My years are measured in seasons now, not months or years. Each brings a flurry of activity and opportunity for growth.
Roaming the local pumpkin patch, we find the most perfect bumpy, little pumpkin for our little boy. Around campfires and hay bales, we breathe in the cooling air.
The leaves shift colors and drift down. As much as my two-year-old loves jumping on the bed, he’s never jumped in leaves before. We start with a slow-motion fall, easing our way down with giggles and flailing. After a few jumps, he piles the leaves into the wheelbarrow by the armful.
The week before, we had stripped the garden, pulling out monstrous tomato plants and prickly squash. Now, we empty the composter, scraping the sides of the dark sludge and shreds of newspaper caught there. We break down the straw bale that held our Jack o’lantern, layering it in with the compost and leaves. The pile nearly comes up to my son’s head.
Cold arrives, followed by heavy snow and ice.
With the subway closed and roads blocked, I stay home from my paid job, but there’s still work to be done. I watch our son while my husband shovels for hours on end. I would normally help, but I’m five months pregnant with complications. Instead, I try to tempt my son into the white landscape by reading The Snowy Day and The Snowman. I fail, so I build a snowman by myself when my husband is inside. My heart can’t stand to be trapped in the house anymore.
The next day, my son relents and we wander the neighborhood, watching the birds and squirrels dancing along the snow-covered branches. We bring snow inside, seeing how the primary colors of food coloring mix into purple, green, orange and finally brown.
A few weeks later, we start the seeds for our garden, placing them in soft piles of soil. My son takes watering them very seriously, focusing on pouring the water gently out of the bottle, my hands over his.
The trees begin to bud, pastel flowers almost ready to bloom. My belly is huge, anticipating its own new life. We told our older son that his brother would be come when the trees turned green. Like everything in nature, the baby arrives on his own timeline, pushing his way out almost a month early.
His arrival throws our rhythm off-balance. We hurry to buy furniture, wrap up or cancel plans, make space in our lives for this new little person sooner than expected. Like a river, our schedules and thought patterns shift to accommodate this new crying, needy element in our landscape.
While my husband and I do the physical work, my son is finding new ways of being as a big brother. Torn between love and jealousy, he grasps on and lashes out, pushing and pulling for our attention. In the rainy days of April and May, we splash in puddles together, jumping in with both feet and no fear of mud.
All the while, we are cultivating our plants. We transplant tomatoes and basil seedlings and bury the roots of numerous pea, bean, melon and squash sprouts. My older son drops corn and broccoli seeds in mounds of dirt, leaving me to cover it gently. “I’m a gardener, mommy!” he proclaims.
Despite our efforts, nature finds a way to confound our plans. Rain washes away the seeds, birds rip up the sprouts on their quest to look for bugs, and everything fails save a few tomato, basil, and pea sprouts.
But our fortunes reverse again, with ever-impetuous nature. Tomato and melon seeds from the compost plant themselves, leading to sprawling vines and bright yellow flowers. Life doesn’t quite produce what you thought you had planted.
Summer arrives, cooler and rainier than usual. My older son turns three, getting more independent each time I look at him. He conquers the park’s playground equipment, spins until he collapses on the ground, attends summer camp, and declares that a tree is his friend.
His brother is growing too, already twice as heavy as the day he was born. He’s finding his personality, one of easy smiles about getting his diaper changed but also shrieking frustration when he’s in a car seat that isn’t moving. He’s more expressive and mercurial than his brother was – easier to cry but also quicker to smile.
We harvest our first vegetables from the garden, a few stalwart pea pods. We would have had ripe blueberries from our bushes, but the birds nibbled them off before we did. We settle for pick-your-own berries instead.
We take our first vacation as a family of four, connecting with extended family and nature. In Cape Cod’s beaches and towns, we dig holes to the sea, splash in cold waves, gasp at whales, and bask in Provincetown’s subversive quirk.
We return home to a jungle of a garden overrun by vines and chomped on by deer. A massive zucchini lurks under the leaves.
Gazing through the August haze to autumn again, we envision family Halloween costumes and picking fresh red apples. Each day brings its own new challenges and beauties that are never quite how you would imagine them.
“And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game” – The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell