Before the freeze
One of the last blossoms
The last butterfly I photographed this fall

Whoosh. Another season gone. I’m never thrilled to put the garden down for the winter. Where I live, yesterday’s temperatures were positively summery. But just like that, an almost 45 degree plummet is predicted for tonight. I have to hurry, mindful that everything I do now will, in the long run, make next spring easier. Anyway, I’m still good at hurrying, albeit a bit more slowly than I was in the past. My normal pace is fast. With my garden, as with mostly anything I care about, I’m generally all in, perhaps even more so now as daily, I’m keenly aware that I’m on the clock. There’s definitely not as much time ahead of me as what’s in my rear view mirror. l’ve gotten pretty good at doing only what I want to do, as fast as I can manage each chosen activity. My body is slower than my brain, but the mind over matter phenomenon still mostly works for me. My organizational bent is also a big help. An inveterate list maker, long ago I outlined all the outdoor chores that need attention before a deep freeze, as well as preparing a list for the following spring. I always like a paper list, not just a digital one. A part of me remains old school.

I’m not quite sure how long ago this piece of paper was sitting out on the dining room table, when Michael decided to add his own chores to the list, under the “MP” heading. As with all his notes, I treasure this one, always grateful that he had easily readable handwriting. I love having physical evidence of his having been here. Of course, in actuality, I have plenty of those physical reminders, along with the more inexplicable cosmic sensations of his ethereal existence that I live with every day.

The empty cassette rack built around a light switch.
Former vinyl records rack

For example, last week, I found myself wandering through the house, photographing all the shelving units Michael built during his life. He really loved designing storage that was specific for whatever he wanted to display. Back when he owned a music store, he built all the requisite racks for cassette tapes, CD’s and of course, vinyl albums. He did the same at home. When he sold his CD and vinyl collection, he included most of the shelves that held in the sale. I’ve repurposed much of what’s still here. Some units are fully occupied while others look a bit lonely. The cassette shelf is one of those, as is the big spice rack in the kitchen. I don’t have many cassettes any more and I just don’t cook the way he did, needing a zillion ingredients for all his culinary dabbling.

The mostly barren spice rack
Once Michael’s hot sauce collection unit, it now displays photos as well.

But I digress. The point is, it’s up to me to do Michael’s jobs along with mine, at least the ones which are still relevant. In the almost 5 and a half years since his death I’ve made changes to our garden, necessary for me to keep a handle on all this space which was once our team effort. I don’t really mind, although there never seems to be enough time for me to do everything, at least if I’m going to survive for a bit longer.

Tarp over the hoses
All the outdoor chairs and bird baths are under this tarp.

While I work, I listen to a steady stream of music. The beats and rhythms make physical labor easier. Additionally, there’s something to be said for tossing in a few dance moves as a distraction from the drudgery. Meanwhile I’m thinking away. The tunes often trigger powerful emotions, the kind that carry me from decade to decade in my memory. One minute I’m back in my teens, the next, I’m in yesterday. I enjoy the mental ride. I highly recommend a daily soundtrack to accompany almost any task. If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to a more scientific article about the value of music for everyone.


Frequently of course, I am also totally in the present, pondering life as it is today. Being introspective is as normal to me as breathing. I think about conversations I’ve had with my family, friends and acquaintances, turning them over in my mind, checking myself to make sure I haven’t missed something, maybe a comment or two in my interactions with others, that might need re-visiting. Perhaps a clarification or a tweak. I’ve been practicing this habit since I was quite young. I’m my strongest critic and a great believer in fixing misunderstandings and problems quickly, before they get bigger than necessary. Some people categorize my approach as confrontational which I guess is fair. Was I born with these tendencies or did I acquire them as I went along? I’m not sure. But time seems to have sped up, a feeling that I think gets more common as people age. I remember when I was a kid, every future event seemed to take forever to arrive. Now they zip past quickly. I guess I want to fix what I can before I run out of opportunities to make things right. I’m keenly aware that I want to use my time consciously, making certain I don’t waste any of whatever is left for me.

My son and me

This past week has been packed with significant life events. My son, my youngest child, became a first-time dad. I didn’t know if that would happen in my lifetime. I felt great joy for him, as he will be a wonderful father who has really wanted a family. I was painfully pondering Michael’s absence throughout the process. I’ve never become a grandparent without him. Always acknowledging how much he’d love this, I was completely there for my kid and my daughter-in-law. That’s the least I can do to honor him.

Three generations, me, my daughter and my granddaughter

Along with that momentous occasion, my daughter announced a big step forward in her career. An opportunity was basically placed in front of her and she chose to accept the challenge. In just a few days, the conformation of our family unit shifted. Everyone is doing something new. My desire and my effort is to make a rapid adjustment right along with everyone else. So far, I’m still able to adapt to change pretty well. Staying relevant is meaningful to me. I have a great desire to provide support and sustenance to my kids, despite the fact that they’re fully functioning adults. By the time that my mom was my age, I’d been providing her considerable care for almost seven years. I feel lucky that I’m still able to be a parent instead of a dependent. How long will that ability last? I don’t get to know that. I just want to make sure that every day in which I can continue to keep up with the pace around me, that’s precisely what I do. I don’t want to waste time or have regrets.

Canna lily
Canna lily

This past spring, I transplanted canna lily bulbs and dahlia tubers back into my garden from their winter home in pots, buried in dirt and wrapped in bags, that I stored in my back hallway. I’d dug them out of the ground late last fall. These tender plants can’t survive the cold months in my part of the world.

Canna bulbs
Canna bulbs
Dahlia tubers
Dahlia tubers

This afternoon I dug the same ones once again, getting them ready for winter storage. I felt as if I’d just done this yesterday. That’s how fast time is zipping along. As I prepared them for hibernation, I realized that this effort is optimistic. When spring comes, I’ll initiate the cycle again, the assumption being that I’ll be here to do it. I guess that’s a more positive way to mark the fleeting nature of time than the one I’ve often focused on before – the emptying and refilling of my weekly pill container with my fortunately few prescription medications, along with my supposedly health-bolstering supplements. Seems like five minutes ago that I first needed any daily medication. I felt like a real grownup then. It’s probably better for me to think about the garden as the whooshing days go by.

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