Monday, September 12, 2016

Autumn Seeds

"A Time to Plant"
 - at the Desert Retreat House -

I was somewhat taken back when I walked into our local hardware store the other day to be greeted by a display of all the things people might need for this new “growing season” - packets of seeds, little pots of herbs, soil and fertilizer. My first reaction to seeing all this was, “Why on earth are they selling all this planting and growing stuff in these days after Labor Day when autumn is in the air?

Having spent most of my life on the east coast of this country, I still think of autumn as a time to prepare for shutting down. Once Labor Day has come and gone my body clock tells me that it must be time to get ready for winter.  In my mind I expect to walk into a store and see them selling rakes for the autumn leaves, snow shovels and anti-freeze for the cold winter season; instead they are selling autumn seeds and potting soil.

I am still learning that in Southern California (especially out here in this desert region),  winter is our second growing season of the year. The intense summer heat is coming to a grateful end, cacti are blooming again, and all sorts of new “blossoms” are springing up from the exotic desert foliage in my garden and along the wilderness trails.

Last season, my summer vegetable garden didn’t do so well. I didn’t plant the right seeds, not enough fertilizer and I didn’t give it enough water, so it yielded just a few tomatoes and a couple scrawny peppers; but now I’m given another chance. I guess I better start planting my winter garden.

I am reminded of something the author, Robert Louis Stevenson once said:

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap
but by the seeds that you plant.

I have often said that the desert is a perhaps my best teacher, it offers so many lessons about life, so much wisdom for the journey – that’s one of the reasons a desert is often perceived as being such a spiritual place. At this time of the year the lesson the desert teaches me is:
Don’t ever shut down.
 Don’t ever give up.
Every season of life is growing season.

I know plenty of people who feel as if they have reached a dead-end place in their lives. Their life-long ambitions have never come to fruition, relationships have failed or dried up, they are bored with their jobs or have no jobs, many are dulled by the “same old-same old” of the daily routine.  For many, the harvest of their lives seems minimal and they become cynical and despondent as they enter into the "autumn years" of their lives, and so they begin to “shut down.” Others begin the process of shutting down when they first begin in life and they continue doing so until the day they die.

Whether or not you actually live in a desert, the lesson of nature learned from the wisdom of the wilderness offers us all a wake-up call: every life is ready to burst with blossoms that have not yet bloomed no matter what the season, no matter how dry life may seem or how long the day has been.

A cool, gentle wind is blowing through the desert this morning and autumn is in the air. The day dawns, the time for planting is fast approaching and I call to mind a wisdom saying often attributed of the Buddha:

There are two mistakes one can make on the road to truth,
one is not going all the way,
the other is not starting.


  1. Just in case no one has told you, Pat Welch's Souther California Gardening is an indispensible resource for those of us used to gardening back east.

  2. Thank you for a different perspective on winter. As a native Californian, I am used to winter as a growing season while my sister, who moved to the East Coast, experiences winter differently with snow and ice.