“How’s your garden?” the neighbor called to me over our mutually weedy dividing fence.

“A big mess,” I called back, “because I haven’t done anything with it in two months. How’s yours?”

“About the same,” he said, gesturing to the strip by the fence where I know his tomatoes are, but I can’t see them because my anise hyssop, Garden Peach tomato, cotton, hollyhock, spare bag of gravel, and tangles of bindweed are in the way. “I’m just picking tomatoes and peppers and not doing much else.” His peppers are in the front, very pretty and productive. Why are my peppers always spindly and pathetic? I guess two years is too soon to say always. “And it’s about the end of the season for tomatoes. But that’s okay; it’ll get cleaned up pretty soon.”

“And there’s always next year,” I said, thinking: it is the end of the season, isn’t it? Temperatures are getting down to the 40s at night, and blight has spread (and my stakes are all falling over, especially after the tropical-storm-remnant rains). I didn’t get nearly as many tomatoes and green beans as I wanted, didn’t get any eggplants at all, but it’s too late now. And it will be a relief to clean up the garden, after the hectic growth and verdure of summer. Some plants, the greens and roots and perennial herbs, will remain, but for the most part this year’s efforts, successes and failures alike, will be swept aside, to begin anew in six months. Face it: summer’s over.

“There’s always next year!” he echoed, cheerily; and he went back to picking tomatoes and I turned inside, pears and green onions cradled in my hands.

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