On a Sunday Afternoon by the Water

We sit in a patch of splattered shade afforded by a maple tree. It’s scrawny shade as far as maples go, but we’re forty feet from East Bay, and the trees are routinely beaten up by the salty off-shore breezes and hostile winters. The maple tree is fighting for its life, so I don’t begrudge its meager offering. Every once in a while the bay sends in a gust of mercy, a water-cooled refreshment.

Folks of all ages and ethnicities surround us, enjoying their afternoon encampments around picnic tables and charcoal grills. Some, like us, have only coolers containing a sandwich and a cold drink, and a plan for supper when we get home after dark. I like to keep days like this simple, and a charcoal grill means I can’t leave until its dying embers permit it. Being held captive by fire while in repose by the ocean seems like a conflict. I am probably more restless than most, though. When it’s time to go, that’s it.

Closer to the water and to our left is a gathering of two families. The patriarchs sit at a small game table and play Backgammon. One smokes a hookah, and the tobacco smoke is sweet, not acrid and harsh like cigarette smoke. Their low voices are congenial and foreign. I hope they have no family suffering in Syria or another war-torn country. The women, heads covered and in long sleeves, sit in a loosely formed circle, chatting among themselves and paying little attention (in a most familiar way) to their dice-tossing husbands.

The young woman who took some time to roll out a prayer rug and offer her afternoon devotion finishes her prayers, then stands, and rolls up her rug. She slips out of her skirt with the same softened intimacy the wives and husbands share. At first, I am drawn in by surprise as I watch the young woman slip out of her skirt in public. Old fashioned hell-fire lessons so many love to proclaim leap to mind, but I disallow them, while at the same time, I sigh with relief as I spot the black leggings being revealed by her public disrobement. This will happen two more times, with two more women, and my voyeurism has taught me a lesson about ritual and respect.

It is a joy to see people at peace with themselves and their object of spiritual devotion. How free she is under her headscarf. May the love of their Creator shine down on these beautiful families.

I awaken from my unintended nap to see that the couple who were situated not far from us, to the right, are packing their things. Her knitting had been on her lap when we arrived, and she clicked her needles, winding yarn and beauty, to the accompaniment of her husband’s guitar playing. He played so softly it seemed like he was a mime. I didn’t hear a single note, no matter how hard I listened.

Some folks draw it all, and the woman behind us has been bothered by an errant soccer ball, once hit in the arm, a painful encounter by any measure. Apologies were sincere, but she her husband spewed forth with vulgarities, and I remember that we cannot choose another’s path. She had just been hit for a third time, and the peace has officially broken. A loud argument stopped just short of a female fist-to-cuff. Fortunately sensibility prevailed, and the ball players have removed themselves from the proximity.
TT had been enjoying a nap when the broo-ha-ha began and the look on his face as he was startled back to wakefulness was so funny I had to suppress a laugh. I wonder if he had heard the group across the field singing Happy Birthday to a child, and I wonder why it never occurred to me to celebrate JT’s dog-day August birthdays with her by the cooling bay.

It took all this to get to where I wanted to go, which was to write a blessing for my daughter and her new husband to be offered at their wedding reception six days hence. Finally the words flowed, here by the water, and surrounded by humanity, both peaceful and strained, and on a joyous Saturday evening, I shared those words with them among witnesses. I would love to share them with you, but I gave them away to the happy couple.

May they have a long and joyful life together.

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Yoga Class

I didn’t want to go to Yoga class last night.

I didn’t feel well. The work week had worn me through, and my back was sore along with the thigh that had cramped up on Thursday night, which sent me wailing and crying through the house for twenty minutes just before dawn. It isn’t a pretty sight, take my word for it.

Not wanting to go to Yoga class because of soreness is about as brilliant as not keeping an appointment with the doctor because of a scratchy throat and a headache.

