The yellow leaves of the sugar maple, the reddish purple leaves of the ash and the multi-colored leaves of the sweet gum have begun to litter the ground, foreshadowing the end of a season and the celebration of the natural cycle. These fallen leaves will insulate the trees and plants while providing hiding places for insects, providing shelter materials for wildlife and building up the soil.
For some of us, the leaves fall too soon; we are not ready for the upcoming season of dying and dormancy. We are not ready to let go of the vibrancy of life that we have cultivated. We are reminded of every moment of love we put into our garden space and every moment of reprieve it gave us back. This season, I had to say goodbye to my muse, my teacher, my mentor, my father, and most of all, my beautiful tree.
Sitting in the grasslands of Texas where my father lived, I wrote his eulogy surrounded by the things he loved. Plants everywhere. Tomatoes in straw bales, herbs to feed his chickens, newly planted hibiscus bushes and a half-used bale of hay with a pitchfork propped against it. Hay strewn under the trees was mulch fitting for the landscape. We shared this love for gardening, so much so I would write about a man who broke the rules of conventional gardening, and he would experiment with new gardening ideas for me.
Gardening is beyond the science of soil and the training of trees; it touches us and is carried down to the next generation. His father and mother taught him to grow vegetables; he taught me to care for plants; and now I teach my niece how to plant seeds. With my father, there was never a question of whether he would garden, but a familiar obligation to grow and a joy within the process.
The fallen leaves will be broken down by bacteria and microbes and inevitably will initiate new growth. His legacy lives in the new generation. He did what all people should do; he taught the next generation how to grow. I ask, When you step into the garden, who joins you? Who is your muse? Do you carry their legacy to grow? I know I will continue to write about him as he will always be my muse. I may label him as a gardener I knew, an old man in Texas, my father who taught me to love nature.