Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thank You!

Rising sun spreading its light across my lawn...

Not all gifts come wrapped in paper and ribbon. This morning, for instance, I caught a glimpse of the eastern sky at dawn. The rising sun painted the mist first pink, then orange, then gold as I stood, holding my breath. Not a leaf stirred, not a sound broke the stillness. It was a masterpiece being painted before my eyes. “Gee!” I breathed. What a gift of grandeur the world lays at my feet each morning.

I thought then of all the gifts I am apt to encounter on any given day, things I may pass off as ordinary and so neglect to be appreciative of. Just the other day I was riding my bicycle past a meadow bordered with crab apple trees. I was pedaling along slowly, wrapped in my thoughts, when a movement caught my eye. I stopped, turned, and looked directly into the curious eyes of a fawn. I was close enough to see its little black muzzle and the fading white spots on its back. We stared at each other for a long moment before the little creature gave a snort and bounded away. “Wow,” I sighed, knowing I might never again be so close to a wildling.

A day or so later along the same stretch of road I stood and watched a small, distant plane do lazy loop-the-loops in the pale blue haze of late afternoon. Suddenly the plane changed directions, flew directly over my head and performed some magnificent aerobatics. I realized I was being treated to my own personal air show. I waved my arms in wild appreciation, the plane waggled its wings in return and flew gallantly off into the sunset. “Thank you!” I shouted into the empty sky.

Occasionally the phone will ring and the voice at the other end will say, “Hi Mom, it’s me.” I will spend several happy minutes catching up on the news of whatever distant child is calling. The calls are not for any earth shattering reason – just base touching. There’s no box big enough to hold the happiness that comes from knowing my children are thinking of me. Those calls are gifts that warm my heart and feed my soul.

There are daily gifts – a hug, a glimpse of the sunrise, an unexpected compliment, something besides bills in the mailbox, a spectacular sunset. There are seasonal gifts – the first birdsong sung on a spring morning, the lovely wiggle-your-toes-in-the-sand feeling of the first day of summer vacation, the smell of wood smoke drifting on the haze of an Indian Summer afternoon, the perfection of a snowflake. There are unexpected surprise! I’m here! gifts, like an impromptu visit from an old friend or a brilliant rainbow arching through the still falling rain. Now that I think of it, I’m knee-deep in gifts I can unwrap with my senses and my attention. Gee! Wow! And thanks.

 Thank you, Hilary!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dawn To Dusk

Here, in the midst of summer, the landscape where I live is painted in shades of green and gold. In the mornings the light spills over the treetops and spreads itself in broad ribbons across the grass, touching a rose petal here, highlighting a daisy there, throwing jade-hued shadows deep under the trees that crowd the lawn. The peonies have bloomed and faded, the tulips and daffodils that filled the garden beds earlier have given way to bright pink phlox and vibrant orange lilies. The yard is dotted with specks of color – crown vetch holds up its mauve colored flower heads, scarlet geraniums spill out of their containers, yellow blanket flowers glow like little suns from their rock-edged beds.

As July slowly melts into August, the early mornings will take on a different tenor. Birds still pipe up the sun but there is less cacophony to the sound, fewer strident announcements about arrivals and territorial claims and more music for the pure joy of it. The air is heavier and calm, laden with a moisture that swirls and eddies into dawn-born ghosts. They diffuse the emerging light, turn luminous, and rise into the bluing sky until dusk calls them back to earth to spend another night among the trees.

Animals are abroad early in the morning when it is cool and the grass is still wet with dew. I hear a doe cough before I see her. Standing still, she can be mistaken for a shadow among the shadowy trees. Beside her are two spindly fawns, their coats stippled with bits of light and dark. Their eyes are huge and wondering, their ears pricked forward, their whole beings focused on signals from their mother. Beyond them, in the meadow, a lithe red fox plays jump and run with a field mouse intent on escaping. Swallows swoop and dive from the telephone lines, their feathers catching and reflecting sunbeams as they cavort. A rust-striped chipmunk, its tiny cheeks bulging, scampers across the drive in front of me and clatters away through the underbrush.

Mid-day brings an intense and humid heat that settles down heavily, making somnolence the hallmark of the afternoon. Bird chatter stills, no breeze stirs the air and the only sound is the drowsy humming of bumblebees as they butt and buzz in the lily cups. It is now that a hammock or the swimming pool look equally inviting, now when I want to spread a blanket in the shade and snooze, or find a quiet spot deep in the forest where tumbled rocks in a sun-dappled stream turn the water to woodland music.

Evening brings a welcome coolness that coaxes the mist from its sleeping places beneath the trees and along the riverbanks. It rises and weaves itself among the tall meadow grasses and settles pillow-like along the still-warm roadbeds. The setting sun pulls banners of scarlet and gold behind it and the evening sky deepens and darkens until a zillion stars light it up again.

Here, in the midst of summer, in the place where I live, everything is as it should be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A King's Repast

The vegetable garden is a veritable kingdom of yellow squashes and green peppers, red tomatoes and rainbow Swiss chard. Green and yellow beans dangle from their vines and cucumbers hide behind their dark green leaves. Sauteed all together (well, not the cukes) with onion and garlic in oil and topping a small pile of pasta, they make a repast fit for a king (or queen)!

Four-inch long hornworms have invaded the garden, declaring all-out war on the tomato plants, the eggplant, the peppers and potatoes.

