Now is the time of year when you finally stand back from the mad rush and take stock. You pull your face back from the toil you've been lost in, you've thrown yourself into, and think, shit.
You spend months at camp, pushing yourself to become a better mentor, a better naturalist, setting goals, reaching them, going deeper into this world, and you come home and all your shit's covered in mold. Oh right, my stuff.
You face forgotten relationships left to fester into conflict. You might have to fight at loud volumes in a car parked in a gas station parking lot, in the rain, in the early morning hours. You might want to break up. You might stare down the barrel of Going Separate Ways and start to cry and say, hell no, we'll keep trying.
I've spent hours reaching a gloved hand under tomato plants where the ground is covered in the rotting orange flesh of sungold and green doctor and pinkish red slicers. So many that it's a scoop and a squish and a splatty thud into the bucket they go. This, in a garden that's been mostly untended, my mothers garden, ignored when my mother was unexpectedly called away from her Virginia life by an extended family member's sickness and death. With only one body, one presence, her tending of our beloved family in New England meant neglecting her garden in Virginia. So she went.
The remarkable part of all this is that for every 10 sickly sweet smelling, oozy tomato there's one who's perfect and ripe. They end up numerous, pounds and pounds. They -popped into a colander, brought in, rinsed, halved, laid cut-side up in a foil-lined cookie sheet, placed into a low-heat oven for hours, then frozen- will feed us in the cold months.
The food we don't eat becomes food for the microorganisms who do our dirty work. Food for soil. Those microorganisms are who truly feed us, completing the cycle, making soil for us to grow food in next year. The food we have left, that we do eat, is -unbelievably- enough.
Remarkable, too, is how many of my friends I see replicating this pattern in their own way this time of year. Taking off. Soul searching wanders. Moving their tiny houses into the cool woods where they'll build themselves a fire ring and cook over it and hang little banners and care for themselves. After months of caring for plants, animals, sacrificing self for projects, the care moves back to the self.
The great thing about the neglect you discover in late August is that you shrug it off. The worst is behind us. It's almost September. You compost what's rotten (food for next year's soil!) throw away your moldy leather briefcases and ammo pouch hip bags (less stuff!) and jump in the cool pond as the sun's rays glow low. The hills rise all around you and your face is close to the water's rippling surface. You marvel at what water is. At how it could be that. You remember that the reason those things went untended is because your attention was laser focused on other things, amazing things, and those things happened and were grand. You remember every tomato that rotted was because you were hugging a bereaved cousin instead. You would let a thousand more rot. You know the things you did were more important than the things you let go. You get a bottle of whiskey, share it, rededicate yourself to your friends, your loves, your life, your self. You feel ready for fall.