Finding My Place (and Peace) in the October Landscape

There’s a reason I don’t work in an office any more. It’s called October. Something to do with the sun on my face and the warm breeze at my back as I hike through the swaying grasses and the prickly scrub across the stone-splattered fields behind my house. Up to the spent cornfield I go, watching a thousand geese lift off in unison, honking like so many commuters in Time Square at 5 o’clock. Only it’s not Time Square or I-95 or even somewhere that has stoplights. It’s West Tisbury, where more of my neighbors are sheep than people.

By day, the strange silver light of fall sparkles through the still-green leafy maples and bounces off the crimson spokes of sumac leaves crisscrossing the meadow; by night, the man in the full moon winks, and the lights go on—an inky football field of black sky suddenly punch-holed with bright stars and planets that are mine to gaze at for as long as I like. Without city lights for miles, the Vineyard sky is unblemished by artificial luminescence. By dawn, I know the October kaleidoscope will shift again, this time turning a firey, blood-red sunrise into a gauzy grey-blue morning where the fog hovers just over the edge of the horizon, leaving you to guess what lies beyond.

In the garden, I am fascinated by the will to live. Plants are withered and brittle, their leaves brown and dropping, and still they flower and set fruit. Amazing. I gather up all kinds of imperfect vegetables and I love them even more for their struggles. I know the garden is slowly dying, and I accept that, because I know what spring will bring. And yet we drag the cold frame in and snuggle lettuce seedlings into it—hoping in a way to defy nature and have something fresh in the midst of frost.

There is palpable power in this October landscape, in the beauty, the errant stillness, the juxtaposition of life and death. It’s as if all of the elements of nature have conspired to bring us fully into the present, to be aware and observant and respectful.  Our job is not to do anything right at this moment but be a part of the place.

12 thoughts on “Finding My Place (and Peace) in the October Landscape”

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful piece. It gave me a lot to ponder…and was a perfect start to a cold rainy day in Indiana.

  2. Hi Susie…I could feel myself in your back yard as I read this…you did capture the landscape beautifully and I love your garden and its givings…thank you

  3. Hi Susie,
    Wow! You are a beautiful writer. I remember feeling the same way about the Vineyard. It is such a special place. I have found that same peace here across the bay and my little garden is also yielding a radish or two, some lettuce or a stray scallion. LOVE October. Thank you.

  4. Hi Andrea,
    I know what you mean because you can get a strong sense of place (and peace) anywhere you cultivate it…glad all is well on your side of the sound! susie

  5. Yes, things still struggling to grow in October–you’re right. So true: “Our job is not to do anything right at this moment but be a part of the place.” In those moments when we are freed from trying to get it “right” we are more likely to get it. Write on, sister.

  6. Fall is the Mosaic of all the seasons! I forget the rest of the quote but that stuck in my mind as so true. Love your writing-and gorgeous photos!

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