My phone rang as I pulled into the driveway in front of my house. I sat in my car for a few minutes after hanging up. TT and I were supposed to go together, but he got called away to a real estate emergency. Things like this are not new in our life. Marriage with TT has helped me learn to be flexible and independent. A gift given from the left hand.

So I sat there, car door open, one leg out, my foot resting on the driveway. The air was soft and warm, a perfect evening to be outside. I could take a walk, I mused, or tend one of the garden beds for a while. We could have a leisurely dinner together when TT got home. I was sorely tempted to call the teacher and beg off. It was just a Yoga class anyway.

Except not really.

One of the things Yoga can teach us, if we let it, is compassion and generosity. Last night’s class was the third in a series of four classes, called “Yoga for Food”, for which we pay a discounted price for the class and bring foodstuffs to be donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank.

My not going would mean less for others. It would mean that the teacher’s willingness to teach a class for no compensation was worthless. Do you see where I’m going with this? We’re all in this together. We all affect each other. What we do matters.

It’s humbling to think along these terms. And it’s inspiring.

I went to Yoga class as planned. There were three of us, and I wondered why all ten spaces were not filled, except for the fact that it was one of those perfect August Friday evenings in New England. I may have gotten a whiff of barbecue as I drove home from the studio.

My back’s feeling much better today. And now I think I’ll go for a walk after breakfast to work out the kink in my leg.

Namaste’

Snow Day

It’s a snow day. It means I have time to think. We don’t have many snow days, and frankly since I am not a student or child and count each customer’s order shipped as bread in my belly, I do not really appreciate it when the weather determines the factory’s productivity. Nevertheless, it does give me some time to think without being interrupted, and that’s a luxury.

And it’s funny how things go. Today’s plan was to putter around the house doing little things like finally putting away Christmas decorations, getting the laundry caught up, and maybe even dry-mopping the hardwood floors, but while I was poking through Facebook this morning I spotted something a childhood friend posted about a new restaurant. It wasn’t the restaurant that caught my eye; it was the location of it. Mashpee.

My parents built a summer home in Mashpee, in a planned community called New Seabury, in 1964. Seeing the comment on Facebook has had me waxing nostalgic for hot summer days at the beach with my mom, followed by endless games of Rummy and Cribbage after supper, ever since. Suddenly a blizzard of memories are swirling around me. Memories of having friends down for the weekend, riding our bikes, exploring the new construction that was popping up all around us. My parents were wonderful hosts, and it seems that they always had enough to take us out to the movies on Saturday night or out to dinner. Sometimes we would play miniature golf. What we didn’t have was television. I resented it then, but no longer. It was a wise decree courtesy of my father.

I miss my dad. He was a difficult man. He was a charming man. He had a giant sense of humor but also an unpredictable temper that could send you into the corner wondering what the heck just happened. He was brilliant, and yet he made some colossal mistakes. I do no finger-pointing. I merely remember and try not to regret his blunders.

I cried like a baby the day he died and many times since. We were very close as fathers and daughters go. We learned to sail together, we taught each other how to play tennis, and with deference to any and all tennis partners I have had in my life, he was by far the best, and my all-time favorite. He was a fierce competitor, and he never let me win, which made beating him on the court all the sweeter.

He took me to the zoo and never scolded me for being afraid to feed the buffalo. Gentle giants, those buffalo. We would go to the factory on Sunday mornings sometimes, and ride up the freight elevator to the third floor.

He taught me how to drive a stick-shift. He told me once I was the only driver he ever felt safe enough to fall asleep in the car while he was a passenger.

He stepped up to the plate when my mother died and heeded my warning that he was no longer just my father, but now he had to be my mother too. He understood. He and I understood. It didn’t matter that no one else did. We had each other, my dad and me. And he liked TT. It helps when your father likes and respects your spouse. Having my father endorse my choice of husband meant more to me than I can ever say.

