Summertime is a bath.

I’m glad to say that the two littlest of my (thirteen) grandsons are still here with their parents. I really do love hanging out in the garden with them; whether it’s engaging the “help” of Raj to pick up pine needles or wipe the patio furniture, or sitting by Rigo as he splashes his hands in a pan of water.

Yes, that’s my brand-new bathroom! It’s about the only part of the remodel that is both usable and picture worthy. Busy little people keep me occupied with better things than the rest of it, like unfinished closets.

On the Fourth of July Kate and I stayed up long after the little boys went to bed, to watch the film version of the musical “Hamilton.” We had thought to watch only part of it, but it was hard to stop. Besides, my neighbors were making a lot of noise with their fireworks, so our household couldn’t easily settle down anyway.

A couple of years ago after my cousin Renée saw “Hamilton,” she gave me the book by Ron Chernow that was its inspiration. The two-hour show naturally had to reduce the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life and times to a few themes and historical threads that Lin-Manuel Miranda found especially meaningful; I don’t think I’d have appreciated it much without the background of the book. But having become familiar with the players from Ron Chernow’s purely historical telling, I was impressed with how much could be expressed through the choreography alone. Thomas Jefferson’s character was a brilliant example of this. I’m sure if I watched this fast-paced musical a few times more I’d notice much more; but on my own I’m not much of a watcher of shows, period. I’m glad Kate arranged it, and I wanted to mention the book-theater connection here with my recommendation.

The weather has been perfectly summery, and not too hot to have friends over twice already while Kate is here, and to eat brunch in the garden. Feeding  people, and helping to facilitate the necessary baths and naps and soothing garden tours… those are some of the fundamental activities that have consumed me this week from morning to night. Maybe that is why I liked this poem. Also, it reminds me of my own father coming out of the 100-degree afternoon into our ranch house, and eating thick round slices of cold watermelon before returning to irrigate his orange groves.

Summertime is like a bath of sensory experiences rich with poetry. It slows and calms me and prompts prayers of thanksgiving. Drink up!


And on those hot afternoons in July,
when my father was out on the tractor
cultivating rows of corn, my mother
would send us out with a Mason jar
filled with ice and water, a dish towel
wrapped around it for insulation.

Like a rocket launched to an orbiting
planet, we would cut across the fields
in a trajectory calculated to intercept—
or, perhaps, even—surprise him
in his absorption with the row and the
turning always over earth beneath the blade.

He would look up and see us, throttle
down, stop, and step from the tractor
with the grace of a cowboy dismounting
his horse, and receive gratefully the jar
of water, ice cubes now melted into tiny
shards, drinking it down in a single gulp,
while we watched, mission accomplished.

-Joyce Sutphen

Summer of 2001


12 thoughts on “Summertime is a bath.

  1. You conjure up several blissful images for me: family – we are still not allowed to visit family or friends; grandchildren – both sets are so far away (one in Norway) and the other in the toe of Africa; the joy of the innocence and activity of little people who are able to make the most of the smallest of opportunities; and lastly (for now), the poem reminds me of taking tea to my father in a tall limejuice bottle, walking across the fields where he was ploughing or planting and enjoying the smile on his face as he reached down from the tractor to swig it down – that memory has been dredged from SO long ago, yet feels like yesterday!


  2. Your grands are darling and that last photo is a gem! Wouldn’t that be a fabulous birthday card for a summer birthday?

    I saw Hamilton on stage and to be honest, I was disappointed. I think it was the hype because I rather like the CD and I’m looking forward to seeing the film. But when I saw it the orchestra was too loud and the sound was off. You can deal with that with a lot of musicals but Hamilton is such a whiz! So, I’m eager to see the film, which I think will be much easier. I haven’t read the Chernow book but everyone I know who has says it is a very good and interesting read. Maybe it’ll be on my list! I’m glad you enjoyed the movie and are loving your summer.


  3. I love the pictures of your grandchildren. I really miss mine. That child eating the watermelon is the perfect image of Summer.



  4. Lovely image of summer in that poem! And you have thirteen grandsons!! Wonderful. Your bathroom looks very elegant now. 🙂 I am glad that in California it isn’t too hot to entertain outside; on the Fourth we decided to sit indoors – it’s been very humid already, and although we didn’t have the AC on, it was more pleasant in the kitchen.


  5. You are busy doing the best things, feeding and facilitating the sweetness of family.
    I love that poem because it is small and about something BIG! Being a servant. LOVE.
    I have a plant question for you over on my blog (PPP).
    Love you!


  6. I had not heard of Hamilton, not the book, the stage play nor the musical until my 17 year old granddaughter came up recently all dressed strangely. She and the rest of the family were going to watch the musical and she told me that her dressing up as a character was called Cosplay. Who knew? I learn new things all the time. ( They all enjoyed it immensely.)


  7. Now that’s my kind of poetry. 🙂 It reminds me of my husband’s upbringing on the farm. His mom taking lunch out to the fields. Your grandboys are close to the ages of my two grand boys next door. Fun ages! God bless all!


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