As I write this post I am watching the chickadees hanging upside down on sunflower heads picking out the last seeds. The pumpkin vines and most of the rest of the garden plants are dying back; although the sunchokes, zinnias and cosmos are putting on a last enthusiastic show. The angle of the sun is noticeably different than just a few weeks ago, and fall has come to Denver. No frost yet, but I’m sure it is on its way. I’m busy harvesting winter squash, beets, and kale, freezing tomatoes and looking up unique pumpkin recipes. As I’m checking things off my to-do list and rushing to get the garden cleaned up, it can be easy to slide into simply doing and not being mindful in this space.
What can mindfulness bring to the harvest process? First off, it enables me to be fully present to the miracle of my garden. Yes, it is a miracle. Just a few feet from my back door, the energies of this place (with a little help from me) have manifested a beautiful and bountiful harvest of organic foods and herbs for myself, family, and friends. How amazing is that? Things that nurture me are growing right from the earth in my own back yard. Being mindful of this collaborative process of seed, gardener, earth, air, sun, water, and many organisms big and small, is humbling. All parts and players in this process are connected and important. I will not be deluded into thinking I am the one in control. I will nurture this collaborative process by feeding the soil and all the organisms with compost and cover crops, and provide a blanket of mulch for the winter. I will not put anything harmful on plants or soil (it is hard to understand why anyone would). And I will nurture this garden with my attentiveness and gratitude. I am very aware that there are places on the planet where food is in short supply and I will not take this harvest for granted.
Mindfulness also reminds me to look carefully at the fall garden to assess what worked and what did not. This year there were not enough eggplant and an over abundance of squash, so I need to think about the changes I will make going forward. Harvest happens in other venues as well. We can ask the same questions for personal and community goals, “What am I harvesting and what changes do I need to make?” Whether I want more eggplant or more joy; less squash or less stress; more resilient plants or more resilient communities; I need to ask myself what seeds I need to plant and tend to in order for those things to manifest. Expecting peppers to grow from marigold seeds is obviously silly; but sometimes we expect situations in our lives and communities to magically sprout when we have not planted or tended the right seeds. Mindfulness practice itself is a good seed to start with and it is also the tool that will help us understand what other seeds need to be planted, both in our backyard gardens and in our lives and communities. If we want a different harvest, we need to first plant and care for different seeds.