I am always just a bit sad to see the first frost. The slow death of the garden is put to rest overnight and officially puts an end to the growing season. Life is sort of that way too. There is a point in every person's life where they become aware of their mortality. I have an etching by my friend and artist Warren Criswell. It is called "Death Waking Time". It captures "Death" as a beautiful woman awakening the sleeping artist with a kiss. Warren says this is the moment where we realize that life will end. Once you become aware that death will take you, just like it has taken everyone that has ever lived, then you are forever changed. You can never return to the carefree mindset of youth where you are invincible and think you will live forever. Every man has his "first frost", the moment "Death" wakes up "Time". People face this moment at different times in their life and under various circumstances. I suppose this is where I am. I am painfully aware that my time is running out, that winter is inevitable. Pain being the operative word for sure since it has been a long 19 months of living with pain. Today I try to just live in the moment. I have good days and I have bad days. I never know which it will be until it happens. Just a few short years ago I thought I could take on the world. Today, putting on my socks without help is a victory.
I suppose this is all rather melodramatic. I am not so sick that I am going to die. I am not terminally ill and so I don't want to sound like I am whining. There are so many people in worse shape than I am in and I am sorry if I sound like a sympathy seeking crybaby. But, I am in a struggle and this struggle has made me more aware of the fragility and brevity of life.
This venture known as Double Helix Farms is also in a time of transition. It's life depends on my health when it comes time to plant. I know that I am currently physically unable to do the difficult work of growing thousands of plants every year. Can I find someone else to do it? Perhaps, but it is the love for the work that drives me. I actually love working hard, sweating, sore muscles and dirty hands. Well, maybe not the sore muscles, but the act of farming is pleasurable even if it is difficult. Can I do this as a supervisor and not a worker? I don't know if I want to.
The other transition Double Helix Farms is experiencing is the discontinuation of many of the things we sell. We have dozens and dozens of varieties that no one wants to buy. We had way too many small red tomatoes. As a business, we just can't afford to package seeds and print labels for tomatoes nobody buys. So, I had to discontinue a lot a tomatoes. I kept a few of the poor sellers anyway because they are very good and I will continue to grow them. I can also look at web traffic and see that people absolutely will not scroll through 1000 pages of tomato listings. Having thousands of something does not make what you do better. Having the best product and giving outstanding customer service is much more important than the quantity of offerings.
Even though we eliminated numerous varieties, we added many new ones too. We think this year's update on the website is the best offering we have ever had. I truly believe Double Helix Farms has the prettiest and easiest to navigate website of any of the seed vendors.
So here we are. Back for another year and offering the absolute best of the best. We trialed a large number of tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash, and assorted other things this year. Only a fraction made it to our online catalog. Not every pepper or tomato can be the best ever and we still cull inferior or malformed varieties.
So now what? Well, I keep going. I am not a lazy person so part of my battle is overcoming the mental aspect of not feeling well. I tend to "beat myself up" for not getting things done in the amount of time or in the way I have done things in the past. I "beat myself up" for having to stop from time to time during the day to recompose myself from the pain. I sometimes go without sleep for a day or more and sometimes sleep half the day to catch back up. I am slowly learning to accept this as the new reality of my life. So, yes, I will keep going. I am resilient and I am industrious. I keep going.
The first frost represents not only the end of the season, but also the beginning. The first frost is really just the first day to plan for the next season. While the garden is at rest, I can spend all my time getting excited over the new varieties I will be planting in the spring. The thrill of anticipation about what my newest breeding projects will look like will sustain me until I can put some seeds in the soil.
Experiencing the "first frost" should not make you give up. The "first frost" only makes the desire to leave your mark stronger. It makes me want to try harder. It makes me want to look at life and the world with fresh eyes. It makes me want to explore new ideas and try new things. I am very much learning to accept the things I have no control over and to take control of the things that I can. Life is not the way I want it to be. Life is just how it is at the moment and no amount of planning can prevent or direct it in any way. So I go on not obsessing on the gloom of winter, but awakening with the sweet kiss of awareness.