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.
The day before your son’s eighth birthday, you stop at the market to get sausage for breakfast the next morning. You go to the bank, get gas, buy coffee. You meet a friend, eat quiche, drink coffee, write, like you do every Thursday. The checklist of errands, the routine of your writing day soothe you.
The day before your son’s eighth birthday, you notice the lilacs are fading quickly, though you still catch a ghost of their scent, but the deep purple irises have just opened near the back door. You stop to watch a butterfly hover and rest on a flower, its wings nearly black with white spots on the underside, with more yellow on the top. You stand and watch even though mosquitoes hover around you and the air is steamy and your garden is full of weeds. Your son taught you to slow down, to notice. You needed to relearn that lesson throughout his life. You keep trying to relearn that lesson now.
The day before your son’s eighth birthday you get your older daughter off the bus as the leaves turn up on the trees and the wind picks up. You wait for rain that doesn’t come. You hear a low rumble far away.
“Let’s make Thunder Cake!” your girls shout. It’s not the cake you planned to make, but you eight years ago you learned that your plans don’t always play out. You read the story with the girls clamoring on the couch around you. Then you set them to beating the egg whites in the old hand mixer while you measure out the other ingredients.
When you try to take the cakes out of the pans, one sticks and crumbles. You look at the mess and sigh. It will still taste good. Imperfect things can still be amazing.
The night before your son’s eighth birthday, you sit in the rocking chair and sing your girls their songs. You remember the song you made up for your son who should turn eight tomorrow. You remember singing it, tentatively, quietly, in the NICU surrounded by beeping machines and another baby who couldn’t stop crying and parents you knew only by sight and nurses. You remember how tense you were in those first days and feel yourself wound tight again. You take a deep breath and try to let your shoulders down.
You try not to yell at your girls who have to use the potty, see spiders, have “bad thoughts,” can’t sleep. You tuck them back in. You give them good thoughts. You say, “Be quiet. Its late.” You say good-night one more time.
On the night before your son’s eighth birthday, you make chocolate frosting, the really good one that takes a long time. You flip the mangled cake onto a plate, spread the thick frosting on top. You flip the other layer on top and smooth frosting on again. When you are done, you look at the cake. The smoothness of the top that will not be punctuated by candles breaks you for a minute. The tears that have been waiting come. You need them to come out. You don’t know if there are more.
On the night before your son’s eighth birthday, you plan out your morning:
egg sandwich early in the quiet before everyone is up
sausage and cake—your neighborhood tradition
get your big girl on the bus
snuggle and read with the little girl
tend Henry’s garden.
On the night before your son’s eighth birthday, you remind yourself that your morning probably won’t go that way. You’ll sleep late or the little one will be up early. Your big girl’s tooth will fall out or the little one will have a meltdown. Thunder will rumble and not bypass you this time. Things won’t go as planned. He taught you that, too, your boy, though letting go of plans and control is another lesson you have to learn again and again.
You step outside, look up to the ¾ moon bright in the sky. You want to feel him in the stars like you did one night in Maine. You want to feel him warm and sleepy up in bed. You shiver in the cool night air, feel the grass damp beneath your feet. You go inside and tuck your girls back in, shifting the big one’s feet back on the bed, wiping sweat from the little one’s forehead. You breathe deep this moment—the chill night air, the dog snoring on the couch, your girls cozy in bed. You sit with this moment. Right here. What is.
Tomorrow your son would turn eight. You plan to sink your hands into the soil in his garden. You plan to eat chocolate cake and strawberries. Maybe you will, or maybe not.
The day will unfold, just as his life did, on its own terms regardless of your plans. Tomorrow your son would turn eight. You will try to let go of your plans, hold onto your memories, and find beauty in the day whatever it brings.
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.