There’s a time when summer climbs to its peak, hot and sticky sweet, and that time is now. The university semester, in a counterproductive attempt to echo the progress of the season, also peaks right around now. Exams heap up, papers, projects, and last minute presentations appear out of the haze of heat. The farm calls out for attention, too. Cucumbers and tomatoes want harvesting from the greenhouses that are hotter than a sauna at noonday. The potato beetles are settling in for a long chomp. There’s something about the heat, though, and all the pressure of school and growing food, that sets the mind to dreaming big. My mental list of projects grows (especially during long lectures in the hot bowels of the uni castle). From cooking and fermenting (kraut, kombucha, ginger beer, and sourdough), canning and curing, to sewing, to putting pen to paper again, FINALLY, and writing stories. Call it escapism, but only if you must.
These dog days of summer, when the sun hesitates to set fully before 10:30 at night, are a time of incubation. In the spring, I’m full of energy. Lengthening days and greening fields reset the rhythm from winter’s introspection to springtime’s outward dance. Everything seems juicy and revelatory. Summer, on the other hand, offers us the long view. Vegetation slows down its explosive growth and begins to ripen. Fruits turn heavy on the trees. The bees are busier and more focused than ever. The heat makes us less hungry, and, like the bees, more focused on storing for when winter sends its cold winds our way again.
The wheat and barley fields are dry and golden. The outline of each grain head becomes crisply defined against the sky.
I find myself starting lots of sentences with, “I wish I could…” But we have to take life one step at a time, don’t we? Otherwise we’d be doing cartwheels. And in this heat, that’s hardly recommendable.
Mary Oliver has just the right words, as is so often the case.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
PS- Capture summer in a bottle by making a simple St. John’s Wort tincture.