Summer Life on the Farm

Summer–the season of growing–the season when everything renewed with spring finds time to settle in and push down roots. Have I ever stopped to note the miracle that the seasons are perfectly arranged with the birthing, growing, maturing, and aging, death and birth cycle of our own lives?

The trees put on rapid new growth, leaves and limbs surge out and upward reaching for the hot blue sky. Leaves wave at the birds that fly over their heads or nest in their branches.

Summer is flowers blooming from the buds of spring and with the warm days and the bumblebees. Of bud vases and old glass salt cellars of roses lining the kitchen windowsill. Of crockery pitchers, milk bottles, and other odd vases of wildflower bouquets from the pasture and the roadside.

It’s thunderstorms crashing and romping and stomping and fading to rumbly-bumbly steady feeding rains that let you float in fluttery half-sleep places of lemon-poppyseed-bread dreams.

Summer is horses grazing in shady spots in wide sunny pastures, their tails flicking constantly at pesky flies. It is porch swing sitting after a swim. It is the scent of mud, as strong but not as pleasing as the soil turned up with tilling and planting the spring garden.

The squish of mud between your toes is a special delight that my plants seem to love as warm days have settled their roots and stems safety in. They are like five-year-olds that discover food is good after all and start devouring nutrients that they refused earlier. Suddenly the grass the trees, the shrubs, the plants, peonies, roses, and hydrangeas, the things that you thought would never grow take off like rockets.

Summer is crickets chirping, full moons, fireflies blinking in the dark, starry, starry nights and warm quiet mornings–stiller than dusty old churches on weekdays.

That’s summer with its longer hours of sunshine, with heat and evening rains. How I love the sounds of tree frogs singing in the wetter places by the willows where the pasture slopes down to the creek and those lazy afternoons when cicadas in the oak tree whine and drone on and on in a rising and falling pattern like a piano student practicing his scales.

Planted By Water: The swollen muddy Mississippi River dressed in poppies

Traveling in Louisiana, I visited the Mississippi River at Vidalia. I went down along the banks under the two wonderful bridges that run side-by-side like sisters holding hands and skipping between Louisiana and Mississippi. How different the river looked from that perspective! Trees stood up to their hips in the flood water and I watched as a batch of lemony leaf-boats left their roots and floated downstream––free at last.

Crossing the bridge there, where the waterway flows more than a mile wide, I drove up into the hills. The view from the bluffs made me draw a deep satisfying breath. The air was sweet as iced tea. It spread in all diections and the sun met it and reflected the sky in the current. Moving from the bluffs to under them on the Natchez side, I came to a street partly submerged with sawhorses blocking off the flooded parts. A narrow waterside walking park was almost under too.

On the berm along the water’s edge, poppies swayed as the muddy waters passed by. The scalloped petals waved for attention like flags boasting the reds and oranges of a summer sunset. They seemed not to grasp the peril they faced: would the flood take them too? Would their soft-as-tissue-paper-in-birthday-gift-bags petals follow the fallen leaves in their quest for adventure?

The red blooms recalled the day each year of my childhood when veterans in uniform stood on downtown corners and beside dime store entryways passing out paper poppies in memory of soldiers lost in the wars. Every man in town sported one tucked in his buttonhole or shirt pocket. Dad was a vet, so he always had extras for us. I kept mine till they grew ragged.

I pulled off my sandals then and dipped my toes in the river––just so I could brag back home that I had. The water surprised me; I expected it would run ice bucket cold, but it was the temperature and color of leftover cappuccino found in a car on a chilly evening.

Just at the river’s brink, my legs sensed movement of the ground with the washing, lapping rhythm of the flood tide and I quickly retreated, yet the slender twisty stems of the poppies and the seed pods with their little crowns and the pink tips of buds still waiting in line to burst from backstage to star in the show, were not afraid of the water’s powers.

I watched a tugboat push a barge ten times its own length under both spans of the bridge and heard it’s warning horn bellow like an angry bull. Cars crossed the bridge high above the river in both directions. Their drivers hurried to work, to school, to church, home, to stores, to meetings, the mall, the movies, or to a lunch with friends. They paid no mind to the tug and barge, nor to the poppies waving greetings from the watery bank––nor to me.

 

Southern Garden ~ Rosalie of Natchez Mississippi

“To walk in a woman’s garden is to visit her soul.” c. e. hollis

In Natchez, high on a bluff above the swollen muddy Mississippi River, sits a masterpiece left over from a grace-filled era. Rosalie, sporting in front and back, great lofty white columns and tall windows along the verandas and porches.

The grounds are full of blooming roses, hydrageas, and the white beauty of gardenias. Hostas and ivies climb wrought iron fences, surround Koi ponds and birdbaths, and trundle along beside brick walks.  I imagine what a summer’s evening on one of the upper veranda’s wicker rocking chairs (with a book and a tall glass of minted iced tea) would be like.

The air holds the warmth of the south, the river’s motion and sounds: a tugboat’s warning and the water’s ripple, bird’s calls and cicadas’ songs.  There for a moment in the past, I linger dreaming in the shade of spreading live oaks and river’s cooling breeze––watching Rosalie––a ghostly, white statue of stately  graceful youth––and I smell the unmistakable, unforgettable, heavy scent of gardenias.

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