The columns and writings of
Peggy L. Elliott
"" First Frost

When I opened the door this morning to let out the dog, I was greeted by rolling blankets of frost, the first frost of this fall season.

I know many people attempt to defend their plants from the onslaught of a deep freeze. In fact, I was once counted amongst them. Anxiously locked into the weatherman's best-guess estimates as to how low the temperatures just might go that night - the forecaster soars to a god-like status, with a life and death balance in his or her hands.

Then, when the warning was officially voiced, from God to Channel 11, I would scavenge through the linen closet for old sheets and grab up any available newspapers - read, hopefully, unread, too bad. Thus armed, I would cover the flowers with sheets, the tomatoes with newspapers, and any leftover coverings would be laid over other plant life susceptible to the freeze and deemed worthy of sparing, for the time being.

This is merely a stop-gap measure, though. For eventually these delicate flowers and vegetable plants will all succumb to the silken finger tips of ice which strokes the vegetation, draining their life force and leaving a blackened, melted pile where moments before had stood a proud tomato plant.

I no longer feel so compelled to cheat the frost of its harvest - and not only because I have long ago given up on any form of outdoor decorative or useful plant life which requires that level of protection. Though, in fact, I have. But in my aging process, I've come to believe that when it's time to go, it's time to go - be you human, animal or Better Boy tomato.

Frost is the Grim Reaper of plant life. Unlike our rendering of the Grim Reaper, however, Jack Frost is a far more amiable and decorative fellow to have stalking you. It's simply nature's way of clearing the field for the next season. These plants and flowers we've so enjoyed this year have grown weary and, frankly, as with all living things who have given all they have within them, they have earned their rest.

For the past few months, the vegetables have fed us - they've been feasted upon fresh from the garden and they've been frozen and canned to carry us through the coming winter. The flowers have graced our tables, as well as our lawns, blessing us with the singular delight and wonder only the beauty of a flower can grant.

Still, there's that uniquely human desire inside of us which compels us to take whatever actions are necessary in an attempt to prolong the gift of life for as long as is possible. This is not only in regard to the miracles performed by the medical community, keeping life flowing through bodies grown helpless and in souls grown exhausted by their efforts. We seek to nurse all life we cherish, need or enjoy - if not back to health, at least to keep alive and with us a while longer that which we can't fathom losing, whether to frost or to disease.

We are selfish creatures, though. Far too often what we prolong, in our single-minded desire to hold on, is the misery, the suffering of the life kept limping along, instead of being allowed to graciously bow out to the peace and rest that is their just reward.

To deem a plant's life as worthy of prolonging as is a human's - or even an animal's - would seem absurd. And, of course, I'm not implying the same importance exists. When we do take it upon ourselves to push back the presence of death, it is to keep from relinquishing someone, or something, whose presence brightens our lives, which makes us better people, happier and more appreciative.

We fear that by failing in our efforts to delay the inevitable we must surrender to a life in which our hearts have been ripped out, where our beloved dog's collar and leash now hang empty and unneeded, or where we are imprisoned without release in the cold, dark winter that is hurtling towards us, unavoidable.

But all life carries with it a "time expired" card, be it an elderly gentleman who succumbs to his third heart attack, or a geranium surrendering to the frost. We need to honor the laws of nature, the supreme rulebook by which we are all meant to live; we must not always rush to devote ourselves to the circumvention of that which has to be.

Prior to this first frost, I have had months of enjoyment provided by my luscious red impatiens, glorious blossoms whose entire lifetime was dedicated to looking beautiful - nothing more, nothing less. They have earned their rest and I, by doing nothing to protect them from the freeze, have allowed them to proceed on their journey. But I have now a sweet memory of these flowers and, in their unique way, they have contributed a joy in my life which I would not otherwise have known.

And for this, because I cared, I let them go.

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© Peggy L. Elliott 2006