In the deep…

When people pass the Fourth of July and lament summer’s quickly approaching end, I have to shake my head. Why? Two reasons pop into my head, with the first being summer is nowhere near her sweet, humid, occasionally exceptionally hot end. We still have the whole long month of July before us before we’ll even notice the sun dipping below the trees earlier each evening, and August is hot and sticky too. Summer isn’t going anywhere, and even though parents might watch the calendar as the next school year approaches; it still means swimming in the pool or lake after school as a summer pleasure stolen from the approach of autumn.

The second reason why I like to luxuriate in the comfort of being in the middle of summer and nowhere past that point is because I’m from the north part of this country, and summer was just gaining her speed and strength by the Fourth of July! We finally had lakes warm enough (and warm is a relative term) to swim in and nights had blossomed with fireflies. The fans ran all day long, and even though we had some chilly nights from time to time.

My other thought about some people lamenting the loss of summer is it technically began mere weeks ago on June 21st, and summer’s deliciousness won’t end until September 21st. See how much time we have before we need to contemplate pumpkins, scarecrows and sweaters? We have all the time in the world. I suppose I have one other reason now that I dwell where summer is usually one long sweaty event. I finally fully embrace autumn when she wends my way sometime in mid to late September, due to the clear, crisp days that make me shake off the languid, long afternoons in summer. Afternoons spent hoping for the piles of cumulus clouds to turn blue and thundery just for a breath of fresh cool air. Those summer thunderstorms bring a pleasant breeze with gusts of coolness better than any ice cream sandwich.

I’m enjoying summer so much right now. The wedding was beautiful, fun and is over! All those months of planning came together in one wonderful weekend spent with friends and family, and the couple is still enjoying that honeymoon phase; so I’m going to let them have their privacy with their new life together. Meanwhile, I’m diving into those beach books that I only read in summer. Seriously. One of my life’s pleasures is books, and I intersperse my “serious” reads with easy ones meant to be enjoyed while listening the lull of ocean waves crashing on very hot sand. Beach books belong in summer, even if I’m just chilling out on the daybed in the air conditioning.

Since I haven’t been to the ocean yet this year, I’m picking photos taken at home. Where I live we do have storms that seem to pop up out of nowhere, and lucky me; I can walk out the door and have a front seat to the cloud show. Do you like to look up too? Isn’t the sky fascinating most any day, but especially these days that are suspended in sunlight? Is that why we enjoy the sudden darkening of the clouds, the tumult between white and blue?

Yesterday, my husband and I decided to sit out on the back porch and listen to the low rumble of thunder. I could barely see the clouds since they were so low on the horizon (and behind the swathe of trees), but my daughter said they had to stop swimming on account of the lightning. That meant a storm was near. So we sat and sweated and were rewarded with sudden stabs of lightning in the woods all around us! The cat wanted to go inside, and I suppose if I’d had better sense I would have followed, but the rain that went almost sideways in the downpour felt cool. Pleasant. And summer lays so much at our feet, doesn’t she?

Fresh tomatoes along with the basil that I’m growing is delightful on toasted bread. There isn’t even a need to add anything, though I doubt I could pass up some crisp bacon; hold the mayo, please. Opening the fridge and snacking on cut up sweet watermelon is a double delight, since the fridge spills cool air on my toes while I’m enjoying a farmer’s market find. Strawberry season just passed, but now the blueberries are ripe for picking, and soon the peach truck will wander our southern Ohio neighborhoods blessing us with the bounty found farther south than here. Many of us look forward to those peaches, and while I prefer blueberry cobbler to peach pie; many here make jams and jellies to remind them how summer tasted while they spread their jam on bread eaten on a cold January afternoon.

No story yet, because I have to mention my newest obsession with hydrangeas. The ones above are pretty, but after spending time in Louisville and seeing the blue or pink flowers so heavily laden on their branches; I knew I had to find a way to make them work in my garden here and in Kentucky. I’ve been wondering how to make them grow in this soil when I spotted them gracing the side of a house in my neighborhood. Nobody at Book Club tonight seemed to know if the neighbors are friendly, so I’m not certain if I can ring their doorbell and inquire as to their gardening techniques; but I’ll find a way to make hydrangeas work here. It’s been an obsession since we bought a house long ago where I inherited a magical garden.

