It was quiet, except for the exuberant calls of birds I can’t name. I sipped my coffee, tried to settle back into a writing rhythm after a busy week way. It lasted about 20 minutes before a little face peeked over the railing.
“Hi, Mom! Morning story!”
My little girl’s red head nestled against me as she snuggled in, smiling behind the thumb in her mouth. I smiled back and started reading the Ladybug magazine she had handed me. When the last story mentioned morning glories, I suggested we go see if ours were blooming.
She dropped blankie. I picked up my coffee mug, and we stepped out into the dew-wet grass. We walked up the hill together, hand-in-hand. I showed her the vine climbing the red pole and the faded flower from two days ago. I pointed out the twists that would soon open their faces and throats to the sun.
Not impressed, she called “I’m going on the trapeze bar” as she ran down that path between the gardens. I pulled some weeds, surveyed the mess, sipped my coffee. I stopped to watch the bees hovering over the poppies and buzz-loving the cilantro gone to flower.
Then I followed her back to the house to make breakfast to eat on the porch. This is what I want from summer.
We have a list of things we want to do—a visit to Story Land, a camping trip—and little things to do spur of the moment some day—local hiking, the swimming hole, soft serve ice cream. I want to do these things, many of them things that make summer summer, but more than that I want the feel of yesterday morning when we moved slow and let the morning unfold, reading, snuggling, pulling weeds in our pjs.
Today my kids were turning themselves into superheros with masks and play silks and capes from the dress up box. My nails were black; my feet speckled with dirt. I wasn’t worried about the next thing on my list or what was for lunch or catching up after vacation.
As I rounded the corner with a wheelbarrow full of weeds, the bright blue trumpet of a morning glory stopped me. The sun was trying to burn through the haze leaving a gray, hot stickiness. My garden was so overrun with weeds I didn’t know where to start. And this one flower stopped me, reminded me.
Part of me still expects summer to be the wide-open stretch of time it was when I was a kid, though it’s been years and years since I’ve had a summer off. But I still try to find pockets of lazy, unscheduled time.
What does summer mean to you? What does the reality of summer look like. Tell me about your summer morning and something that made you stop and notice today.
My garden is a mess. The kind of mess where you can hardly find the things you planted. I spent the better part of Sunday working out there.
I turned over new beds and planted chard and more carrots. I tied up peas and tomatoes. I weeded and weeded and weeded. Spending time in my garden was a perfect way to spend my birthday. My back would tell you I worked outside all day, but it’s not really work.
I love gardening for the fresh cilantro I pick, wet with dew, for my breakfast burrito and for the golden cherry tomatoes warm from the sun (it’ll be a while, but they’re coming).
I love when my big girls says, “Can I make a salad for dinner?” and then collects and spins and chops (and eats!) it.
I love my peonies, heavy headed and drooping after the rain, and the feathery cosmos that settled in on their own and are starting to announce themselves.
But it’s not just what comes out of my garden. There’s something about the the planting and weeding and tying and checking, something about the process, that soothes me and refreshes me.
I came in Sunday, feet and hands black, face smeared with dirt. My back was tight, but my shoulders were loose. My garden is still a mess, but I wasn’t.
That evening my friend threw me an impromptu party with ribs and margaritas and for dessert the simple version of this cake and this ice cream, both of which I made because I love the rhythm of the kitchen (when it isn’t grumbly get dinner on the table time) as much as I love the rhythm of the garden.
Sunday I found more strawberries hanging like jewels under green leaves. I ate one and shared the rest with my girls. There’s spinach almost ready to pick again and the first tomatoes forming. And, I noticed with surprise and glee my garlic is beginning to get scapes, so I’m dreaming of pesto and pizza and lazy summer dinners. The garden is a lot of work, but it feels more like rhythm and dreams and rewards and hope.
What do you love doing so much it doesn’t feel like work?
Henry’s birthday was gentle, and it had nearly everything I needed, barring him.
As we ate our chocolate cake with our neighbors, a cardinal swooped by as if on cue when Julie asked, “Where’s the cardinal? Don’t we usually see a cardinal?”
The kids pretended their chocolate cake and whipped cream was bird poop. Spirit of eight-year-old boy?
And then I had my garden time. I weeded and edged. I thinned and transplanted. I mulched and replaced the heart shaped stones. I sweated and my mind wandered.
This haphazard garden is one place I have never planned. I simply fit things into the space I have. Sometimes tall things end up in the front or plants are too close, and when they are, I move them. This garden that I began in 2008 with a couple of hand-me-down perennials has expanded and filled in and flourished.
I went from peaceful contemplation in the garden to lively chaos at science fair that night. And somehow that was right too.
The next day I woke up feeling lighter. My hips, aching for days, felt looser. It is not that I don’t think of him now that his birthday is past, but the pressure, the anticipation of that day and all the hope it held has passed once again.
