Last weekend I spent an afternoon in my gardens, deadheading mums, cutting back the peonies, and pulling the tattered remains of my summer annuals. I suppose that for some, pruning and preparing for winter might be sad chores; reminders of the bleak gray days yet to come. But as I clipped brown flower heads from my butterfly bushes and pulled withered marigolds from the ground, I felt a strange comfort through my soul. In many ways, pruning the garden can be likened to a good dose of soul-searching. Fall is the perfect time to slow down and take stock of life; to cast off the “small stuff” that usually causes the most stress in our lives. For me, plunging my hands into cool earth helps me remember my place in the world. As I move among the tired foliage, there are still little miracles to be discovered. A honeybee drinking from a white, fall-blooming iris. A praying mantis perched godlike among the leaves of a purple mum. After the frantic pace of summer planting and harvesting, the cycle has again come to the inner spiral. We slow our pace of life and curl our souls inward as winter folds over the earth. And although I will spend the dark winter months yearning for the sun and for the new green of seedlings, this time of rest will allow me to renew my spirit and grow more fully toward the person I want to become.