I’m on my porch, listening to the sound or rain filtering through leaves, hitting the already wet pavement directly, splattering in gathered puddles. Taps and trickles, plunks and plops.
A green haze is creeping across the crispy grass that looked like it might never recover. The plants in my garden and along the sidewalk stand a little taller. I draw myself up a bit too.
I went to bed to the sound of gentle rain last night and woke to the same this morning.
It’s been a dusty summer of hopeful promises. Dark clouds gather each afternoon. The wind turns the leaves up. We pull in laundry, hold off on pulling out the hose. A few scattered drops. Rainbows, but no rain.
Glance at my garden, peak into my pantry. It’s been a slow season in many ways. Flipping through photos from three years ago, I find a lush garden, shelves piled high with pickles and jams. It’s all going slower this year. Some seasons are like that.
Production is slow and things are passing quickly—raspberries are done, my cucumbers are wilting, greens bolted early. I’ve stopped asking things to slow down, and just moving at the speed of this summer.
Back in June, I rejoiced in the rain that encouraged my seedlings, and I dared hope that a recently published essay would end a writing drought. My writing, like my garden, has struggled with a dry spell this summer. I got rain, but not enough. But I keep watering. I weed and check in. My yield may be small this summer, but I haven’t given up. I may not produce much fruit or many flowers, but sink my roots deeper and know I will thrive again.
As I’ve been writing, the rain grew in intensity, crescendoing to a roar. A river runs down the hill and the little puddles by the roadside extend down the street. Tiny droplets evicted me from my seat to one even deeper on the porch. I keep myself dry, but I soak it in. I come back to the page to see if my writing can green up like the grass, perk up like the perennials that had wilted by the walkway.
My peonies are in their glory, bursting from tight round knobs to fluffy, frilly fullness. For days before they burst forth, I peeked in on them. Not yet. But the knobs swelled, the ants got active. And then one day last week, I watched the first unfurl. As I went back and forth pulling weeds, getting compost, hustling to get the ends of the vegetable garden planted, I saw it loosen and spread its petals.
Since then I’ve barely had time to glance at them. I cut a few to bring in with their showy color and scent. But it’s been a whirlwind of end of year school activities and appointments and work deadlines.
I want to slow it all down.
I want to enjoy the peonies while they are here, before they make way for morning glory and sunflower and lily. Before them lilac and forsythia seemed to rush by this year. Or was it me rushing. Or was it time speeded up again.
Yesterday was the last preschool pick up I’ll do. Ever. I’ve been so focused on all the things that needed to be done—the field trip permission slip to sign, remembering to pack a lunch, helping out at field day, special snacks, teacher’s gifts (not done yet)—I lost sight of this transition.
Four years ago, I brought my big girl to preschool and my little one tagged along, so eager for her turn. She washed hands, created her own sign in on the board, burst into an activity. She couldn’t wait for her turn to stay.
Two years ago, I hugged her goodbye in her classroom. Her turn finally. The past four years did not feel that fast, but I look up surprised that we are here, ready to say goodbye to her preschool for good.
She’s moving just next door to kindergarten. We will see her teacher’s still. But I won’t see them each morning and hear how things are going. I won’t watch as my little girl washes hands, hangs up her bag, rushes to the board to sign in. I won’t chat with her or watch her with her friends as she starts her day.
She can’t wait for kindergarten. I’m excited too. The long swaths of the day from the morning bus stop to the afternoon squeak of bus breaks is alluring. What will you do? Work. Write. Run, maybe. Yoga. Take care of the errands that never seemed to fit between preschool pick up and bus time. It can fill so quickly. Right now I’m trying to breathe into it, not let it get filled to fast with any old thing. Right now, I’m realizing what we are done with.
No more preschool or preschool payments. No more drop offs and pick ups. No more playing in the park at noon or lunches together. No more naps.
But she is riding a bike and picking out words she knows. She is going on her first overnight with my parents next week.
Each ending a beginning. Last year my big girl was devastated by the end of the year. Little girl doesn’t seem to care about this ending. She’s already looking ahead, wanting to keep up with her big sister, wanting to do the things she can’t do yet.
She raced through these years like the forsythia and lilacs and peonies this year. We’ll come back to this space again next June, transitioning again. We’ll say goodbye again next year, closing the door on kindergarten. The peonies will bloom again. I’ll wait for them. I’ll savor them, be sad when they go. And I’ll love the lilies that bloom and the curving garlic scapes and the tall sunflowers towering over me. Can we just slow it all down a little?
White-gray morning sky and the icon on my desktop said rain. I didn’t have to water the seeds I planted last week—the mesclun, spinach, arugula, kale, and peas, the carrots, radish, and beets that came later.
I love spring and summer rain because I don’t have to water my gardens. I love the rain because sometimes I need a day to catch up on errands or inside projects, things I don’t want to do when the day calls me outside.
The rain will sink into to the dry soil. It will help open up those seeds and wake up the peepers.
I’ve been in a writing drought. I’ve found myself resistant to writing. My notebooks are filled with what I’d consider grumblings not writing. I’ve sent out letters. I’ve abandoned my blog. The half written article and the not quite right essay get shuffled from place to place.
I tried writing prompts, but instead of new words, I thought of ones I’d already written.
“I’m tired of my own story,” I thought.
Back in January, an editor had nudged me to submit an essay we had talked about. The timing felt terrible, but I did it. The digital edition came out earlier this month, and the magazine itself, arrived over the weekend. With it came responses—an email from a friend, a call from a neighbor, a FB message, comments on the digital version, emails to the editor. Gentle rain.
