Holding Onto Summer
The air is thick with cicada song, clinging to the humidity until a hot breeze carries it across the drying grass to rest near my bare feet.
A handful of goldfinches have found the thistle socks I hung from the mulberry saplings last Thursday, but their feathery weight barely sets the whole dangling enterprise in motion; that hot cicada breeze picks up slightly and sways both bird and seed-filled mesh netting back and forth gently. Not one finch gives up its place at the vertical al fresco table.
I love August. It’s still summer, though the approaching school year makes it seem as if all is autumn and new school supplies.
A woman I knew long ago when I worked as a pastoral associate at a university-based faith community once told me that her theology professor insisted God’s favorite colors were purple and yellow. She put this forth as fact, no room for question or debate. I’m not here to argue that one way or the other, aside from the familiar arrogance of any human who claims to know the mind of God at such a thin level as color preference. But, as I look out my living room windows, I can see a proud cluster of sturdy iron weed in bloom, its purple flowers bursting forth right next to two tall and willowy stands of golden yellow wingstem and veiny hawkweed, close enough as if they were married and shared a root system. Besides the ever-present ombré of green as a backdrop, and the subtle brownish branches of the trees, there are no other colors in view. Somewhere, a retired (and for all I know, deceased) theology professor just rested her case.
Divine favorites now acknowledged and set aside, it’s a lovely privilege to take a break from restocking this week’s varied inventory of granola and pause to receive all of the above as gift—cicadas making their late-summer selves known (though I can’t see them at all, no matter how much I squint into the direction of their ratchety sound), hot breeze and buttery yellow wingstem against the color wheel’s best shades of green, and the crunch of blueberry almond granola pulling it all together in a five-senses celebration. I really do live like this, noticing things and trying my darndest to keep life slow enough most days to do so. I marvel at the way it is both ordinary and profound. And, random thought: I think Dad would have enjoyed our blueberry almond granola.
We recently became supporting members of a local nature preserve, and after Saturday’s market sales were tallied for the week, we traveled the short thirty-five minutes to browse the gift shop and walk through the cypress swamp, hoping a snake or two would slide their heads above the algae to see what we were all about. They didn’t, but their absence didn’t keep us from standing captivated in the midst of such an other-worldly treasure practically in our back yard. And speaking of back yards, why would two city-raised kids-turned rural residents need to buy our way into a 2000+ acre nature preserve when we’ve got 41 perfectly fine (and paid for) acres outside both front and back doors? Couldn’t we just go for a walk and call it even?
But to see such a well-tended expanse of native plants, towering trees, waterways, evergreens, and the community’s commitment to it has re-inspired our own caretaker creativity for the humble slice of terra firma we know, where we scatter our dreams at night and park our trucks and stretch out our aging limbs after a day’s worth of weeding. I’ve imagined setting up little conversation area vignettes in the meadow so that visiting friends and family can stop and rest on our after-brunch walks, commenting on the wider creek banks or noting the smooth tawny and grey feathers of a cedar waxwing in that branch right over there. I’ve gotten as far as placing pairs of lawn chairs somewhat strategically throughout the meadows’ seven or so wooded acres, and added “end tables” to our list of yard sale acquisitions for the upcoming Labor Day weekend (a body needs somewhere to set down a glass of Shiraz for heaven’s sake). I scroll through the pages of Flea Market Gardening’s monthly e-newsletter, and see that some clever person has staked out an old wooden door in the middle of nowhere, adorned the now-empty windowpanes with a grapevine wreath and painted it a chippy ocean blue. We could do that easily, and de-clutter the front deck of the two old doors we trash-picked four Springs ago. I think I’d make it so the door could open and close on its hinges, a portal to some mystical and enchanted place where no one could find me for hours. Another project for a growing list that has no period at the end of it.
Is it greedy to wish for a parallel life so I can care full time for our home and land and still enjoy the benefits of employer-supported healthcare coverage and a bi-weekly paycheck? We do what we can on either side of our respective workdays, but time spent outside never feels adequate, and many’s the day I’ve climbed reluctantly into the cab of the truck to head toward that regular paycheck, knowing full well what I’m leaving behind. Please forgive the late summer melancholy. I suppose the school-age child wistfully organizing her notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils and new socks against the memories of a summer well-spent has never completely left this older woman’s soul.
I still love August, though. And probably always will.
It’s still summer.