Friday I took the day off from work. I stayed off Facebook and didn’t open my email. Saturday i absorbed all the kind words and messages that people sent my way on Friday: thinking of you, remembering with you, holding space for your story.
Today I stood in my Gore-tex waving to my big girl on the bus. Today I told my little one about camping in the rain as I drove her to school. Today I checked my email, focused on work, went to the dentist. Today a gentle rain fell, soaking into the too dry earth, enlivening all the green, kissing the swelling peony buds. Today I stood in that rain and smiled.
It’s finally spring, though some days it feels we’ve skipped ahead to summer. It’s the smell of something on the grill and waving to neighbors walking by during dinner. It’s kids stopping to play and moms sharing a drink. It’s thinking we can stay out all evening in the golden light, only to remember school tomorrow, early morning, bedtime.
This spring/summer weather means smoothies outside instead of movie and popcorn after school. It means helping buckle bike helmets and pushes on the trapeze. It means washing feet and checking for ticks every day.
It’s the season for checking my greens every day to see if I’ll need to buy spinach or lettuce next week. It’s dragging the hose to water the little pockets of my garden I’ve planted so far. It’s getting ready for planting all the stuff that doesn’t like the cold (and the stuff that does that I haven’t managed to get in yet).
Monday so many things seemed to come in to bloom all of a sudden. The violets that I wanted for a science experiment flowered. My tulips bloomed. The cherry tree down the way was abuzz with bees. It felt like a long winter. Finally, really spring.
One year ago today, I launched this blog. I set out to create a space to write about growing and food and family and the connections of all those things, and I guess I’ve done that even if it doesn’t look exactly like what I was imagining.
I’m going to be playing with this space over the summer. I may be less regular and trying new things as I continue to focus on the themes of write, nourish, and grow. Thanks for reading and sharing with me this past year.
Today while I waited for the bus, I saw this:
Doesn’t look like much does it?
But it’s my garden.
A little more melt and the rhubarb will start unfurling while we watch. A little more snow retreating and I’ll sprinkle spinach seeds and look for hints of cilantro in the herb section. Overly optimistic? Maybe. Yeah, a little.
But closer to the house, on the sunny side, the ground is truly bare. The mounds where the hops grow, the ever weedy flower bed that runs along the playroom, the patch of daily lilies by the back door—clear of snow.
Today while I waited for the bus, after I spied that tiny patch of garden ground, I picked up the kids’ rake, which had loitered by the back door all winter, and started raking out brown leaves and dead debris by the back door.
Then I squatted in my winter coat and tugged dead grass from the border. My fingers wiggled into the cold damp earth and came out muddy and chilled. I only poked for a few minutes, but when I went in they smelled like dirt. Ah, spring.
Snow still covers most of my yard and almost all of my garden. Yet I yearn to get out there and start planting. Today I scratched in the dirt.
Call it desperation.
I have my seeds. I’m ready to plant them. I’m ready to grow.
What are you yearning to do? What baby steps are you taking?
I’m looking forward to the growing season, and to Grow, my online writing retreat for spring. Come plant your ideas and see them bloom. I’d love to write with you.
It’s the time of year when temps in the 30s feel gentle and you walk out in just a fleece
and smile at the sun and your neighbors.
It’s the time of year when the dripdripdrip of icicles in the sun is a joyful song
when the seeds and cups of dirt on the table at preschool look like hope.
It’s the time of year when my garden looks like this:
And I dream of this:
and start saving milk jugs for this:
It’s the time of year when I reread The Long Winter
and get grateful for piles of wood and deliveries of oil to keep us warm instead of twisted hay to keep us from freezing to death
and for a well stocked fridge and freezer instead of rationed potatoes and hand-ground wheat.
It’s the time of year when even my kids are sick of snow
but they’ll still shriek and whoop their way down the sledding hill.
It’s the time of year when I look forward to eating lots of pancakes
and hope the sap will be running so that moist, sweet steam will fill the air while we eat.
It’s the time of year when everything seems barren,
but you hear the birds singing, loud and clear through the cold air.
It’s the time of year when you are almost in despair,
but you look out the window just before supper and notice that it’s still light.
It’s the time of year when the light and melting
the maple syrup and the seeds
and the dreams of green
get you through
as you wait for more sunshine,
Write with Me:
I’ve used this prompt last summer. I’m not recycling because I’m lazy, but because I’ve been thinking about this time of year, because I’m ready for change and it looks so far off.
Whether you tried this one before or not, grab a pen and finish this sentence:
It’s the time of year when . . .
What are the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this time of year? What’s happening in this season, in your life right now?
In the comments, tell me about about this time of year where you are or add a link to your blog where you write about this time of year.