Each response reminded me that one of reasons I write is to share experience—to connect.
Writing is discovery and self-understanding.
Writing is capturing memories—or letting them out to let them go.
Writing is communication and sharing.
Writing, over time, allows us to notice patterns and change.
Writing, whether letter or essay or blog post or book, is expression.
The writing in my pile of notebooks and the nested folders on my computer matters. Writing is in part about the process. Writing shared matters in a different way.
This is why I’ll struggle with the stubborn essay on my desk that isn’t taking shape and find my way back here again, why I’ll keep trying to find a home in the world for an essay that did come together, why I’ll keep coming back here even when it feels like it’s been too long.
Whether it’s writing or something else you’re feeling stuck with, go back to your whys.
Tell me about your why.
I planted spinach last week.
First I googled What does as soon as the ground can be worked mean and Is it crazy to plant spinach in March in zone 5B? Answers were non-conclusive as might be expected. I wanted an OK to start planting even though it feels crazy early. Didn’t get one.
Gardening, like life, often doesn’t have clear cut, black and white answers.
The weather has been telling me to get outside, start planting. I find it hard to trust this weather though—and for good reason. March is notoriously fickle. I’ve been tricked before into packing away snowsuits only to have several inches dumped on us. Last week, I sat on the porch sipping coffee and reading and writing a letter. Yesterday, snow.
Most years the ground can’t be worked this early. It’s frozen or a sodden mess or still covered in snow. But this year, it’s tempting and well . . . maybe it’ll work.
Either way, it’s going to be OK. Seed isn’t expensive. And I’ll plant more spinach either way. Is it the right time? I’m not sure, but it’s not a big risk to take.
Two years ago today, I wondered if the time was right for something else. And then, like the spinach, I decided to go for it. I signed on to work with a business coach. I sent the email, made my deposit—and wondered what the heck I was doing.
I started freelancing in 2000 after a layoff, and while I’ve learned a lot in that time, I never invested much in my business—a new computer, one fabulous conference years ago, the occasional workshop.
Seven years of babies and grief and changing markets left me knowing I wanted something different. But what? And when?
“Maybe,” I thought, “I should wait until both kids are in school.” It was just a few months away. Maybe I should wait for more clarity. But, no. I was stuck. I needed to DO something.
Sometimes you plant your seeds. You water and wait and hope. Usually things sprout. If not, you try again. Two years ago, the seeds I planted flourished. The spinach from last week? I’ll let you know next month.
What seeds are you ready to plant?
I loved this day with it’s golden glow, a last breath of summer wearing the colors of fall.
I loved this day with a pile of weeds culled and branches clipped as I slowly get ready to put the garden to rest for the year. I loved this day with cilantro from that garden even as everything else is winding down. I loved this day as I wondered when to plant my garlic. Is it time?
I loved this day with a fairy princess biking to pick apples, coming back with a bag of them in her bike basket. I loved this day of my girls whirling-spinning-climbing-sliding-flipping on the playground as I wrote two letters in the warm sun. I loved this day even as the chill of late afternoon crept in with a reminder that it is fall despite the glory it offered.
I loved this day with dinner offered, no need to cook.
I loved this day as I turned apples into sauce, cutting, simmering, watching white slices and red skin turn into a tawny rose puddle that pulsed and breathed as it came to a boil. I loved this day savoring warm apple sauce sprinkled thickly with crisp granola. I loved this day listening to the canning pot bubble and clatter for one of the last times this year.
I loved this day in this season I love. I loved this day with the ones I love. I loved this day doing the things I love.
I loved this day.
What ever you love, let’s write together. Write What You Love Starts tomorrow. You can still sign up here. (It’s free!)
Four tomatoes hung in a small cluster, orange-red, with a bit of yellow on the shoulders. The other plants hold hard only green stones or tiny yellow flowers. I picked the first, held it warm from the sun. Every year when I pick the first tomato, I want to hold it up reverently, slice it ceremoniously, share it in the celebration of the first tomato.
Every year I remember that my kids don’t like tomatoes and my husband would think the first tomato celebration silly and a bit much. So I savor it myself, slicing it and sprinkling the ribbons of basil, drizzling the olive oil, sitting at the picnic table to eat because that burst of summer should be eaten outside. Or I stand in the garden, sun-warm tomato in my hand and eat it, slowly, juice dripping down my chin. Either way, a celebration.
I walk through my garden regularly, seeing what’s ready to be picked, what needs some attention, what’s going to be ready to pick. (Keep an eye on those zucchinis.) I enjoy all the foods that come out of my garden, but I don’t look forward to many of them the same way I look forward to tomatoes.
This year, four came ripe together and I bit into one in the garden, bursting its skin, the juice coming out with almost a pop. I ate the others under the pear tree, ignoring bickering at the dinner table and licking a bit of juice-flecked oil from my thumb.
More tomatoes will come and I’ll enjoy them fresh and slow-roasted with garlic. I’ll make sauce and simmer them into salsa. I’m looking forward to tomato bounty (fingers crossed against late blight, a problem I haven’t had yet, and septoria spot, which I have), but I celebrate that first tomato.
What part of summer are you celebrating right now?
Celebrating tomatoes is really about slowing down and savoring. It’s about finding and holding joy in small things.
What can you celebrate today? What can you notice? Think small and focus on your senses. Enjoy!