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?
It’s a weird garden year. My green beans haven’t done much yet. My zucchini and summer squash are succumbing to powdery mildew, and I’m hoping the cucumbers don’t follow. I’m still waiting to see if my tomatoes will hang in there.
But my snap peas produced.
To use up a bunch earlier this month, I did a stir fry with beef and peas and garlic scapes and ginger. To finish it off, I added a heavy splash of coconut milk. That left about a cup of coconut milk.
I kept thinking coconut + chocolate = yum. Since it’s summer, ice cream was the obvious answer. I’ve since subjected my kids to the same stir fry (not their favorite) again both because I had a lot of peas and because I was craving another batch of this ice cream.
Chocolate-coconut Ice Cream
(makes about 5 cups)
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar (scant)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips or bar roughly chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or light cream
- Pulse the chocolate and sugar in a food processor until chocolate is very small.
- Heat the milk in a small sauce pan until it just starts to bubble at the edges.
- Add hot milk to the chocolate-sugar mixture. Stir or run the food processor until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Pour into a 2-quart or larger mixing bowl. Chill. (I left it overnight, but you can chill for less time as long as it gets really cold.)
- Take the cold chocolate out. Try not to stand at the counter eating it all. (It’s really good, but the ice cream is too.) Stir the 1/2 and 1/2 or cream into the chocolate mixture.
- Pour into your ice cream maker, following instructions.
- My machine takes about 25 minutes. Transfer the ice cream to a covered container and let set for about 2 hours—or eat right away. This one’s really good in it’s soft stage.
Waiting for green coriander—and keeping the pollinators happy
Tick Tick Ticktickticktick
A cluster of tiny green seeds rolls through my fingers into a plastic bowl.
“I think everyone really loves my green coriander pesto,” my big girl says as she strips seeds from the plants I’ve pulled. “Well, except for some of the kids. Because they’re picky.”
She’s been anticipating this moment since early spring when I began finding cilantro everywhere. We noticed the plants getting bigger and sending out feather, carrot-top like leaves. We watched bees buzz the tiny white flower clusters. And we found the first tiny green seeds. Now, some of the plants have gone from full flower to full seed.
To everything its season, and this is the season for green coriander.
Two years ago, I cooked with green coriander for the first time, making the green coriander–marinated chicken from Grow, Cook, Eat. Picking green coriander (and later the dried, brown seeds) became a summer afternoon activity with the kids asking if we could pull one more plant to strip. As long as everyone had their own plant and their own bowl, squabbles were minimal.
Last summer my big girl decided we should make pesto with the green coriander. We talked about the things that usually went into pesto and she picked what she wanted to put in. Here’s what she came up with:
K’s Green Coriander Pesto
1/2 cup green coriander (roughly seeds from 3–4 plants)
1 scant cup parsley leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Two good squeezes of lemon juices
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese
- Run the green coriander, parsley, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor until smooth-ish. (The green coriander will still be a little pebbly, but all the seeds should be somewhat ground up.)
- Add the olive oil and lemon and whiz to combine.
- Stir in the cheeses.
- Taste and add more lemon juice or oil if needed.
This has a crunchier texture than most pesto. We love it on chicken and crackers. We’re less fond of it on pasta. I imagine that the bright green, citrusy flavor would be good with fish or shrimp.
My big girl was so excited to bring green coriander pesto chicken to a pot luck last night. If rosemary is the smell of jealousy, maybe green coriander is the smell of pride.
What are you creating with summer’s bounty these days?
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!
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.