It’s October and no frost yet, so the garden is still producing. The tomatoes are slowing down with decreasing hours of daylight, but the zinnias and cosmos are in their usual autumn glory, lording it over the faded bee balm, the sleeping shastas. Even the phlox has gone to seed. How have they managed this in the short time since I set them out in the garden?
The passage of time is indisputable, but subjective. When my son was small he told me he had noticed that time went fast when he was having fun, but slowly when he was doing something boring. He wanted to find a way to fool his time sense into doing it the other way around. My own approach to this problem is to try to inject a little of one into the other – consciously savoring the good things while I’m immersed in them, which slows them but risks diluting the direct experience, and looking for a nub of goodness in the boring or bad ones, which can be pretty hard to find. I was taught this last approach by my father who, once when I was weeping on his shoulder over some undeserving high school boy, told me I should look for the good that might come out of that particular disappointment. I’m sure he was thinking, like finding out this guy is a jerk, but he was kind and suggested other possibilities. He was an engineer, and believed there were always parts in a broken thing that could be saved for future use.
In the garden now, the cosmos and the fallen, burst cherry tomatoes are busy reseeding themselves. Next summer they will come up, as they did this year, in the pathways and nooks between raised beds, adding unplanned delight and useful fruit and flowers to my yard. They are the final touch, the grace note, and in their ripeness and tumble, in the late light on over-ripe produce and nodding, tall, tall flowers, I hear a phrase from a favorite opera: “Oh perfect moment, stay,” the words of a mad philosopher when he finally hears the band of angels singing.