The Harvest of Our Lives

Harvest is the season of gathering.  It is the season that we reap the rewards of all the hard work, time, sweat, heart, and soul that was put into something we care about.  It is a time to gather what grew from our labors and enjoy the abundance.  In the spring we prepare the soil and tenderly pat the seeds into the soft brown earth.  Summer is the season of commitment, making sure we consistently water, weed and nurture those seeds so they thrive under the hot, relentless sun.  Harvest cannot happen unless the preparation and work have been put in prior to it.  The fall and winter of life are the times to slow down and enjoy the results of all of our previous years. It is the time to reap the harvest of our lives.  

Retirement: The great harvest

Harvest comes after we have lived through the spring and summer of our life.  It is the reward for all those years of waking up to an early alarm clock, staying committed when we wanted to quit and move to Tahiti, and sacrificing small pleasures and larger worldly goods in order to save for later; the ambiguous someday that we may never live to see.   We steadfastly prepared for a time in the smoky future that is never guaranteed.  But now, in retirement, we are harvesting the rewards of a life well lived.   

Like the rewards from our fall garden harvest, the rewards from harvesting a life well lived are plentiful, deep rooted, colorful, and succulent.  The retirement harvest replenishes our souls and makes all of our previous life work worth it.   What are some of the rewards we are now reaping from all those years with our nose to the grindstone; those years of more giving than taking? What is included in the harvest of our retirement? Let’s take a look at five of them:

  • Health.  By the time we reach our 60’s or 70’s we start to reap the rewards, or live with the consequences, of the health choices we made earlier in our lives.  If we spent too many years eating a diet full of sugar or high carb foods, we may develop type II diabetes, or all the many complications associated with obesity.  If we spent too many years eating pizza and fast-food burgers (guilty) we may reap the “rewards” of high cholesterol, a potential heart attack, and subsequent hear failure.  If we did not exercise enough, we may reap the “rewards” of osteoporosis or obesity and resulting immobility later in life.  We can abuse our health for years and still function.  And while there is never a guarantee with our health, no matter how careful we have been, it is smart to hedge our bets. Because there comes a time when we will garner the results of our health choices.  Hopefully, in retirement, we will harvest the rewards of our previous healthy choices and be able to live an active life.
  • Finances.  According to the Federal Reserve, the average 2023 savings at retirement is $255,200.  This is consistent with the 2022 Vanguard study, How America Saves, that found the average retirement savings, for those 65 and older, to be $279, 997.  Not a huge amount to live on for the next 20-30 years of our lives. Of course, there are many variables in this, such as whether retirees still have a mortgage or other outstanding debt, or whether they have planned for other sources of income for the retirement years.  Once we retire, we will reap the rewards of all the scrimping, saving and doing without.  We will be grateful that we invested a little more into that employer sponsored 401(k) or stayed with the company that provided a generous pension.  In retirement, we harvest the rewards of preparing and saving during our working years.  It allows us to live comfortably and gives us choices and opportunities during our retirement years. I am not suggesting that we live an austere life just to save for someday. We need to enjoy life along the way. But as with most of life, there is that tender balance.
  • Relationships.    I think it is important to determine early on what are our most important relationships and then spend time nurturing them.  Who are we going to be most committed to in our lives?  Who are we going to invest our precious limited resources of time and energy into?  If you make wise choices in this area, it can come back a hundred-fold.  In retirement, we reap the rewards of investing in our most important relationships even when it was hard, uncomfortable, and required forgiveness and compromise beyond what we felt like we had in us.  If it is a relationship worth investing in, it will pay off in our retirement years.  We will harvest the joy of spending time with family and friends.
  • Skills. We have spent a lifetime learning. We worked hard in school or honed a trade that would bring us an income we could live on. Most of us have dabbled in hobbies that interested us, and then sunk further into those that really resonated. We have learned how to navigate travel. We have learned how to survive physically and emotionally in a complex world. Many have put the effort in to work through past emotional issues. Once we are no longer working, we lean into these skills and interests to create a satisfying retirement lifestyle. It might include working part-time, starting a small business, enjoying a hobby, writing a book, or traveling the world. Retirement is the perfect time to reap the rewards of all of the growth and learning we did in our previous years.
  • Our soul. It takes years to figure out who we really are. If we put in the soul work during our younger years, we will reap the rewards of a secure assurance of who we are and why we are in this world. We gained a sense of our purpose and now we rest in that knowledge. We have determined what we believe in and how we will honor that belief. We have learned how to feed our souls to help them flourish. When we were on our trip, I had a brief encounter with a lovely old soul. We were both headed down to the hotel breakfast. I heard the steady click of her cane, before I saw her weathered face. We spoke briefly, and I could feel the essence of peace and kindness radiating from her smile. I was warmed by her presence. This was a woman who was reaping the benefits of a soul that had been well tended over the years.

I am not suggesting that, once we retire, we stay stagnant. We need to continue to grow and learn and nurture in order to flourish. But retirement is the well-earned time to take our foot off of the gas pedal a little and enjoy the scenery. Enjoy the harvest of a life well lived.

Gathering the last of the garden produce before putting it to bed for the winter.