I miss my dad. For about two weeks after he died, he followed me around. Every once in a while I would look up from my desk at the factory thinking that someone was at the door needing my attention and there would be daddy, in his khakis and maroon cashmere sweater, smiling, just for a split second before he would fade back into the ether. I dreamed of the two of us side by side, talking, leaning into each other like a priest and confessor, and he showed me how thin the veil between here and there really is. And then, finally, I dreamed of him ascending a set of stairs at a schoolhouse. He told me I couldn’t go with him. I knew it too and understood through my disappointment.

I kept his sweater though, and today after storing it for years, I put it on. It’s warm and soft and wraps me in folds of gentle memories. I don’t ever remember him being home on a snow day, but today I’m glad he popped into my consciousness.

An Open Letter to Adolescents

I recently graduated from college after being away for thirty years. I tell you this only as a way to introduce this blog post. The last class I took was Adolescent Literature, which was really an exploration of issues and problems of adolescents. Our under-lying theme was community. We made our exploration via adolescent literature. We read plays, short stories, non-fiction, biographies, short novels and longer novels. One of the components of the class was keeping an on-going journal, and a final assignment of the class was to make a journal entry that tied together what we had gleaned from the coursework.

Sometimes friends would ask what I was working on or what I might be writing for school. Here is an example. It is my final journal entry. I send it out with love and great wishes for all of you who are wading through the muck and mire called adolescence.

Please bear in mind that since this is a journal entry, it is unedited.

 

An Open Letter to Adolescents

Hey, you! Yes, you, with the nose ring and the bright red streak in your hair. And you, with the sullen look on your face. And you, preppy girl with the alligator on your polo shirt. While you’re at it bring your friends. I have some things I want to say to you. Bring everybody.

No one gets out of this life alive.

The first thing I want to tell you is that you are not alone. No, I don’t mean aliens, ghosts, angels, or even God, for that matter. I mean you are not alone. You are part of something bigger than you. You are part of a community, and what you do matters. Your first community was your family. You may think that sucks, but it’s true. You didn’t choose your family, but there you are, in the middle of it. And no matter how your life goes, you will always be attached in some way, even if only by genetics.

Your life may seem small and controlled by others now, but how do we really know when life ends? In “Our Town” life went on and on, even after death. Dream big. Don’t let the life you know now keep you hemmed in. Even if your life is as bucolic as the sunset over rolling pastures, step outside your comfort zone, leave your home, at least for a few years. Many people refer to this as “The College Years.” If you can swing it, go far enough away so that you cannot commute. Get out of Dodge. It will do you good, especially if you decide to return. It’s good to know what your home and family look like from the outside. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Who are you going to see when you look in the mirror twenty years from now? Thirty? Forty? Will your grandchildren throw themselves gleefully into your arms when they see you? Or will they be wary of you, uncertain of how an encounter with you will go. Yeah, you. You’ll probably be a grandparent.

Don’t be afraid to ask your parents or a professional about sex. It’s good for your parents to be embarrassed once in a while. Besides, your parents do worry about you and care about your sexual activity and inclinations.

I hope you don’t face any early losses through death, but if you do, remember to be kind to your parents. They are fragile too. Even the slightest act of kindness will go a long way. Share your friends with your parents. It will make life better for you in the long run, even if they don’t like your friends.

Speaking of your parents, I want to tell you this. Follow your instincts. If they ask you to lie, steal, or cheat, don’t do it. That money your mother keeps hidden may save your life someday. And if it’s never needed, so much the better. Let it sit there. It’s for you even though you don’t realize it. You just can’t have it now, and believe me, she doesn’t want to have to use it. Because if she has to grab that money, it means the house is on fire, so leave it there like a good luck charm.

Of course we know you snoop.

As your community widens, try not to burn bridges. It’s okay to leave folks behind for a while, but let them go with love. Do not discard them. They are probably having a bad day too and don’t need your disdain.

People who look different from you or have invisible differences like deafness or mental illness bleed just like you do. You don’t need to cut them open in order to prove it.

