I know it’s summer because we’ve reached that time of year when, wherever I happen to be, I’m forced from buildings over-compensating with the A/C into the outside where I must sunbathe on a steamy sidewalk or thaw in my fatally hot car to exorcise the chill. This is probably the only real complaint I have to file against summer. Especially this year, which so far seems milder than usual. Feel free to use this against me in August.
We’ve kept ourselves occupied and out of trouble with the usual routine. We check on the ducks at the pond across the street regularly. Unlike last June, Zoey is now able to fling cheerios, bread, and graham crackers with wild abandon, which brings me both pure joy and terror; I watch her summoning energy from her whole body to launch a single Cheerio into the air and imagine this momentum lifting her off the ground and carrying her into the pond. I pray my maternal instincts would override my fear of fish (because there are some BIG ones in there!) so that I could fly to her rescue but I’d rather not experiment with the odds so I bring Marc along when he isn’t working.
Sitting on the porch, we sip root beer, sparkling water, gin and tonics, and white wine when the day starts to cool down. We do this because we have permission. Because a long, long time ago enough people voted that these things should be part of the silent understanding of summer. We amend the list, adding things like “eating cherries”, “watching movies late at night”, and “wearing bathing suits around the house.” In some ways, we are our best selves during this season.
We smell like sugar and dirt, especially when we “harvest” the “bounty” from our porch garden. There’s kale, basil, and tomato, just one. One tomato that is really giving his all to the cause. He’s going to be so delicious when he has stored up enough light. The basil seems to be a real over-achiever and the kale is really more of a conversation piece; it shot up quickly, but hasn’t budged since late May. When I was younger and we lived in Massachusetts we had two neighbors with expansive vegetable gardens. I remember helping them pick enough kale and collards to feed a small nation and wishing the greens were something more “fun”, like strawberries. Growing in age and appreciation of vegetable gardens seem to go hand in hand.
Zo likes to help with the plants by knocking the basil down a peg and watering the kale, which, to be more accurate, is really her watering the porch. Still, help is help. God only knows the last time someone watered this porch.
And spring cleaning comes a little late here… When we’re exhausted by the thought of applying sunscreen we stay inside and organize. We clean rooms until we have to evacuate for threat of bleach intoxication. We sort out all of our clothes, usually getting rid of a few too many winter things, reasoning that it’s too hot to even own a sweater. We pile together our hearty clothes and pantry items and send these things where they are needed. We feel lighter without the clam chowder and we enjoy the feeling so much that we consider drastic haircuts.
We don’t bring in new things right away or at all. Our home still continues to be half-done. And at this point it’s really more of a spiritual practice than a fault. We’re simply “living in and out of the unfinished nature of life.” No, that isn’t a hamper of forgotten laundry. That’s me trying to balance the tension of the undone.
It’s the time of year when we should be moving more slowly, when we dream of moving out into the “real country”, the shore, the mountains because this seems like more of a possibility in these places. And even though we haven’t mastered a calmer pace, we try to take time to eat, drink water, go on bike rides, write.
We ask for patience with the heat and children who care enough to water the porch. We pray for the energy to throw ourselves into the work of the world, relationships, life outside of bed the way Zo calls her whole body to feed the ducks. We try to grow both abundantly and steadily even when it would be more comfortable to stay as we are.
And we desperately hope that the sweet scent of earth will stay rooted in our fingernails to remind us of warm light and blooming life when we are feeling uncertain and undone in the deep midwinter.