Harvest, Burning and Expectation

by Amber Jensen

The air grows crisp as the grasses scratch at bare legs. It’s time to pick seeds out of socks and find homes for all the garden tomatoes and zucchini carefully tended through the summer. Or if you’re me, it’s time to admit defeat. It’s time to admit that all those best intentions amounted to a few cracked tomatoes and a large plot of greens gone to seed and strange grasses and prickly weeds.

That may be far too specific but it bears observing that not all of us are in the same stage or experience at this transitional harvest time. Nope, some of us have spent the spring and summer diligently tending to tiny fires everywhere and now, here we are, the whole world is ablaze and we didn’t quite get to weeding the garden.

At some point, the people who will succeed at what they set out to do, those who will harvest abundant produce and baskets of fruit – they’re split off from those who won’t. If only we knew the point of no return, we gardening failures could shift our efforts, turn our focus.

If you think I’m speaking of both real life gardening and metaphorical pandemic intentions and actions – I am. Both. I’m referring to the idea that this season is a time when we can focus on the harvest, or lack thereof, or we can see what is so and till in what happened this season and do better on the next try.

Fall is a season of gratitude and acceptance. At least for me it is. Gratitude for the opportunity to move through another season and acceptance that this last season went the way it went.

For so many of us, the past six months have been an uncertain holding pattern. A waiting game. Sprinkle that with pandemic, complete social upheaval, civil unrest, an awkward growing season and, well, here we are.

You with your bazillion tomatoes (and a canning jar shortage) and me, wondering why I lied to myself in July and said my garden was going to thrive. And this season has been like that. The hodgepodge of unexpected and downright strange things that have popped up along the timeline have led to this space. This reset before we walk into fall and accept that another season might mean more uncertainty.

It’s harvest season and it’s usually my favorite. The way everything shifts into place, after lazy summer days, and the full inhale of crispy crackly air provides the jolt we need to settle into a rhythm and pace we can sustain. Soon the lull of winter gives solace and rest in lengthened darkness. The blessed transition. The bounty and reflection of what we’ve sown.

This harvest feels familiar and different. I’m not quite sure if I’m harvesting split tomatoes and tiny carrots or hacking down the dreams I’ve created for my family and our life. I’m not sure if I’m harvesting a lonely sunflower or if I’m tilling in the expectations I held for what our country would do in a crisis. I’m not even sure what is appropriate to plan for next week.

I like to look to nature for clues to adjusting my life rhythm. She never steers me wrong and her constant cyclic hum brings my heart peace when so many things feel out of place.

My tomatoes might not have thrived but the natural world flourished this year. Only now, our side of the world is burning and nature seems to be pulling herself inward. Distant and angry.

I suppose the harvest of heart plantings is where we can look for guidance. What have we learned during all this? How have we grown? What no longer serves us and what surprised us with abundance and grace.

This is our chance. This year, more than ever, we have a chance to look at the space of our life and our gardens and choose what we’ll take into this next season. What will nourish us and feed our hearts, minds and bodies? And what aspects of living can we toss away for composting and hope for future fertility.

I don’t know that a split tomato or struggling zucchini has ever held more meaning for me, but this year, I’ve learned so much about expectations, joy and gratitude. It’s not about a canning lid shortage or putting up food for the winter. It’s about how I’m learning to cut away every last ounce of myself that isn’t real and true and alive.

Every single day for the last six months has been gloriously given as an opportunity to learn and grow and be better. And it’s also been a stage for struggle and loss and pain. As I stand in the garden of my life and compare it to the garden of my soil, I’m struck by how harsh uncertainty and upheaval can feel when you have solid expectations.

I was supposed to be giving away a bazillion tomatoes and zucchini this year. Instead, I wrote this.

Amber is a mother, wife, writer and dirt road philosopher. She hales from small-town Idaho and makes her home on a spread of dirt in Eastern Washington with her husband and four wild children. She is dedicated to a life of contribution and finding the pieces of our journeys that connect us all in our greatness.

The imperfect and incomplete nature of life is often overwhelming and stifling. By choosing it and owning it, Amber has taken some of the dirtiest situations and spun them into lessons to live by. Her greatest inspirations are her children and their dirt antics. Learn more about Amber by visiting www.amberjjensen.com