‘At the end of the season come the seeds- carry your loss as desire’.~ Bean wisdom
We are coming to the end of a season.
I feel gratitude for the good weather and for the harvest, neither certain nor fully controllable, and that much more joyful for their presence.
It is late Autumn, and I am picking the last of the beans. The leaves are wilted, and the vines are blackening, but fat bean seeds bulge from their pods. I have been lucky this year–last year the first frosts came before the beans were fully ripe, and the pods dissolved into a slimy mass before I could extract many seeds. I feel gratitude for the good weather and for the harvest, neither certain nor fully controllable, and that much more joyful for their presence. We will have hearty bean soups this winter. As I dried, and then broke beans from their pods, they gave me insights about cycles, and reminded me that the fruit comes at the end of the season and the end of the cycle. It cannot be rushed and cannot come earlier because it takes the whole cycle to make a bean.
There are geese flying south, honking loudly. The pumpkins have ripened and turned orange, dotting the field with color. At our farm we have dried sunflower seeds, made sauerkraut from the cabbage, and stored onions, potatoes, carrots, beets, and potatoes. We have picked pears, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. And yet, there have been losses as well. The peanuts that I tried to grow for a second season have not matured: they sit dormant and shriveling. I had such hopes for them. The broccoli and cauliflower have been eaten again by caterpillars who stripped the leaves and turned the sprouts to mush, we managed only a few meals with small tips. The Brussel sprouts, planted too late, have not developed and I fear they will not mature before winter.
We face loss in every season and every cycle.
At the school garden we have harvested masses of tomatoes and potatoes together with some beans, peppers, carrot, kale, and squash, which we made into a minestrone soup together with some of the beans from my garden. But there were losses there too. The soil has not been well composted for the past year, and it shows in the harvest: many beans and peas, as well as beets and sunflowers, were slow to grow or did not mature at all. I see the disappointment on children’s faces when they check on their squash plant that has only one small fruit. We must put more effort into building the compost and the soil, and we must plant early enough to get a full harvest. We face loss in every season and every cycle.
The ugliest, most unnecessary loss we faced this season was when the owners of the land where we have the garden came and inexplicably cut down all the beautiful, mature birch trees. The stumps now stand as testament, still oozing sap out of their broad wounds. The act was an example of how the lack of ecological understanding leads to loss in an economically driven industrial culture. When the school secretary called in a panic to ask why the trees were being chopped down she was met with the question ‘What do you need the trees for?’ Only the understanding of our inextricable interconnectedness with the entire biotic community can answer this question. I reflect on how both humans and the more than human beings are facing loss now in the world, and there is deep grief there too.
in the real world, there is both abundance and decay; life grows out of death, in compost and leaf mulch fed by fungi.
A garden will never offer only stunning stories of victory or never-ending success, of exponential growth that never slows or stops, for that is not how the real, natural world works. Endless growth and continuous success is the story that our current industrial culture sets forth as ideal, and we too often think we must emulate that or be failures. Yet, in the real world, there is both abundance and decay; life grows out of death, in compost and leaf mulch fed by fungi. Gardens, and beans, remind us that in the real world, the world that is, there are small steps. There are cycles of growth and loss, and cycles again. There is loss to learn from, to better from, to grow from, and to become resilient through. We are running out of time and the times are urgent, but if our progress is forward, we know we can build on what we have started. As we work toward a more resilient, fair, and thriving world, we can count on our stories engendering more stories. We can tell our stories and hope to hear others’ stories, receiving inspiration in return.
You can have gratitude for the harvest you have had, and for each step forward.
Bean wisdom says at the end of the season come the seeds. They cannot come before then for they must be nourished by the fullness of the season. They arise only at the end of the life of the plant, when the pods wither and dry, when the plant dies back, and the leaves brown and fall to the ground. And so they say to me, you can cradle your desire. You can have gratitude for the harvest you have had, and for each step forward. You can hold and save the seed, and you can wait for the new season. You can carry your loss as desire too, because loss is an impetus for change. Desire is the proof of aliveness and the promise of new seasons.
The geese sense the end of the summer season is upon us: winter is coming. In tune with the seasons, they are flying raucously. Many of us also sense that the end of the season of abundance in our extractive cultures is upon us. There is a feeling in the air. A chill, even. And uncertainty is there too, yet uncertainty has only ever been the way forward; there is no progress without it. Many others have not had abundance for a long time; they understand loss and uncertainty well, and long for cycles of harvest.
This is what we need to nurture and to teach our children, this raucous joy for the world and our place in it
Shall we fly raucously, welcoming uncertainty and cycle? Can we do the work of removing dry and wilting pods and work together to reveal the seeds of the coming season? Can we keep these safe through the winter and nurture them into new life in the spring? This is the promise of aliveness. This is what we need to nurture and to teach our children, this raucous joy for the world and our place in it, this resilience to hold and cradle loss; to recognize that loss as the desire for aliveness; to welcome the coming together in community and the diligent work of gathering seed, the seed of beans as well as the seeds of a new culture; to protect and nurture these; to share the harvest equitably and to plant again with more wisdom and increasing consciousness in the coming cycles.
Recorded by Rebecca Selove
Katharine Burke is a practitioner of the Work that Reconnects, a permaculture farmer, a retired teacher and lifelong learner and educator, a mother, grandmother and poet, and a human learning to interact reciprocally with the more than human world.