Sunday, August 5, 2007

Summers of Our Lives

In the early mornings, the sky is getting brighter just before dawn and I go outside to admire the moon and bright stars. I drink the last of my morning coffee and stand at the front door, watching the sun rising above the horizon, coloring the few wisps of clouds a glorious shade of pink.

The town I live in is not small, it is tiny. I only have to go several blocks and I'm out in the country. The vast flat fields change from green to a rich tan as the tall grass becomes piled and windrows are cut and left to dry in the sun. Then they are harvested with huge combines driven by people who wave at me as I go by. I sometimes stop by the road for the sheer joy of absorbing the smell of harvest, an indescribable fragrance, dry and seasoned yet tangy and sharp. I watch the red tailed hawks swooping over the fields looking for their dinners of mice and snakes.

After the combines whine down the road to other fields, red and yellow balers take over and efficiently bundle the leftover straw into neat bales as the setting sun lights up clouds of dust behind them.

Between me and the fields the wild roses bloom first, then teasel and Queen Anne's Lace take over, waving like passing neighbors, and then, finally, the blackberries ripen in tangled profusion in the fence rows.

The fresh tastes and smells of summer are almost divine, as well - field-ripened strawberries are first. Fat blueberries from the farm on Peoria Road. Peaches from Hentze's. Scents of fresh basil and tomato vines cling to my hands when I work in the garden. And when I make the first blackberry pie of the season the flavor is so rich and delicious that I don't even mind the sticky purple drips on the bottom of my oven.

Summer is the season of expansion. Fragile petunia plants in hanging pots balloon into green velvet clouds studded with bright purple jewels. Gardens reach in all directions, the corn leaping upward after a sluggish June. The zucchini are just the right size to be cut into slivers the size of coins, dipped in egg and then a mix of flour and Parmesan cheese and fried in butter, but if I turn my back for a couple of days they are huge and good only to be fed to sheep.

When I drive anywhere now,I need to watch for the slow moving tractors going down the highway in convoys onto the next field. I see the trucks, loaded with fresh green beans heading for the cannery in Salem. Soon those trucks will be filled with corn. Then, in autumn, will come the beets and that will be the end of this summer.

Realizing that the summer will pass soon is what makes it so precious. Maybe this taste of heaven is meant to whet our appetites for eternity. I don't know.

I just know that this summer, while the grapevines climb up into the tree branches and the sun shines through the haze of rye grass dust in the air, I think, "Oh! But we just started! Don't let summer end! Please, not yet, not yet."

"Nobody needs to pity the farmwife, however scratched and
bedraggled she may look, coming out of the blackberry patch.
She has got something more than blackberries from the time
out there. There is no better place than the blackberry
patch for that hour of solitude every farm woman craves now
and then."

Rural Free: A Farmwife's Alamanc of Country Living

August is one of my favorite months for now there are times and places when I have an excuse to be outside, by myself, to think my own thoughts and dream my own dreams. These are rare and special moments, even for women of a certain age who live in small towns.

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