Category Archives: summer

Insect friends on the soft breeze.

gl9 P1050458

I am sitting in the garden, in the corner where the unbelievable salvias and the olive trees have grown up to make a sort of alcove. The three salvias are each six to nine feet in diameter and four feet high; they amazed me by taking a big leap in July and August of their first year. The umbrella is shielding me from the sun, and I am enjoying the insects that make the air alive with their darting and swooping from one flower to another above and all around me.

gl9 P1050197crp

The only reason I thought to move out here with my bowl of plums is that my house is so cold. I brought the laptop so I could continue reading Fr. Stephen’s article while I ate, but the fruit drew all of my attention to my mouth, and to the juicy plumminess too intense to consume mindlessly while reading. Now I remember why I planted two Elephant Heart Plum trees last fall — which, by the way, didn’t produce any fruit from their pretty green and white blossoms this season. Pearl brought me some of her plums yesterday; a year ago the mature trees at her new house had been the inspiration for my decision to grow some of my own.

gl9 P1050466
portulaca
gl9 P1050452 wasp on salvia 9-4-16
Wasps are pollinators, too.

 

If I could just sit out here in the soft air, I would most certainly eat less; shivering in the house makes me distracted and uneasy without knowing why, and I unconsciously start stoking the furnace of my body with whatever fuel I can find in the cupboards.

gl9 P1050426

 

 

 

 

And being in the garden makes me want to share the experience in words, so I looked to see if I have a good summer poem from a previous year. I’m sure it must be here somewhere, if I only had the patience. While looking I found a verse that is new to me, from Walter de la Mare, about one of the winged creatures flitting about.

After pasting it in (and thereby shaping this article into another Pollinator post) I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be so hasty, and I began to look online for a different poem, maybe about a dragonfly or a butterfly ? which, after all are more to my liking. I also hunted around for a clue to the meaning of “specks of sale” in the poem. Does anyone know? I wonder if sale is a word for salt? [Duh. It was a typo, as commenter shoreacres pointed out below. But from now on I think I will always think of it as a synonym 🙂 ]

gl9 P1050444

 

But before any more pages had time to load – I must be too far from the house for the wifi – a common housefly dropped in on me, on my arm, on my keyboard, my shoulder, and he would not be shooed away for anything. I think he sensed what was going on, and wanted me to tell his story, and not another’s. Maybe as soon as I hit “Publish” he will go back to playing.

 

THE FLY

How large unto the tiny fly
Must little things appear!-
A rosebud like a feather bed,
Its prickle like a spear;

A dewdrop like a looking-glass,
A hair like golden wire;
The smallest grain of mustard-seed
As fierce as coals of fire;

A loaf of bread, a lofty hill;
A wasp, a cruel leopard;
And specks of salt as bright to see
As lambkins to a shepherd.

-Walter de la Mare

gl9 P1050431 fly on yarrow crp
some kind of fly on the yarrow

cool panna cotta with blueberries

I’ve made the Italian pudding called panna cotta several times now. It is a wonderfully refreshing and easy dessert for summer especially, so clean and cool — especially if you include yogurt or buttermilk, and not too much sweetening. If you haven’t made it before, this page, Why Panna Cotta is the Perfect Dessert, is a good place to start; the author shows how versatile it can be, how you can even make it dairy-free and vegan, though the traditional recipe calls for milk or cream, and gelatin.

gl IMG_2819 panna cotta

My good friend Ruth came for lunch yesterday and I made panna cotta for our dessert, the Rosewater Panna Cotta with Blueberries from the same site. I doubled the amount of rose water and blueberries. (Unfortunately I took the picture before I put the sprig of mint on the puddings.) If you are interested in the other recipe I made in the past, with buttermilk and an apricot compote with candied fennel seeds ! , it is from Bon Appetit. It was yummy, too, but of course the toppings took much longer to prepare than rinsing some blueberries. I remember thinking that the buttermilk panna cotta all by itself was perfect and needed no dressing up anyway.

I had been hoping that Ruth and I could eat in the garden, with olive trees and yarrow waving in the breeze by our table…. but it was 97° out there, so we opted for the house, almost 20 degrees cooler. We let the sound of the fountain come in through the screen door; I think the birds were having their siesta. The heat crept in, too, but not too fast, and just enough for us to appreciate our lightweight dessert, perfect for an otherwise wilting afternoon.

If you have ever made panna cotta, will you share your favorite recipe with me?

