“March comes in like a lion but goes out like a lamb.” This is what my Garden Almanac tells me. I remember learning this quotation when I was a small child in school. We were being taught about the seasons of the year. I suppose this stayed in my mind because I found it difficult to equate lazy lions with blustery March.
I also could not understand why the seasons were not tidily arranged through the year. Why did summer not start on the first day of January? Perhaps it was not the seasons that were at fault, but our arrangement of the year. Who started the years? How did they determine which was the first day?
I had so many questions that no one seemed able to answer. After several decades some of those questions are still unanswered. They tease me from time to time, but they are no longer of great importance.
Today,for me March first is not the first day of autumn. On March first I turn the page in my accounts book and prepare the columns for a new set of figures.
In the garden, where the season really matters, autumn comes in little steps. It is time, reluctantly, to trim or pull the straggly annuals, small reward for their brilliance through the hot summer months. Time, too, to pull out the box of bulbs from their corner in the shed.
Seedtime and harvest. Autumn is the time for the farmers to plant their winter crops, wheat, barley, triticale and canola. These are the farmer’s ‘bread and butter,’ but they also supply the bread we put on out tables, the margarine and the oils we cook with.
Importantly for me, autumn is the time for bulbs. Of all the rich variety, I love the freesia best. If you were to walk by my house in spring you would see that is true. Freesias grow in wild abandon through the lawns, the garden beds, and even in the cracks between the paving stones. They have taken themselves beyond the garden wall and flower in little clumps beside the road. They perfume the street where I live. Spring is the time for reaping the enjoyment, but autumn is the time when they are set. Autumn is the time when those beneath their coverlet of earth begin to wake.
Nothing is more true than that ‘one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase.’
I came to this house in the summer of the year. It had been unoccupied for some time. The lawns were mowed, shrubs and creepers needed to be trimmed. The house, severe red brick was set in a small green surround, interlaced with concrete paths. The first intimation of real life was late autumn when the bulbs began to poke their fingers through.
As I trimmed, tidied and raked, planning what to thin, transplant or replace, I found the tiny shoots and wondered which of the bulbs they might be. That year I put aside my plans and waited to see what treasure the Lord had prepared for me. Treasure? Such treasure! Jonquils grew in a row, snowflakes in a corner, and freesias everywhere.
Autumn is a season of planning for renewal, a season of anticipation. It is a time of dreaming with action. If fruit trees are to bear, they must be pruned. Seeds do not grow unless they are planted, and they cannot successfully be planted if the ground is not prepared. These are the tasks of autumn, the preparation for another year.
There is a spiritual autumn, too. A time when the Master Gardener prunes the vines, removes the dead wood, rakes the fallen leaves and mulches the ground around the roots. We crowd our lives with so much information, words that bear no lasting fruit; tasks that fail to bring satisfaction. When He has removed the dead wood, taken the leaves for composting, He packs His love around us, begins to water with His word.
Autumn. This is a time for rest, a time for cleansing, a time for planting, a time for renewal to begin.
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