When you make a promise to a little kid, keep that promise. People are there for you, even if you have to bang on the door to get them to let you in. Be there for the next kid. They are scared too.

Oh – and be willing to put up with a few crappy rules. You will be eighteen soon enough.

Do you remember that girl who was in your Seventh grade class for only one semester? Did you wonder why she didn’t come back after the winter break? Well, she moved back to be with her mom. She was a foster child. She was lonely, scared, and out of her element. Did you take the time to even say hello when she was in your class? You will be given another opportunity to learn this lesson. Stay alert for clues.

Another thing about your parents – yes your parents. They make mistakes. Sometimes they will even pull up stakes and make you move new a new town or a new lifestyle, only to realize once they get there that it was the wrong move. It’s as hard on them as it is on you, so the best thing you can do is stay true to yourself, and if there’s something you love to do, continue to do it. Grow into your own skin and learn to enjoy your own company. You only think everyone else is out partying on Saturday night. Many more are home alone, reading, writing, editing their photographs, watching television, or playing computer games. Find a hobby, something that you can lose yourself in. If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I forget who first said that.

How about that freakish kid in your class with the cats-eye glasses and mousy brown tangle of hair? She never looks up and shies away from any encounter. You heard that when she’s bent over her desk in class, she’s writing notes to herself in cat language. Did you consider this? Maybe she’s the daughter of parents who are abusive or psychotic. Maybe she likes to think she’s invisible so she won’t be hit. Maybe she is psychotic and her parents won’t allow anyone to treat her. Maybe she goes home to a house that is so filled with filth and clutter that a person can walk only a pathway from room to room. She may have had cat chow for breakfast because it was the only thing she could find. Don’t mock her cat language. We all cope any way we can. And let me ask you, when did you take the initiative to develop your own language? She may not respond well to an outreach of kindness, but you don’t have to make fun of her. She didn’t ask to be dropped into a living hell. What gives you the right to make it worse? School might be the safest most supportive place in the world to her. It might be her safe haven. Don’t destroy that too.

Think about the kid in art class who has spent the whole semester working on carving trees in linoleum blocks. They bend over their work, letting their hair fall like a shroud over their face. That curtain of fine strands may be their only protection from the bully who mugged or raped them during the summer. They will let you in, maybe even trust you a little bit, but you will have to step up and say, “Don’t I know you? Weren’t we friends last year? What happened to you?” If you want to have a good life, you need to step up and care.

Beware of those who are in power. Focus on truth, not legend. If truth dispels the legend, then so be it.

You can expect help from unlikely sources, like intuition and spiritual awakenings. Stay open. People will come and go in your life, some like angels to help you, some like ghosts to scare you out of your complacency and the luxury of hiding. Learn who you are. Know your name. Remember who you are. You are someone who matters. You are not a pawn. You are learning to be a self-directed human being.

Question authority or someday you may find yourself in a fight to the death with your neighbor, someone you once helped when they were down on their luck. Don’t be afraid to turn away from what doesn’t feel right. Your intuition is real. Honor it.

Don’t let hate motivate you. Be a leader, or better yet, be an example, and others will follow naturally.

Stop every day, even if only for one minute; look up at the sky and say, “Thank you.” Thank yourself if you have to, or thank gravity for preventing you from drifting off into the stratosphere, never to return.

You’ll be gone soon enough. Believe it or not.

 

 

Sprouted Seeds

What was that? 

Although I have known it to be true forever, it just occurred to me like I heard it for the first time that there will be no going back.  We progress forward for good or bad, and time wasted is just that.  So what am I to do with an age in years more beyond fifty than I want to admit and a whole new life to live?  

There is a seed in me that has germinated and wants to grow.  She doesn’t know age or time.  She knows only that she has sprouted and must either grow or die.  She trusts me, or she wouldn’t be tapping me on the shoulder and urging me to take up my pen and write. 

