Tag Archives: summer

The flowery gifts of August.

Nodding Violet

Right in the middle of a very busy week my oldest daughter Pearl and her youngest Maggie came to visit, and that gave me a lovely and relaxing day. They had been camping for four nights from Wisconsin to here, on their way taking Maggie back to college in the southern reaches of California. It had been a long time since I’d had some focused time with this grandchild; we did a lot of catching up on face-to-face time and hugging.

And she suggested baking cookies together, and even suggested which kind of cookies. She would like the chocolate macaroons I make at Christmas; it just so happened that for some reason I’d bought almond paste last week, not really knowing why. So we made those marzipaney treats that I’ve never before made at any other time of the year.

The recipe calls for egg whites but not yolks. So we made Key Lime Cookies to use up the yolks, and to use a few of the big bag of limes I’d bought recently, I also can’t remember why. I sent Maggie on her way with most of the cookies this morning.

We three made a feast of a dinner together and Maggie went out to gather flowers for the table. 🙂

As for tomatoes, an unrepeatable sort of agricultural science experiment has been going on here. I have a few plants in the back yard that I intentionally planted and fed and have been watering…. I staked them and have so far picked about fifteen delicious Sungold cherry tomatoes off of one spindly vine.

By contrast, growing out of a crack in the sidewalk in front is a Green Doctor cherry tomato plant, looking hale and hearty, on which are growing bunches of tasty fat fruits. That plant is living proof of what I have known for a long time, that in our climate at least, tomatoes love heat more than they love water. The only water the sidewalk tomato received was one light rain in July. But its roots, wherever they are, are kept warm all night by the concrete that soaked up the full sun during the day. I’m thinking about scattering more seeds in that crack next spring.

I need to divide my Dutch Iris this fall, so I had my helper Alejandro remove most of them, and here they wait, on the side of the driveway:

Today a cord of firewood was delivered right next to them; the arranging of that was one of the many business calls I made this week. I’m amazed at how many tasks were completed (trash removed, garage door serviced, Household Hazardous Waste disposed of) or projects started.

I was waiting in a lab and saw these signs on the wall. This way of using the word love is a pet peeve of mine, which I began to acquire in the days of the toy named Care Bear, about whom it was said, “Care Bear loves you.” Ugh. I don’t like to trivialize love by lying to a child about what a toy can do, but I also find the use of the passive-voice “You are loved” to be false.

True love is not something that just happens; even falling in love requires something human from us. Who is that unnamed somebody who loves me, that the sign seems to know about? Of course it’s all too inane. Let’s look at flowers instead. Try not to look too long at the distracting hose in the next picture. Here you can see the sneezeweed starting to bloom behind the zinnias.

My vegetable garden is quite skimpy this summer, but I am thankful to have zinnias everywhere; I will plant some greens again next month, and take my joy from the flowery gifts of August.

 

It rests their big eyes.

Cotswold cows by Pippin, 2005

Les Murray wrote a poem with 18 stanzas, but I am sharing only a third of them here. It is a rambling catalogue of summer gardening memories, and after this first portion my mind balks at following his wandering; I want to rest here in the shade, where I can be philosophic and civilized. The thing the poet wants to cultivate under the glaring sun Down Under is not any kind of vegetable or flower, but the shade itself.

I wish I could trade some of my own backyard shade for his extra sunshine, but how do you measure that kind of stuff? What I have to trade might not add up to much in total mass of shade… I’m guessing enough for a couple of rogueing cows.

(From) ROOMS of the SKETCH GARDEN

Women made the gardens, in my world,
cottage style full-sun fanfares
netting-fenced, of tablecloth colours.

Shade is what I first tried to grow
one fence in from jealous pasture,
shade, which cattle rogueing into

or let into, could devour
and not hurt much. Shelter from glare
it rests their big eyes, and rests in them.

A graphite-toned background of air
it features red, focusses yellow.
Blue diffusing through it rings the firebell.

Shade makes colours loom and be thoughtful.
It has the afterlife atmosphere
but also the philosophic stone cool.

It is both day and night civilized,
the colour of reading, the tone
of inside, and of inside the mind.

-Les Murray

 

The smell of dust.

About five this morning three things happened. I woke up in my sister’s house, which lies in the neighborhood of my childhood, along one of the thousand plain, unlined roads that make rectangular grid lines of themselves through the orange groves.

A mockingbird began to run through his upbeat repertoire outside my window. I was surprised at this, because I never heard them as a child. I wondered which local species he was imitating at the coolest moment of the day, 73 degrees. He didn’t sing for long.

About the same time that I saw on the forecast the prediction of 108 degrees today, I heard the whole house fan come on and start blowing all the previous day’s residual hot air out of the attic and all the rooms. In the summer my brother-in-law turns it on as soon as the outdoor temperature becomes cooler than that under the roof. It really lessens the need to use the air conditioner.

But tomorrow morning there will not be enough cooling off to work this system. While I was driving away in my air conditioned Subaru and toward a more coastal destination, the Central Valley was turning into a furnace. Most of the next ten days over 100 and four of them above 110. 

As I lingered with my brother’s family over dinner last night, we talked about various people we knew who were leaving California for one reason or another. Somebody’s mother had moved here years before from Missouri but had to go back, because she was always sickly in California. Was it the dust? Everyone around the table agreed that the dust can be oppressive.

After dinner we went outside where the children ran on the lawn, and I admired the way the succulents thrive at my brother’s place, in the heat, yes, but under the shade and frost protection of the patio roof. Certain plants love the climate, and of course that dust blows off the fields that are in between plantings such as I saw on my drive in: cantaloupes, tomatoes, corn, alfalfa, cotton…. That Valley dust feeds the nation!

It’s also a component of the air of which I breathe deeply when I visit in the warmer seasons, the scent of my childhood. That air is like a caress, and a tonic, an atmosphere to sink into. The late evenings are the loveliest time to sit out, after the sun has gone down and air has lost its oven-like personality. One wants to stay up for hours recovering from the day’s fierceness, and not go inside where the air may be cool, but it’s artificially so.

At the end of today’s drive, I arrived  in the southern reaches of the state in a place where the ocean influence is felt morning and evening. Windows and doors are open so that soft breezes can blow through my hosts’ house. I picked up granddaughter Annie at the airport, and this weekend we’ll go to her cousin Pat’s wedding in San Diego. 

Today’s photos are all from my brother’s place, which is the house I grew up in. He has made a lot of changes, but it’s all good, and more pleasing every time I visit. Tomorrow, more family to visit, more gardens! Stay tuned…

Summer Cottage

SUMMER COTTAGE

This is a house
That smells of melons and roses
Sea-wind pours through it
The airy curtains float
And the wiry sprays
Of the sea-lavender
Tremble on the table

The hushed roar
Of the massive ocean
Covers us night and day
It shelters us
Like a tree shadow
We live in it
As in a forest.

-Anne Porter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Shack, Door by Maureen Gallace