On the home front – the garden harvest

Speaking of harvests, we have been busy around here getting the last of the garden harvested. I spent a lovely autumn afternoon gathering corn stalks, pumpkins and gourds from the garden to decorate the front porch. Just before our trip, we picked a huge basket full of jalapenos, and colorful green, purple and red bell peppers to make pepper jelly. It makes for a tasty, quick and easy appetizer that always goes over well at any gathering. Just scoop some jelly over a brick of cream cheese and serve with crackers. This is an especially festive appetizer at Christmas with all of the red and green peppers. A little jar of it also makes a nice hostess gift. Just wrap the rim of the jar with jute, tie it off and add a simple thank you tag.

We also canned a couple batches of jalapenos to add to tacos, nachos or sandwiches in the months ahead. It is a wonderful way to spend a fall afternoon. I am not a fan of too much heat on my food, but the rest of my family believes the more heat, the better, so bring on the jalapenos!

I hope you are taking the time this season to enjoy the abundance from the harvest of your life!

12 comments on “The Harvest of Our Lives

  1. I feel like I’m reaping the rewards of a work life now that I’m in retirement. Many people commented – you’re so lucky. If luck is when opportunity meets preparation then I guess I was lucky. In fact, it was completing the third year of the nursing certificate program with a 9 mo old; working FT for 33 yrs; completing a post-basic graduate degree while continuing to work. I invested in a pension & continue to manage my finances, health & relationships to a good end. There was plenty of soul work along the way. I feel like I can be more of who I am in retirement without the formal work buzz. We go hard in this corner of NE Alberta spring, summer & fall. Snow means slow. I wouldn’t say I’m in the winter of my life but I’m definitely enjoying this season.

    1. Hi Mona –

      It sounds like you are definitely reaping the harvest of the retirement years. (It makes my stomach churn just thinking about being in nursing school again, such a stressful time.) I totally agree with you about being free to be more who we are in retirement. That has been one of the surprises of retirement for me.

      I hope you enjoy the upcoming slow that comes with snow.

  2. Thank you for joining us for #WBOYC, Like Mona, I also feel that I can be my full self in retirement, as opposed to people that work (and others) needed me to be when I was younger. I often say that my reitrement is ‘Donna Unplugged.’ That alone has made some run away screaming! <3

    1. Hi Donna –

      I definitely feel more myself in retirement as well (like I am just fully becoming myself, after all of these years). It is interesting that others feel this same way. Makes me wonder about how much we bend ourselves in life. I absolutely love the term “Donna Unplugged.” She sounds like a fun person!

  3. Your harvest looks fantastic. I have just retired from corporate life – although as I’m preferring to say I’m now concentrating on my writing career instead (flicks hair dramatically) – so this post was a good one for me to read. Thanks for linking up with us this month.

    1. Hi Joanne –

      Congratulations on your recent retirement! I love the concept of focusing on your second career as a writer. (And yes, flick that hair😊)

      I am still trying to figure out how the linkups work, but I am excited that it led me to some new blogs to read!

  4. Retirement has been good for me, although good habits don’t always protect you from unexpected things like breast cancer and torn meniscus from playing pickleball! But it does help you heal faster from them – or heal at all! My bad habits of sugar caught up with me – not only in being a little overweight but giving them up has to be a change of lifestyle, which I find really hard! It is super hard to lose weight once you add a few pounds too many! You have a beautiful, bountiful harvest. I bet your jelly is good with shrimp.

    1. Hi Marsha –

      Yes, there are certainly no guarantees in life no matter how well you have taken care of the garden. There can still be unexpected draughts, an infestation of bugs, cancer and injuries. It is funny you would bring up pickleball, because I pulled my achilles tendon playing it (reaping the harvest of not stretching out ahead of time) and have been a little leery of playing again.

      I had not thought of the jelly with shrimp – thank you for the idea!

  5. I am mostly reaping the benefits of good spring and summer habits (finances, friendships, healthy living), building skills that are well suited for retirement (writing short stories and travel planning) and paying the price a bit for youthful ill advised habits (like spending way too much time in the sun). My harvest season is going great, which I hope will help will support me and ease the transition into my winter.

    I love the pepper jelly recipe and just may try it. Pepper jelly over cream cheese is a favorite, but I’ve never made my own. I recently read a salad recipe that called for pickled jalapenos… have you ever tried to make them? The recipes I found sound pretty simple.

    1. Hi Janis –

      I think most of our generation, myself included, are experiencing the results of too much time in the sun, lathered in baby oil. We just did not know. I had not thought about the fact that we are still tending the garden for our future harvest into the winter of our lives.

      I have never tried pickled jalapenos, but I love pickled anything. I have a friend that cans zucchini relish every year and it is sooo good. I might have to try the pickled jalapenos next year.

  6. This was a great summary of various stages of our lives and I really enjoyed your thoughts on each. I’m having fun in my retirement and although I’m busy I make sure I find time each day to rest and relax. Life is much more simple in many ways and that’s a good thing for me. Your harvest looks wonderful! Thanks for joining us for #wboyc this month. All the best for your coming winter as we enter our summertime.

    1. Hi Debbie –

      I think part of the harvest is taking the time to rest and relax. It has taken (is still taking) me awhile to indulge in that part of the harvest without feeling like I should be working.

      The #wboyc was a wonderful way to learn about some great, new to me, blogs. Such talented women!

      I am so jealous that you are starting into your summertime…enjoy!

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