They are the stuff of nightmares, both the sleeping and waking kind. Yesterday we picked a dozen off the farmer's tomatoes and another four from mine. Today we will search out any others. They are voracious, decimating entire plants in a day or two. I am counting on these vegetables to help see me through the winter so the hornworms must go. My organic gardening book tells me to leave the ones hosting scores of white egg sacs bristling from their backs as the egg sacs are those of a parasitic wasp called the Braconid wasp. "Let the eggs hatch, and you'll have an army of wasps ready to defend your garden against all types of pests," gloats the author, but if I do that, there will be no tomatoes to harvest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Would Summer Be Without...

...sundresses like bright bouquets; strappy sandals; better yet, bare feet that leave dark prints in the morning dew; straw hats with streamers; afternoons of croquet on the lawn, or bocce, or badminton; a hammock strung between two shade trees; a stack of books and a rainy day.

Crickets fiddling away the sunny hours, bullfrogs giving concerts in the pond, birds piping up the dawn, wind whispering secrets to the leaves, the hum and zum of bees, the lazy drone of a plane on a quiet afternoon.

Corn on the cob; berries – blue ones, red ones, black ones; ice cream floats and lemonade; the first zucchini; green and yellow string beans straight from the garden; bread and butter and radish sandwiches; tomatoes on the vine; shrimp on the BBQ – anything on the BBQ, for that matter; picnic food heaped on plastic divided plates and iced tea in tall, brightly colored metal tumblers.

Sand between your toes, so hot that you have to hop and skip to the water’s edge; children's shouts barely heard above the pounding surf; sunsets in shades of crimson and rose; twilight; stars that light up the night sky, and a big yellow moon as round as a dinner plate; skinny dipping after dark.

Storms that come on the heels of a hot spell, all thundery and full of zigzaggy lightning, and the cool spells that follow them; the fresh smell of wet earth and the drip, drip of rain drops on leaves; the fun of puddle jumping; the sweeping splendor of a rainbow.

Summer cottages all musty and damp until you open the doors and windows and let the sea breeze blow through; week-long games of monopoly and a rowdy, loud card game called Spoons that wrecks your fingernails and the silverware in one swift movement; the feel of salt drying on your face after a day at the ocean; the smell of tanning oil and seaweed as the sun and the breaking waves lull you to sleep; the call of gulls high over the water; the jingle jangle of coins in your pocket as you run after the ice cream truck.

Watermelon and honeydew melon and cool orange slices of musk melon; popsicles that drip down your arm, and scoops of ice cream that wilt and melt and puddle in the cone before you can lick them up; jars of soap bubbles; cotton candy; fairs and circuses, and carnivals full of screaming kids; amusement park rides that whirl you up and out and around; old drive-in theaters where everyone flocks to watch scratchy-screened movies and wallow in nostalgia; fireflies at dusk.

Outdoor concerts where the music seems to gather up the sky and the grass and the listeners into an exultation of sound; flea markets full of unexpected treasures; plane rides and train rides and car trips that deposit us in places we’ve never been or return us to places we’ve always loved.

What would we be without summer?

Thanks Hilary!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

While I'm Away

I've been house sitting for friends since Thursday while they vacation at the Cape. Staying at their place in a rural town an hour away from home is like a vacation for me, too - new surroundings, the benefit of pets (a friendly dog, a dignified cat, and a noisy bird), and a house with two stories! I never thought I'd miss stairs and walls (and until I'm in a house that has a proliferation of both, I don't).

KK on the pond trail

This place has an enormous back yard that consists of a manicured meadow with mowed paths that meander past patches of raspberries and blueberries and arrive at a small pond covered in lily pads.

 I've seen turtles sunning themselves on a log and a great blue heron who is camera shy.

Closer to the house are several manicured gardens with a maze of bright flowers. Pots of pansy faces smile at me from either side of the gate, hummingbirds buzz over the bee balm, sunny yellow black-eyed susans and clumps of shasta daisies nod in the wind. 

KK the dog and Cooper the cat follow me everywhere (in KK's case, she leads and I follow once she knows where I'm headed). The bird chirps merrily whenever I come back into the house.
Cooper and KK waiting for me to catch up

I always spend some time trying to figure out how I relate to the surroundings I find myself in. The trees here are friendly, the house kept its opinion to itself until I'd been in it a couple of days (it seems to like me well enough now) and the flowers so love to bloom here that they smile constantly.

Yesterday a storm put an end to the oppressive heat; the sky this morning looked like it had had its face washed. Now, at eventide, a golden mist is hovering over the meadow, a train is rumbling past on tracks that border the meadow, and all is well in my little world.

I'll be home in a week. I feel as though I've been gone from home more than I've been there. My gardens will require hours of weeding. The beans should be ready to pick. Perhaps there will be squash ready and a cuke or two. Summer sun, summer bounty, and home. Perfect!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

In Praise of a Summer Day

 These are the days I wait for all winter—the days of shimmery heat and goldy light, a light that dawns as pale as the inside of a lemon, bleaches to a white heat at noon, then sifts down as gold in the late afternoon. In the evening when the sun has set, the horizon is again pale yellow dissolving in indigo, a perfect backdrop for the mauve and purple clouds that settle behind inked in trees or tiptoe along the mountain ridges.

Today was such a day. The heat settled in before mid-morning, the sun spread its hot hand over the lawns and gardens and picnics and pools, leaving me panting and glad for cool water to sink beneath.

Before a late supper and a shower and a few pages of reading, before sleep, I took a walk to the pond to say goodnight to the frogs and the trees and the pink clouds. Swallows swooped and dove over the water, eating iridescent insects on the wing. A bullfrog harrumphed from the far shore and I harrumphed back. I drank in the sunset like a fruited drink, letting the warmth and the loveliness wash through me. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I will take today, all shimmery and goldy and full of light.