Lettuce and other summer playthings.

ivy alligator 6-16

LIVING

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

–Denise Levertov from Summer: A Spiritual Biography of the Season

This book, edited by Schmidt & Felch, is helping me to remember to treasure these days I have with my grandchildren again this week; this time they are staying at my house. I have a few photos, too, that show glimpses of peaceful moments, which seem way too few.

jed water 6-16

Yesterday I made play dough for the first time in decades, and the pot of sludge simmering on the stove was just one of the most interesting things that I forgot in the constantly distracted state in which I live these Grandchildren Days, and I went outside to help someone with something. The one other adult in the house smelled the same aroma of burnt toast I was smelling and turned it off. Kit departed an hour later for the summer so now I am back to being the only adult.

I was able to salvage at least two-thirds of the play dough, and made four pastel colors with it. I added scents using some essential oils. I don’t know if it might have been less sticky if I had paid closer attention to my project, but Scout and Laramie had a lot of fun with the dough. They also got it all over two sets of clothing each, plus a fair amount on the floor, and I am content to buy the store kind from now on.

gl 6 P1040723

<< Chairs to discourage Jamie from climbing the stairs.

The children are enjoying all the birds that come and go throughout the day now that I have the kind of garden birds like. When we sit at the dining table we can watch them at the feeders and fountain — and one good thing is that on this visit, there has been no testing of the rule against children playing in the fountain. It’s not to be touched. “It is for the birds, and for us to look at and listen to.” I emphasize how yucky the water actually is, from the birds, even though it looks clear.

We walked to the library yesterday — that is, Scout and I walked, and Ivy perched on the front of the BOB stroller where Jamie was strapped in. It’s about a half-mile away, which was just about right for our entourage. The warm air carried the scent of the juniper that lined our path, and we stopped to pick of off needles of the different forms to compare.

My town’s library has a stellar children’s area, which these country children much appreciated, for its size and design. Ivy took a turn on each of the horses as reading chairs. We spent some time in the the outdoor area with a giant granite boulder for climbing, and wished we had brought our lunch, and swimsuits for the water play area.  Maybe we will go back tomorrow for our non-book activities.

lib 491

Children always want to drop things from my open hallway upstairs, which wraps around and looks down on the entry below. Through the decades the rule has been the same: the only approved droppables are paper flying machines or balloons. So today, lacking any grandpas or uncles, I had to learn how to make a paper airplane. Internet to the rescue! And I did a really good job! Even Scout was super-grateful.Ivy wash 6-16

That was just this morning, and afterward Scout went with his other grandmother for the day, which is why I have a little mental space to think and write. The children who remain are, miraculously, napping at the same time.

But earlier, it was the perfect opportunity for Ivy to do some housekeeping just the way she likes it, in and for the playhouse that she considers Her House. To practice cutting with scissors, to have some water play, and reading with Grandma, all without big brother interference.

One thing I loved about Seventeenth Summer, which I recently finished reading, was the way no one in the story felt the need toIMG_2499 manz be doing Special Things every week, in order to enjoy the season and the time off school and regular routines. People have jobs and housework, and the tomatoes need to be picked. Many of us like to be home washing the dishes these evenings when a breeze is blowing through the open window, and the sun sets late. And of course, working in the garden in the cool of the mornings, and sitting under a leafy arbor in the afternoons.

Margarita Manzanita is in her peeling season. >>

Ivy and Scout like to notice all the trees and flowers and even ask me the names of them. I’ve told them they may pick anything in the front yard, because it’s all coming out soon, but nothing in the back, except the lettuce that has bolted. So they have played with lettuce. And I did give Ivy a calla lily stem to use as a gasoline hose for filling up the tank of “her” Little Tikes Cozy Car.

gl 6 toy pop up men

This toy with four bouncing men is one of Jamie’s favorites, and it has been a favorite of dozens of children in my house over the last 28 years or so. It actually belongs to Kate, and was one of the few things that she as our fifth baby received new. I am so glad I found it for her back then, and that somehow we have preserved the set, because now I don’t think the Toy Police would allow it; a child might shove a little man down his windpipe.

I’ll leave you with a few more words from the introduction to Summer‘s collection of stories, Psalms and readings on this blessed time of year. I’m certain that children have some perspective on leisure that I have completely lost and probably can’t relate to, so I do not try to write from their perspective, even if they are a big part of my summer.

“The Psalms themselves declare the pleasures of leisure, in which we may sing songs and play music in moments when we are not in our work routines….to step back for a moment from our self-importance and our drivenness to provide a larger perspective.”

“…It is delight; it is merriment. It is a pause in the action, a moment to let this thought come: maybe I am not so critical to the world after all… a humbling time when we might dare to believe that stopping and looking round us might be more important than driving toward the distant horizon.”