End of summer always breaks my heart. Even in the garden, I look at the burgeoning blooms and bounty as they wane and think, this is the last of this crop, that’s the last of that. So many ends of things.
Today, I was stunned to learn of the death my beloved aunt in Russia. At 95, she was my mother’s only sister, and the person (besides B.) that I love most in this world. Having lived through the historic convulsions of most of the twentieth century – losing her father to the gulag system for a decade, my mother when she immigrated, and her dear husband when he died suddenly – she was no stranger to heartbreak. Yet what I associate with her most was her merry face and bright eyes as she told a mischievous joke, took in the fresh air in her garden, and told me the story of our family – beginning with, “I was not afraid.” She was an extraordinary, towering figure in my life.
And, I’d just recently lost one of my oldest and dearest friends, a woman I met as a teenager and knew for nearly 40 years. I’m struck by how hard it’s hit me. “Please come visit; this might be the last time!” she’d say in her later years (of course none of us could know how long she had left). She was one day shy of 97, and bedridden after a broken hip failed to heal – so it was certainly no surprise. I feel as if both women have taken part of me now that they’re gone, tho I’ll always carry them in my heart.
Of course, with ends also come beginnings; without death, there would be no life. With the ends of caterpillar pupae come the metamorphoses into butterfly chrysalis; the ends of plant growing cycles bring new energy and seeds for the next season. And so it is with us, as we begin a new phase of life. As I look at the engorged pumpkins grown from seeds saved by my family in Russia, B. and I celebrate the basil scent wafting across the garden through clouds of bees, our fists full of mint and chard and beans. With the shorter days and plants going to seed and shutting down crop production – storing sugars deep in their interiors and roots over the winter, we’ll soon wind down the garden to begin the season of turning inward – now of mourning, and start preparing for the next growing year.