Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps,
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvests reaps.
(Amos Bronson Alcott)
IN BYGONE DAYS, WHEN MORE OF US LIVED ON FARMS, THE FALL OF THE YEAR WAS ALWAYS ASSOCIATED WITH THE HARVESTING OF CROPS. There is much to be gained from still thinking of autumn that way. Life consists of doing positive, productive work and then bringing in the harvest. We expend ourselves doing worthwhile things, and then we enjoy the satisfaction of having done those things.
Of course, we’re not always so fortunate as to see the harvest of the crops we have helped to cultivate. Sometimes our own life ends before the harvest can be brought in. At other times, there must be a division of labor: our work is to plant, and it is someone else’s to harvest. At still other times, we simply don’t know what the results of our work are. As I write this book, for example, I labor in the hope that someone’s life will be touched beneficially. Yet even if that turns out to be true, I may not ever hear about it. It is entirely possible that some readers may reap benefits that will be unknown to me personally. I work, as we all must work, in the simple confidence that there will be a harvest — whether or not I get to take part in it personally.
But sometimes we do get to enjoy harvests, and what a joy that is. To have “planted” in the springtime, “cultivated” in the summer, and then see our work come to fruition and be “harvested” in the fall — well, that’s a very satisfying thing indeed. And if we enjoy winter, there’s a good reason why. A large part of winter’s pleasure is the good feeling that comes from looking back on work that was not only begun and worked on, but also brought to completion and harvested.
So in the unfolding of this year’s work, now comes the harvest time. Now comes the season of ingathering, when the bounty of well-worked fields is laid in store. As the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor.” Work itself is not a curse, and honest labor is not to be avoided. It’s simply in our nature that we want to do good work while the weather is warm, and then, as the year turns toward fall, we want the happiness of a harvest.
“Autumn is the bite of a harvest apple” (Christian Petrowsky).