The days of summer that nourish me the most are the hottest ones in the final weeks of August when the calendar is empty of plans, the days long and meandering—filled with casual outings to near and far-away beaches along the coastline.
In this time a calming pulse drifts in like the tide steading the frenzy of activity, allowing for a pause just before the bustle and transformation of fall.
It is on these days I stand still—barefoot in the yard—absorbing the sensation of skin on soil imagining roots winding down beneath the souls of my feet, grounding and balancing me on the planet.
I stroll along the shoreline of beaches with my boys in search of driftwood and colorful seaweed, textured shells and fallen rose hips to be positioned together as art and left to be drunk up by the sea.
My grasp on my children loosens and allows for more daring scaling of trees and leaping without nets, for rejection of sunscreen and bedtime and an increase in late nights by the fire, under the stars.
The garden weeds become like a jungle around the tomato plants and the winding vines of the gourds with their tendrils and yellow and white flowers. I wonder how I could have been—once again—so negligent with the weeding even as I discover a mammoth zucchini beneath the flurry of stray vegetation.
Later I take a photograph of it draped across Jonah’s arms—like a prize. It reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk somehow—the exponential quality of growth when sun and soil and moisture mingle with magic in a dance of sustenance and creation.
When evenings start to hint of Autumn’s chill, I begin dreading the dismantling of the wire fence around the garden—constructed yearly to keep the lumbering, resident groundhog from consuming our harvest.
If I left it, the harsh Maine winter would wear away the forest-green paint that blends with the plants and leave rusty metal behind. It wouldn’t do its job anymore, either.
I know it will be less demanding to take it apart and store it away while the days are still long and balmy. Yet I often wait until the first frost to finally lift the heavy stones lining its base, to pull pins from the earth—holding it in place—and to lay the wire out across the ground flat so that I can pull the weeds that have grown between the beehive like design and tuck it back into the shed for a winter’s rest.
Somehow that day always seems colder than even mid-winter’s deepest freeze, my blood vessels seemingly still dilated from summer’s sultry hover and slow to adjust. Shivering, I wonder whether all of the work is worthwhile—whether I made enough gazpacho and zucchini bread to justify all of the effort.
A few weeks ago I drove along a highway lined with pine forests. Rain was coming down, the road lined with tall banks of snow—enormous pine branches hung heavy, now wetted with rain.
As the showers kept coming, the towering trees seemed to come alive with the new weightiness of their branches. I imagined them as characters from, Where the Wild Things Are, traipsing along the highway beside the cars.
I could almost feel the shuffling gate of their giant limbs.
Despite the frequent rain, there are still tall drifts of snow in our yard, up to my shoulders—pushed out of the driveway by the snowplow—and a thick layer of snow and ice on the ground.
The light has begun to change, the days lingering—dusk more delicate and glassy. Though still long off, fragrant spring air is palpable. I can sense it on my skin, like a feather’s touch.
The temperatures that in November dwelled in my bones sending me to the woodstove now call me comfortably outside in a light sweater.
I begin to imagine what I will find in the garden when the snow finally melts and is absorbed back into the ground. I wonder what nutrients the pumpkins have shared with the soil as they fell apart into pieces, disintegrated—hidden beneath an icy layer—over many, quiet months.
I remember how pretty they looked when I first placed them in the raised beds—the round, orange surface striking against the backdrop of wispy, white flakes of snow.
The sky is a soft blue with tufts of powder pink clouds angling downward toward the hazy horizon. It’s the color of a new baby’s arrival, the hue of new life.
The soil beckons me from deep beneath a still-snowy surface—ripe for massage and cultivation—ready for soiled nails, wiggly worms and rebirth.