Tuesday, October 25. Good a day as any for the first frost of the season. I had been anticipating it for weeks, trailing off to imagine the frantic covering of rows and harvesting of tomatoes and basil that, in the end, didn't happen. We were all-- rough yellow basil, split tomatoes, puny zucchinis, worn down hands-- ready. We knew it was coming. We'd been waiting and wondering and not really sure if a few degrees would really matter. Yes: everything changed in one night.
Life and death are never as clear as when a first frost hits. True, life is slowing every day, growth stunted, turning almost static as the day lengths shorten and the temperature drops. The carrots that happily sprung forth from their row in mid September appear the same size as they were weeks ago, and a pepper that would ripen in a week of August sun is now hanging green. Can plants feel some version of disheartened? This morning when I unlocked the gate, some were already flopped over. Others, tips lined with ice crystals, took it in stride and stood their ground. The summer crops that we'd neglected to cover looked fine until the sun rose, at which point the ice that had formed in their leaves and fruit melted and ruptured their tissues. Their leaves turned a deeper, drabber shade of green as their bodies steadily slumped. Flaccid. It was their time.
Though, barring a few rows of torpid vegetables in a sloped garden in east Eugene, not much is different about the world. The fatalities on the farm won't go noticed by folks reading upstairs at the public library, or my roommate slammed with midterms, or even some of the people charged with educating our high school students. In their world, a frost means windshield scrapers and thermostats. A mound of wilted basil plants might seem a bit sad, but certainly nothing to get hung up about. Of course, like I said, it was their time. But I think this day, and that wilted basil, may be the heaviest mark of fall we will see: truly, Fall. Fall from growth, from security, from sunlight. No more pretending that the season will float along without end. At least some things can truly by decided. Among the ceaseless tide of days and nights, dreams and awakenings, simple ice crystals have embedded in my memory. It's a brand new world.