It is up to me to decide the fate of this new sprout.  No, I’m not with child, at least not in the biological sense, but there is the spirit of a young woman in this skin and she’s eager to fly. 

Today she told me this:  Regret serves us nothing.  It merely feeds the monster called bitterness.  

I like her way of thinking.  Eyes forward.  No stopping this time.

August Moon

I had been especially looking forward to two things this past weekend, aside from the chance to relax and spend time in the company some delightful friends and JT.  One was assured, and that was to swim in the lake, rain or shine.  The other, knowing there would be a full moon, was to spend some time basking in her blue radiance.

On Saturday night, the moon was not only full, but there was a thin ring around its edge that was intensely bright.  It looked like she was wearing a circlet.  A humble crown, something she was allowed to wear only occasionally.

Four of us had sat on the dock after dinner, first facing west to watch the sunset, which was pretty but not spectacular.  It was partially obscured by our tiny island, and the sky is not as big on a lake as it is by the ocean.  No matter.  Once the sun had set we turned 180 degrees to face the east in hopes of watching the full moon rise.

How is it that in the same small sky it can be clear in the west and cloudy in the east?  I don’t know, but it was cloudy in the eastern sky and with a few “oh wells” two people folded up their chairs and headed back to the house to join the party.  I lingered and TT lingered with me.  I mewed with disappointment a few times even though I knew there was nothing he could do about the moon and clouds, and even though it seemed apparent that she would not be allowed an appearance so early in the night sky, I watched and hoped.  Finally I took the hint, folded my own chair and made my way off the dock, up the stairs and back to the house where folks were drinking after-dinner tea and enjoying friendly conversation.  Two were playing solitaire.

I made a cup of tea in one of the brown mugs.  It had a long story to tell from its decades of being on this island.  How many times had that mug been chosen from the line of them hanging on hooks at the front of the glass-faced cabinet?  How many lips have kissed its smooth edge to sip a hot cup of tea?  How many times had this mug been the vessel which carried a morning brew or a moonlight elixir?  Hands had held this mug close to someone’s chest for warmth.  It wasn’t a beautiful mug, but it was a faithful one, never jumping off its hook or off the edge of the table because it wasn’t good enough or as beautiful as the other mugs.  Truth be told, none of the mugs were beautiful, so this one had no worry on that account.

On Saturday night this mug knew my disappointment when the full moon failed to appear, and it let me sooth my chilled lips on its glazed rim.  The cup didn’t know I was watching the sky as I caressed its bumpy exterior with heat-seeking fingertips.  It would not have known that as I sipped, my sights were over the far rim and set on the eastern sky where the moon was hiding.

Undress yourself, Moon!

I want to see you naked and smiling.

Pay no mind to the others, for they don’t even look at you or wonder at your mysterious pull on the waters, your power over our imagination.  And I, who loves you, see only your radiance paying no mind to your mottled, scarred surface.  My own body, in your muted glow, is flawless, no longer human, and free from the marks of birthing a child.  The gravity which draws my aging breasts toward their mother earth, is suspended in the light of your fullness.

You make me sigh, Miss Moon, and you make me wonder at what is beyond what we know.  You lead me to a place of quiet inner song.  And just between you and me, Miss Moon, you have been the twinkle in many a father’s eye and the source of many a mother’s sigh, with your crystal blue light showing the way for egg and sperm, then your tidal pull drawing many a newborn babe through the waters onto the hard rocky terrain of our planet.

I wished as I sipped my tea.

Gratefully I can report that my disappointment was taken into account, and after a while I noticed a shift in the color of the sky, and I quietly crept down to the dock, chair in hand, not wanting to scare her away.  TT followed, and without words, we reclined on the dock in our low-slung chairs, and without so much as a sigh, the lunar maiden of the night began to blow the clouds away from her face and there she hung in the black ink sky.

