I’ve been thinking a lot lately about letting go. We’ve had a lot of milestones here in the past few months which are putting this issue front and center for me. Our daughter, 16 and a junior in high school this year, got her drivers’ license earlier this month. Our son, 17 and a senior in high school this year, got his first job, which is in a little French bakery near here. We’re all looking at colleges, SAT tests are being scheduled, school shirts labeled SENIOR have been distributed. This morning, after I took what will possibly be the last ‘first day of school’ photo of the kids together, they hopped in their car and took off. No more school dropoffs and pickups for me. It feels like one more way I’m letting go.
Maybe parenting is just one long series of letting go. The first time you leave them with a sitter. The first time you take them to preschool. The first time they go to sleep-away camp. The first time you leave them at home alone for an hour. Etc etc etc, all culminating in them leaving for college. I used to scoff at people who worried about this stage, and now I’m in the thick of it. Trust me when I say I am no longer scoffing. It is a true adjustment and the feelings about it start long before the actual event. I mean, I’ve got a year before I have to deal with any big-time letting go. And actually, maybe it’s a form of protection that we start feeling the angst of it early on - hopefully that means no tears on the actual day and the adjustment will already have happened. A friend and classmate of mine, who has a son going to Boston for college this year, said to me, “I hardly saw him senior year. And it helped prepare me for this day. Well, that and therapy.”
I don’t start classes until Monday, which means I have some overly-contemplative time to fill. I did some more letting go this morning by removing 16 tomato plants that were looking very sickly, and replanting that space with edamame and more cover crops. The tomatoes were basically done producing, and since they were diseased, I thought it best to take them out and put them in this week’s green bin for pickup. I still have 16 beefsteak tomato plants, and nine very productive cherry tomato plants. So we won’t be lacking harvest potential anytime soon. I’m also making the first batch of summer salsa, as I have enough Jalapeno and Anaheim chilies to make it worthwhile. I always use the recipe from an old Ball Blue Book, and we love it.
It’s hard to think about things changing. Our Augusts are usually on the cool side, with temps in the 80’s for most of the month, and then the heat comes roaring back in September. Bu so far this year, August has been quite hot. We can’t count on ‘the usual’ any more. We have to expect changes and become resilient as gardeners and farmers. I’m reading tons of hopeful stories about farmers changing the way they farm, or changing crops entirely, or thinking differently about the idea of a ‘farm’ (one story I read was of a midwest farmer who traded acres of grain for acres of solar panels). Patterns are not patterns so much anymore. We’re going to have to learn to live with the uncertainty and let go of the ways in which we ‘used’ to do things. Maybe your plant palette will have to change, or you’ll have to move things around to account for more/less heat, more/less rain. Maybe gardening, like parenting, is just a series of letting go.