these brussels sprouts plants with a plastic rake, they put on quite a show.

This is my idea of pearls on a string.

Our kids eat these like candy–asking repeatedly for more of the “Bugs Bunny carrots” from our garden. I always answer in an Elmer Fudd voice and tell them what “wascals” they are.

Squash eternally surprise, volunteering both in the garden and the compost…

An emblem of October,
they prove that a slow, gentle basking in the warmth–
a slow cook–
imparts all the hardiness needed
to prosper in the face of impending cold.




21 responses to “The True Harvest of My Life Is Intangible”

  1. Michelle Wells Grant Avatar
    Michelle Wells Grant

    Weeeeeeee, the first to comment! I want to come live in your house, enjoy the lovely harvest, and eat all that yummy food from your garden and that scary freezer! And I DO want to know when you will write a book because I will buy 95 copies. Big fan, in fact, I have an award for you. You can pick it up at my place.

  2. Jeni Avatar

    I like the look of your backyard much better than mine -which by the way is very littered with all kinds of plastic toys as well as two bicycles, and a myriad of other assorted pieces of junk -all of which is very wet now with some remnants of the early snowfall we got over the past two days still there too. I wish my garden had yielded some of the goodies yours had too -acorn squash especially as it's a big family favorite here. (Well, daughter Mandy and I both love it so that qualifies it as a "family favorite" and maybe someday, these two little yahoos will have discovered how yummy acorn squash really is!)
    October is normally my favorite month too -usually not too cold but cool enough except this year we got a jolt with the earliest snowfall on record that brought lots of not-so-nice things over in State College -like 6-8 inches of heavy snow that toppled branches and trees all over the place and caused power outages that lasted, for some folks there, for over 2 days! That, I can do without quite nicely.
    Peace and Happy Harvest. I'd say you found a gem of a sunflower for your harvest!

  3. AmyTree Avatar

    What a gorgeous post… I grew up in the country and now I live in the city, and I think maybe that is the thing I miss most. Battening down the hatches for winter (as it was on the California coast) was deeply satisfying – when I was a kid I used to pretend I was the Other Sister in Little House on the Prarie, digging in for winter. Now I just dig out a coat and moan about the weather. Maybe I'll go back outside and pick the last of the tomaties – they're not going to ripen now, after all, and I have a recipe for green tomato chutney somwehere…
    I love October too. 🙂 xx

  4. WaltzInExile Avatar

    It's seven thirty on Sunday morning and I am in awe. You teach. You grow vegetables. You craft a paean to October that makes my heart glad it's my favorite month, too. You compare your husband to a sunflower AND I TOTALLY GET IT (miraculous gift for metaphor you have, as I am far too literal for my own good and usually don't get it right away.)
    You threw me at the beginning, though. You file your bank statements?!?

  5. kmkat Avatar

    What a lovely post!

  6. Becky Cazares Avatar
    Becky Cazares

    Ahhh, the poet surfaces! October does that, doesn't it? Fall is my favorite season, even though we scarcely have one in southern Arizona — blink and it's gone. What we do have is mild enough weather that all those things I planted so hopefully last month are finally showing signs of life and should give harvest through most of the winter months, if I'm lucky. Lived here long enough that I wouldn't know how to batten hatches even if I had 'em, but your post almost makes me yearn for some!

  7. Yo is Me Avatar
    Yo is Me

    gorgeous. just, gorgeous. gorgeous post, garden, writing.

  8. lime Avatar

    oh october is my favortie month too and i feel as if i have been cheated of some of it's beauty and glory with 2 days of snow smack in the middle of it this week. thank you for sharing your october.

  9. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    October around here is not your October–I think I like yours better.

  10. ds Avatar

    Wonderful–all of it! Somehow, it doesn't feel so cold now as it did a few moments ago. Thank you for that!

  11. Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings Avatar
    Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings

    I just love your writing. It's like sitting outside under a tree colored by fall and breathing it all in. So lovely and so …. great. I agree with Michelle there at the top. When will be hearing about a book? You should have one so much more than any blogger out there.

    (Also, since you are an English teacher, you don't critique my poor grammar or spelign or my inability to use commas correctly, right?)

  12. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    Harvest time is lovely. I ususally like this month, but it's colder and rainier than usual.

  13. Vic Avatar

    This was beautiful. It made me miss my hometown, where we had actual seasons and growing things. Living in the land of perpetual sun has it's perks, but I so miss fall.

    I'm living vicariously through you!

  14. chelle Avatar

    Ooooo the veggies look great! I adore October and Autumn as a whole.

  15. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    Lovely work, Jocelyn. But no beets? I got no squash this year…darn beetles.

  16. monica Avatar

    thank you! my " it's cold, wet, dark,boring, tiring" grumpiness decreased a bit after reading this life-affirming post! great harvest! and the thought of jumping in leave piles and later in snow piles made me smile!
    Now I want to make squash cake!

  17. actonbell Avatar

    Great pictures! I love October, too.

  18. Midlife Jobhunter Avatar
    Midlife Jobhunter

    What a perfect post. The quote, the prose. The beautiful fruit. You never disappoint, Jocelyn. This one a true treasure.

    Thanks for bringing me into your garden.

  19. Sunflower56 Avatar

    Having just returned from a visit to Minnesota – from Northfield to Two Harbors and back – this post and photos really hit the spot! I loved the fall colors with the light dusting of snow as an accent. I got to hold one of those migrating raptors – a red tailed hawk and even got to set it free at a spot near Homestead Road. Being a fan of your blog, I hoped I'd spot you in Duluth somewhere so I could say hi!

  20. Jen's Farmily Avatar
    Jen’s Farmily

    I love carrots from the garden too. And I think it's hilarious that you answer them in an Elmer Fudd voice!!

  21. Jazz Avatar

    Mmmmm. Acorn squash cooked with garlic butter.

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