Summer's Last Song
An update on the late summer garden, then a poem: "Summer's Last Song"
When I sat down to think about this summer season, I realized it's all a bit of a blur — I don't know if it's just my fickle mind, or if it's being a parent, or what, but I have a hard time remembering the details of recent months without a bit of assistance. Alas, this is part of why I keep a journal; to help me remember all the moments, big and small, for they are so easily lost to the mess of my mind, all clamoring for a spot in my long term memory.
According to my journal, I rode the wave all summer — periods of poor mental health as well as stretches of doing really well. I find that, as I get a little older, I'm becoming better at recognizing when I'm in a low, and I'm better at keeping myself calm while I ride it out. I'm able to understand that the lows are temporary; and, interestingly, when my anxiety symptoms surface, it helps me immensely to identify the physical feelings of discomfort that come with it — pit in my stomach, ache in my chest, panic making my heart rate rise. The ability to identify the symptoms immediately calms me down, brings me out of my head and into my body.
I'm no longer surprised by the waves, the ebbs and flows. They're as much a part of me as my eyeballs. In a way, I'm grateful for them — the waves, that is (eyeballs, too, though). They're like the changing of the seasons in that they make me more aware of the good times. The contrast makes the good really stand out, and I'm able to exist more in a state of gratitude. I no longer feel such fear of the bad times to come, cutting my experience with the good short. Acceptance of the ebbs and flows improves my outlook and my health overall. I wish I would have learned this sooner.
This summer season was hot. June and July were boiling, almost constantly in the 95-100+ degree range. My friend Hannah calls those days the 'hot winter', for, like winter, we find ourselves stuck indoors to avoid the extreme temperatures. The garden suffered; even as I watered once or twice every single day, my plants just didn't seem to grow much. The Japanese Beetles ran the roost, and the squash bugs (so creepy) had a heyday with my zucchini and winter squash (no crop). Kory and the kids and I managed to spend time outside by playing in our 10' stock tank 'pool'. Being in and around water was the only way to tolerate those intense summer temps.
The month of August was surprisingly mild. Since the last few days of July, the mornings have been cool, foggy, and not too humid. These mornings, for me, herald the beginning of fall. I'm sure we will have more days of high heat and humidity before fall truly establishes itself, but in the meantime, we're soaking up the heat's retreat.
My favorite mornings lately are the slow ones we spend on our east-facing patio with the trees shading us from the rising sun. I enjoy my coffee, Kory has his signature V-8 Energy (it's a thing), the kids push around their toy strollers and chatter away, the cats bicker with each other, and the dogs follow their noses around the yard. The chickens stay in their coop these days, after a particularly bad string of attacks from coyotes (we lost half of our flock to coyotes this summer). The sparrows, Meadowlarks, and finches seem to also be breathing a sigh of relief — their songs are stronger these late-summer mornings, mingling with the sounds of cicadas and crickets. The crows have returned — their reappearance marked by a flock of hundreds perched in our old black walnut trees, all taking flight at once, like a single body of black feathered wings.
Chocolate Cherry Sunflower
The chocolate cherry sunflowers that I so enjoyed in August are fading fast. These particular sunflowers have ~5-10 heads per plant, and they bloom in succession for a glorious month of black, red, and yellow-tinged flowers. The bees — particularly the tiny metallic green ones — love them. I hesitated to cut hardly any sunflowers because these bees were literally bathing in their pollen, enjoying them so much that I simply couldn't justify taking the flowers inside for my own enjoyment.
Passionflower & Passionfruit
The passionflower vines have been overrun with Japanese beetles, but I finally got to enjoy my first passionfruit a couple of weekends ago, and it was gloriously crunchy, tart, and sweet! The last time I had a passionfruit that delicious was in Costa Rica a few years ago. If you have the ability, do grow passionflower! They have the most interesting blooms I've ever seen (no hyperbole), they are beautiful vines, and the fruit, as mentioned, is delicious. Passionflower is also a healthy herb that can be used to make herbal teas and tinctures!
I think I am actually going to get a crop of cantaloupe this year. It's the only plant in the family Cucurbitaceae (squashes, watermelon, cucumber, cantaloupe), aside from *hopefully* some pumpkins, that wasn't decimated by squash bugs. The first little melons have formed, and so far, no pests! It's been such a thrill (yes, a thrill, I am an old woman) to be able to eat produce from my garden, and even more so watching my kids eat from my garden. They have vetoed the cherry tomatoes and greens, but I think cantaloupe will be a hit. Speaking of eating from the garden, yesterday I made a sandwich with cucumber, hothouse tomato, red onions, and arugula from the garden, and an egg from one of my hens. I felt so healthy and cool!!!
I planted a few bush beans this year (started from seed -- easy to grow!) thanks to Megan Gilger's (Fresh Exchange) recommendation to try them. They are delicious eaten right off the plant, and I'm loving their gorgeous deep purple hues. I'm hoping to get enough to be able to make a side out of them for a meal for the kids. I think I can get them to eat them, but no guarantees!
Ok, now to some prose. This season gives me all the feels, and I'm feeeeling it right now as I sit on my patio this morning, almost chilly in the cool September air. Here goes:
Summer's Last Song
It feels like farewell, but I know it's just 'bye, til next time
Gone are the endless string of days so hot
the only way to endure is to cool off in water
The memory of July is fading fast
as the sweetness of September beckons
We toil in the garden all summer long
For the hope of what the harvest will bring us
Now, the days have arrived,
where finally, finally, we can let out our breath
The hardest of the work is over
Now we enjoy what our labor has earned us
Tomatoes fully ripe and red
Beans maturing on the vine
I imagine the
Melons and squash and cucumbers smiling
for the cooler mornings are what they pine for
We have so much in common, them and I
We survive in the heat, thrive in the air of autumn
Of the air— September's scent, if I could describe it
is sweet, so sweet. Death disguised as
something other than a dwindling, an ending
for we welcome it, celebrate it, we even crave it
Knowing full well that at the end of it
the trees will be bare, the lush green of summer
so far gone we can barely remember it
But we don't care: our hearts sing for
the sweet smell of rotting leaves,
taking us back to days of our younger years.
Children— they play outside no matter the weather,
but something about this time sticks in the memory
We can forget our to-do lists, responsibilities
we go right back to laughing and jumping into
a pile of leaves.
Now, I'm getting ahead, dreaming of death.
This part of summer is not of it's own
for it shares our hearts with what's to come
But if I slow down, be present with myself
I see the flowering tops of Indian grass
glowing in the morning sun,
the crickets singing in the trees, and
the marigolds still in full color, reminding me to breathe
I nearly taste the peaches and pears, ripe on the trees,
this season marked by abundance and ease
It's summer's last song
a song of peace that sounds like
a gentle thrumming, a laid back humming
an exhale of breath
before the beloved season of death.