All gardens are magical, since they exhibit the manner of the gardener. Some like a wild unkempt look while others must have order to their flowers, or at the least a theme running through their plants. I took on this beautiful garden filled with perennials and added to it over time. But I felt nervous at first, since the woman who sold us the house informed me she had spent hundreds of dollars on her flowers. I lost the phlox to mold, but the irises, clematis, roses, dianthus, larkspur and trumpet vine flourished. Summer is intoxicatingly beautiful most days, and my once forgotten love story with hydrangeas has been fully rekindled.

Gorgeous fountain, right? That’s included in my next blog post, but it’s so lovely that I had to add the photo here. But wait! I have a smallish story to tell you. When I lived in that 1920’s bungalow that had the wonderful garden, it did not have hydrangeas. Plenty of gardens in the neighborhood flaunted their bright blue flowers, but I felt slightly jealous and a bit bereft. I didn’t have much money to spend on anything back then, so the cost of that type of plant was out of the question. But on my walks I noticed which homes held the coveted flowers in their own magical gardens.

If only I could gather a few of them for myself, I could dry the hydrangeas and enjoy the blue hues long into the frozen days of winter; for dried hydrangeas last for years. I decided I was going to take a walk past a home the spilled forth with the blooms almost reaching the sidewalk. I reasoned that the flowers nearest me were begging to be taken, and the gardener would never know three or five blooms had been pilfered. Yes, I walked over a mile with a bag and scissors and a very guilty conscience, and mercifully a loudly barking dog in their front yard prevented me from becoming a hydrangea thief!

I look back now and am so thankful for that dog being there! But the story doesn’t end there. Not quite. I decided it was very wrong to take flowers from other people’s gardens, but late in that fall I happened to be tidying up the yard for the early Wisconsin winter when I spied several very neglected pee gee hydrangea bushes in the yard behind me. I couldn’t see their house due to the wall of evergreen trees that stood in their yard, and our yards were narrow and long. I asked my daughter to hop over the fence and grab a few green hydrangea stems, since they would look pretty in a wreath I was creating.

My daughter held her ground and said no, and I wound up walking around the block to ask them if I could have a few flowerets. The owners said they never went that far back in their lot, so I could have as many as I liked. Hydrangea happiness happened with no thievery involved. And as I plan to plant many hydrangea bushes as both houses, I hope I’ll share my (fingers crossed) bounty with my neighbors. What’s a few flowers between friends, right? It’s almost like borrowing a cup of sugar, except this is summer’s currency. The flowers of summer should be dried and linger long into the next year, where our eyes can feast on their colors!

Summer is here. The fireflies flicker each evening, the wishing star must wait until the sun has settled in bed for the night before it can appear. But even if our wishes must wait a bit longer right now, we can enjoy the forests, fields, skies, beaches, open air restaurants, newly born fawns or bunnies, storms, tee shirts, the droning of the fan, the trickle of the creek that happens only in summer and yes, even a longed-for garden. Wishes do come true. We don’t have to necessarily wait for that first star at twilight. We can wish to be right in the middle of summer, and here we are! In the middle with lots of fun left.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your hands and heart can hold…

Until next time,
Deanna

Thunderstorm delight…

Today started out a bit slow. The rain sluiced down the windowpanes, and I finally made two cups of coffee and pulled out my book for a little Friday inspiration. Outside my favorite colors played with one another, with the green in the trees, the grass and the bushes swaying in the stormy wind. As the rain lashed the screened windows from the west, I nestled into the sofa farthest away from the wet and smiled. Greens and blues mixed together, and I wanted to inhale it all and save it for a dull winter day.

If only it worked that way. June is a time when we luxuriate in the long summer sun, and some of the nights are still cool enough to justify lingering on a porch, deck or lawn in the twilight. Here the sun manages to stay out until 9:15, and even then the sky remains imbued with orange, blue and violet until an hour or so later. It fools me, and I watch the deer enjoying the clover or my roses for too long. Then when I realize I should water the plants on the porch it’s almost ten o’clock! So I mentally decide to stay up an hour later to compensate.

One of my goals is to become a semi-morning person again. I did it for years, and now I’m kicking up my heels way past midnight and loving it. But it feels like I should be able to slip out into the backyard before the sun swings above the trees. Eh, someday. The nights here are raucous with the bullfrogs in the pond, an errant cricket born too early, and the owls who love to call to one another. Over all of that I hear the rumble of the train and settle deep into my couch, and I turn another page in my book. Summer has treats tucked into it for all of us, and we are so beguiled by her winsome ways.