It’s hard to say if she could see this audience of two, but we saw her, and she slowly let the light splay out before her. She sent beams of light toward the lake, and they danced on the water with their shimmering reflections.  It was a dance unaccompanied by any human sound; they moved to their own cosmic rhythm, a little unsteady in its beat.  The water looked as if it were being tickled by the soft fingertips of the moonbeams.  I listened to the beating of my heart and the hush of air passing through my throat, gently in and gently out.

There’s something about the silence of the night sky.  It cries out for music, yet any earthly instrument seems discordant, and I was grateful that for those few minutes no one on the lake had their volume set so high that others could hear it.

The breeze finally grew cooler than my jeans and sweatshirt could deflect, so after a while we folded our chairs and worked our way back up to the cabin, returning to the hum of soft laughter, good cheer, and gentle friends.

Thanksgiving

For twenty-nine years, maybe more, save for two or three, due to heavy rain or a good walk spoiled by a round of golf with TT and my dad one unseasonably warm Thanksgiving day, I have taken a walk, usually around mid-day, and I spend the time in a mood of gratitude. When lucky enough to share the walk with JT, TT, or maybe even both of them, we chat of anything that comes to mind, and that is gratitude in and of itself.   It might have been another way, but since learning about the graces of a grateful life, I humble myself with gratitude whenever possible.

Today’s walk included the enjoyment of seeing chickadees resting on the bare branches of a maple tree.

I noted how low in the sky the sun was hanging and gave thanks for its light, though muted with a cloudy sky.

I saw cars parked in front of many neighbors’ homes, and though no aromas of roasting turkeys had yet found their way out of doors, I knew it would be just a matter of time, and gave thanks for a day of rest and the community of a meal shared among friends and family.

The roadways were so quiet, all I could hear was the swishing of my jacket and my feet as they met the pavement and rolled, heel to toe, as I walked and sighed with the miracle of how the body works.

Solitude continuing when meeting other walkers would be the norm, I gave thanks for being allowed to be alone, and free from loneliness, quite a feat for an extrovert like me.

For two more birds, brown and gray, whose name I do not know, sitting in a dogwood engaged in the low chatter of a private conversation.

For the car with Florida plates which passed by quietly, occupied by a couple of retirement age.  Glad to see they made it home to New England to see their family one more time, with who knows how many more opportunities awaiting them.  This, I surmised.

For greenery in pots and on front doors heralding the coming Advent.

For the upright bush in some one’s back yard, with its small yellow leaves still clinging to it, I am thankful.  At first it looked like Forsythia, maybe a cruel joke to some, but to me it is a reminder that although winter fast approaches, spring is coming right behind it at the same rate of speed.

For the two boys playing catch with a football in the front yard of my next door neighbor, and for the flash of memory of so many touch football games played between the two telephone poles on the street in front of my house, with the neighbor’s fence post being the 50-yard line, and for having a childhood filled with neighborhood friends and memories like that, worth keeping.

And now, as I shower and ready myself to spend some hours with my sister and her family, I am thankful for hot running water.  And layers to wear, since I won’t know warm her house will be.

And as I sit at her table, I will be thankful for the bounty that I can so gladly call my life.

As the table, laden with so much food, becomes our meeting place, I will stop a moment, eyes on the turkey, and give special thanks to that golden and fragrant bird, which unwittingly lived its whole life, and then sacrificed it,  in service to our sustenance.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Tess!

The heroine has just been executed, probably by hanging, given Victorian England as a setting for the story.  And I too feel betrayed somehow, just as she was betrayed.

In simple good faith, I opened the book and hoped to find a love story.

It is a love story, a beautiful one at that, and I am thankful for the one week of passion the heroine and her husband are able to share in the country house they stumble upon while on the run.  But the rest of it?

Hour upon hour, word upon word, of injustice, misunderstanding, high-brow piousness, class division, exploitation, and the sacrifice of a beautiful young woman, who succumbs to the pressure of her mother and leaves her home in an effort to make a claim of kinship with a wealthy family several hours’ distance from her village.  And every time she allows herself to trust, no matter who, her mother, the man who sullies her purity, and therefore, her future prospects, even the man she marries, the rug is pulled out from under her.

