Lately I've heard some marching bands practicing and seen Friday night lights beaming from the stadiums around town. It's Homecoming season and ubiquitous sports team paraphernalia and tailgating tents herald this football tradition. When I was in high school I never quite understood the significance of Homecoming (I hadn't yet left!). Now, I understand that come autumn we're likely to feel a twinge of nostalgia for our formative days. Along with the senescing season, in come wistful impressions colored by comfy sweaters, brisk breezes, and wood smoke. Such impressions somehow mix with memories of school books and bleachers.
And as the temperature has dropped and freshness has returned to the early fall air, so has my constant thought about gardens. In a sense, this is a sort of homecoming--when summer is meting out her late-August brutality, parching the already parched earth, I feel somewhat in exile. Not that my mind isn't turned toward the tall perennials in need of staking, the constant hope for rain, the itchy malaise as I perfunctorily think that I need to start gearing up for fall. No, I'm thinking about it, but until there is that certain bend in the light and a break in the nighttime heat, it's just hard to get there with it. I feel "other."
September has flown by in a confusing limbo of season--now autumn is fully enunciated in the golden light. In a matter of a few days the trees went from making subtle overtures toward fall to blatantly propositioning the season to drape itself all over them. Indeed, tonight is the first chilly night, and it's as though October came along and gave my shoulder a shake to say, "Hey, wake up from that late-summer sluggishness. Come back."
So I got to thinking about homecomings and see that such urges--to look backward and connect with a sense of place and earlier time--are pulling from all around. All of a sudden, my summer garden, which I've neglected all of August and much of September is calling to me as well. I feel welcomed home from my sweaty, itchy summer exile. I've been cutting back roses, pulling back fallen leaves from emerging Cyclamen, shaming myself for letting ornamental black peppers smother my lovely Callirhoe, assessing whether Muhly grass was really a good idea (if it doesn't look good now--it's never gonna)! I'm transplanting boxwoods and moving Euphorbia seedlings.
Perhaps this silly poetic waxing is merely an attempt at intellectualizing a strange detachment (= laziness) I felt towards my garden this summer. Certainly, the fact that working with a cool breeze and without constant fear of drought is exponentially more pleasant than the sticky August slog. But this sense of Homecoming represents another way a relationship with a garden adds punctuation to the seasons and resonance to the passage of time. We plant bulbs each fall with the promise of spring. As the nights start cooling down into the 60s, we consider what shrubs we want to cut back before the threat of frost makes it too risky. Whether it's a homecoming in fact, I'm simply grateful the garden is calling again through the fresh fall breeze.