When I talked to the barista this afternoon, we mutually lamented the sad lack of thunderstorms this past spring. I told her a storm was on the way and to watch for it, then I drove home hoping for the storm to wander our way, rather than passing to the north. I had prayed for thunder only that morning. Thinking that the storm was moving slowly, I made a last minute decision to head down to the creek. With the morning rain we had, I could hear the waterfalls announcing their presence; and I had to see one of them.

Last minute treks down a steep hill are seldom wise, but I had a storm blowing in and had to make it down and back in time. I forgot about the uphill return trip in my eagerness to see the creek. After walking sideways down the path to avoid falling down in the mud, I picked up the trail that leads to a place where the creek runs over beautifully round stones. The gurgling is enough to make me want to sit on the creek bank for hours, except it was damp; so I soldiered on and sought out the falls.

The creek had subsided considerably by the time I went down there in the late afternoon, but I still enjoyed the bright green of early summer or very late spring. I could hear the thunder, faintly; but since the creek lies between two very high ridges; I didn’t notice how difficult it was to hear much of anything other than the unceasing rush of water. I decided to tackle a branch jam, which had formed in two places. I noticed the other subdivision had cleared out their side, but somehow our side of the creek was full of fallen (or thrown) branches and tree limbs.

I like to test my balance by walking on slippery stones, and I do mean that quite seriously. If I had thought to wear better shoes, I would have walked into the middle of the creek. I took some photos of the lovely stones and lush greens down there, and suddenly I heard a great crack of thunder! I had to move it and quickly. I started on the path, only to discover it wasn’t a path; so I retraced my steps and picked up the trail; when less than a quarter of the way up I felt drops on my hand. I had to beat the rain, only it beat me. The downpour started, and I had the worst of the climb ahead of me.

As quickly as I could manage, I made my way up the steep hill. At one point I rested under a canopy of trees, but the rain was so merciless that it offered little protection. I continued my jaunt uphill, and right at the top where the path becomes my back yard I stopped. I had so many steps, literally, to take and I had nothing left in me. Then the storm let up, and somehow I scrambled up the wet stones and into the garage and made my way into the cool house. I collapsed onto the floor in the family room and laughed at myself. What was I thinking? Going on a hike when a storm approached from the west?

Which reminds me of the time in college when I was taking my books back to the bookstore to resell them for far less than I had paid. The parking lot was quite long and narrow and was built in the middle of campus where one could see nothing but fields all around. I walked with my hands too full of books stacked one on the other, while my friend helped by holding a few. Lightning was striking closer by the minute, since a spring thunderstorm had popped up. I told my friend I felt tingly all over, and he said my hair was standing straight up all around my head.

My image of the storm on my way to get iced espresso.

Once when I was a very young child with white blonde hair, I had been at a fair or exhibition and a man wanted me to come up and touch some machine of his (I was so young, so details are sketchy); because he would show the crowd how static electricity worked. My hair apparently fanned out all around me into the air, standing straight out. That last day of the semester when my friend told me that, I flashed back to that day; and I knew I had to make a dash for it.

Lightning was going to strike the tallest object in the field, and I was it. The buildup of static in my hair so even the hairs on my arm stood up made me run faster than I thought possible. We both ran, and he held the door open for me while I rushed into the depths of the student bookstore. I asked him to tell me when my hair started to lie flat again. It took less than a minute, and we heard a very loud crack of thunder overhead. Thankfully, it wasn’t my head that was struck.

My cat enjoying the sunshine on the porch.

Now you know what not to do when a storm is approaching: drive to Starbucks, then take a hike down a cliff; or walk across an empty field. I know these things also, and yet I had to laugh at my foolishness. Again! Thunderstorms are a delight, even when I’m caught in the downpour. I enjoy them anytime of day or night, and so I’m going to pray for a wild evening filled with glorious thunder (that isn’t from a severe storm) as soon as the wedding is over.

Wedding? Not only does June bring summer, but in my family it brings out the brides. My grandmother was a June bride, as was I; and now my daughter is to be one in six short days. I’m awash in wedding details, and I’m inching my way closer to the actual day. Tonight is her bachelorette party, and it seems they went to a karaoke bar where my married daughter just picked out a song and started the singing. We all received a text of the sisters smiling together, captioned that “they were brought up right”. Yes, no one in our family is immune to the lure of a karaoke bar.

Wherever you are this week in June, find a way to stare up at the sky or into a green woods; or walk outside reveling in the heat. Realize the world is quickly opening up, and greet her like an old friend. I went to the movies last night, and we had almost the whole theater to ourselves. I didn’t mind one bit, plus movie admission costs much less than it did a year ago. Enjoy summertime in June!

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time,
Deanna