I like to think that this heart-breaking, beautiful book was written and offered as an indictment of those who presume to judge others, individually and as a culture.   I can clearly see the sacrificial lamb, the Christ, in the heroine:  Rude beginnings, pure in heart, a life’s mission of redemption, homeless, misunderstood, loved but always separate, and finally, hung for destroying her destroyer.

And what I had hoped would be a twisted plot with hand-wringing, worry and angst, ending in  finally requited love has revealed itself as dark and tragic, and leaves me perplexed and saddened.

Oh, Tess!

Dream Walk

Have you ever stopped to wonder what people who are out walking are thinking about?

I didn’t either, until today, while I was out for a Sunday afternoon walk at my usual aerobic pace and suddenly found myself caught in such a delicious daydream that it nearly took my breath away.

The walk ended in a slow meandering stroll so as to stay in the dream.

I can only hope for others that their walking time can be spent in such sweet reverie.

 

Late August Melancholy

I love this time of year.  The heat of August has been broken by a week of rain, leaving clear blue skies, cool nights and warm days, softened grass, and swollen peaches ready for the picking.

As I work outside in the yard, however, a melancholy seeps in, and I find myself pondering the ends of things.

Languid and sprawling, the vegetable garden lays itself out, spent and exhausted from 12 weeks of active fertilization and procreation.

Limp-limbed and weak with fading leaves, the tomatoes hang silently on their supports, baring the ripening fruit they hid so well in their caged jungle just two weeks ago.  Ripe for the picking, the plants offer no resistance, willing to let its fruit fall into any hand that will reach in and pluck it.  No flowers remain.  The plants offer only the sweet acidity of its fruit and the memory of a lush and steamy summer.

The squash plants, just last week nearly the size of dog houses and protecting themselves with prickly leaves large enough to clothe Adam and Eve, have collapsed onto themselves like giant deflated balloons. Enormous squashes, so elusive when they were small and desirable to eat, rest on the ground, hardened and overgrown, beyond desirable consumption.

The green beans are long gone, as are the cucumbers, and although the peppers will hold their thick-fleshed boxy fruit for quite a while still, they are beginning to lean on each other for support while they wait patiently for the gardener to make her run through with her harvest basket and cutters.

The Swiss chard and the beets will be alive and well for several more weeks, at least until the first hard frost, but the chard leaves are growing tougher and will require longer cooking, and the beets grow larger every day.  The kale, upright and hardy until winter, begs to be chopped for a soup.  The basil is running riot with flowers, making it almost impossible to keep it pinched back making it produce new leaves.

The bees love basil blossoms and they hum happily as they gather and steal away back to their hives, loaded with pollen.  For the bees, everything they do is about their queen surviving the winter, and yet they fly only 28 days, give or take a few, their tiny life spans are only a few weeks longer than that. Honey bees fly until their wings fall off, and then they die.

And I think about the ends of things.  The end of the season, the end of my own life, which I certainly hope is in the very distant future, and every year at this time, I give my thanks for another summer – and then I ask for more.

And I think to myself, “Only so many summers left before I lay lifeless in the ground offering only memories of sweet acidity and a life lived”.  I wonder how many more hot and lusty summers nights will be mine to enjoy, savoring in the sweet sweat of all that gives life.  Weak limbed, languid, and exhausted, sprawling, I feel pity for the plants, for they have but one summer before they die, and I have had so many summers.  And I feel pity for those who live and breathe by hate, because I know the beauty of a life filled with love, and I know how sweet and delicious it can be.

When I come to my senses, standing there with a sore back, basket in one hand, cutters in the other, I remember that what I have is today, so I give thanks for it.  And I bend over to pull another weed, pick another tomato, cut some chard for dinner, thankful for the breeze that cools the sweat on my brow.

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