the garden is spent
having given its all.
Cucumber vines lie exhausted on the ground
Tomato plants list to one side
Cornstalks stand dignified and empty
Sunflower faces droop earthward,
shades of their former selves.
All that has not been claimed lies moldering in the dirt—
a bruised tomato, a forsaken pepper…
a misshapen pumpkin, a trampled stalk of beans.
What came from the earth is returning
to the place from whence it came.
There is an intimacy here,
in the fall garden,
gazing at living things in their demise.
I want to avert my eyes, avoid this tender grief.
Is this life or is this death? I cannot tell.
Ah, but there is beauty here
amid all this death and dying.
To have given one’s self fully
at least once
that is the thing.
To have spent oneself in an explosion of color
to have offered one’s body for food,
one’s very soul for nourishment…
It is an unseemly generosity,
beauty of another kind.
the garden says, “This is my life, given for you.”
And we are fed.
©Ruth Haley Barton, 2012.
Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center. A teacher, spiritual director and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.