Today I wandered around my neighborhood at 2 in the afternoon. It will be awhile before I can do that again on a weekday. I noticed a pattern in the neighborhood foliage that made me feel a bit better about my own yard. Despite days without teaching requirements, my own front yard is suffering from particular horticultural neglect, as I gave up beating back the weeds growing through the mulch earlier in the season. Now they are dried out and falling over each other, almost revealing some of the original plantings that keep me from weed-whacking the whole lot and starting over.
In Oregon, the patience required for tomatoes (many just starting to come in now, in early September) is matched only by the necessity for pruning. As a person whose thumb is only green-ish, and whose garden can sometimes be an exercise in natural selection, pruning is a challenge for me. I feel that anything that’s made it through the soil, with or without my help, has a right be be there. But what I’ve learned is that plants around here are usually healthier when they are in fact pruned back. Taking some of the branches from the forsythia actually encouraged it to sprout new ones. The tomato plants and the sunflowers have a much easier time standing up after the removal of their burdensome abundance.
Can you tell I am trying to get comfortable pruning my writing time? One of my greatest challenges in transitioning to full-time teacher and chaplain from most-time writer happens at the beginning September, when the schedule turns on full blast and my own root bed fills up with water, and I can feel it erode.
In my 9th year living in Western Oregon, I’ll try to align myself not only with the smokebush and raspberries, which both go dormant in the winter and explode in the summer, but also with the lemon balm and the nasturtiums, which die off. These are annuals, but you wouldn’t know it. They self-seed, so that a few months from now, they’ll return with new shoots and the eventual promise of flowers.