I’m going to write this without agonizing over every word. Writing is something I do because it stirs in me and wants to come out – not because it’s easy or even that enjoyable. I actually do a lot of hand wringing about it. I’m in Florida right now, just finishing a trade show with my husband, and flying back to Boulder tomorrow. These are some thoughts I’ve been having about Summer and Boulder and especially my beloved neighborhood of rural North Boulder, where there are no sidewalks, lots of open space, and deer walk around like they own the place.
Summer is actually my favorite time of year and these next few weeks, as it reaches its zenith, are the days I savor the most. I live for the light and celebrate the longest day of sunshine like the wildest of pagan queens – joy pulsing through my veins, all cells dancing an excited jig. I wish every day could be the day before Summer Solstice – just like Groundhog’s Day, to be repeated over and over, that’d be fine by me. I feel melancholy the day after solstice, as I know the days are getting “shorter.” I’ve always loved the highs more than the lows…duh.
I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost 10 years. I’ve seen things change. I’ve sold a house and moved twice since then – my husband and I living apart for 2 years, while staying married. It was a new beginning and a gamble, and one that paid off in a stronger marriage, but it still had it’s scary moments. Walking past our old house the other night, I stopped to look at the now very unkempt yard. It makes me sad to go past the house because the “new” owners don’t water or take care of the plants we lovingly tended. I saw our peony bushes popping with buds. They have a short window in early summer where they bloom and emit the most heavenly scent. I used to fill vases to overflowing and the whole house would be redolent in their perfume. I stopped and stared at the buds, plotting a midnight raid to take some cuttings. A wave of sadness washed over me as I realized these are not ‘my’ plants anymore. That time is over. I planted a peony of my own last summer in our new yard…it’s got 2 tiny buds…it’s going to take time to get established.
Old neighbors, a family I love, have decided to end their marriage and they have sold their house and divided up their belongings. What’s left of their life is on the street, waiting for the garbage man to haul it away. I see the kiddie toys and broken tools and paper sacks and I see a life that doesn’t exist anymore. I honor them all in their new beginnings and I feel the sorrow too…in dreams that have ended. That house will always be their house in my memory, no matter who moves in. I keep walking.
Down the bike trail and turning left on to my street, I see the empty lot where Joe and Lisa used to live. Their house razed along with the old cherry trees. The clump of lilacs stand alone as if to say “what happened?” – nothing has been built there and now a herd of deer seem to be the only residents.
Down my driveway now and I see my neighbor’s house is for sale. This happened fast. While I was out of town. Nobody asked me about this! My beloved 94 year old neighbor will be moving away. She lives with her daughter after her house was swept away in Hurricane Katrina, this woman no stranger to endings and beginnings. Now she speaks cheerily about how I can visit her wherever she may land. When asked how she has lived so long and stayed so healthy, Miss Kaye replies “I’ve always had a positive attitude.” Amen. So she has. I need to be more like her.
There has been a lot of flower appreciation going back and forth over the fence this past week. My poppies are in full bloom and, like peonies, they too have a short bloom period and need to be appreciated every minute they are in their full glory. Last summer my gardener mistakenly pulled out all my poppy plants thinking they were dandelions. I was devastated to think they were gone. I viscerally felt the loss. As I read this, it sounds like I am some spoiled, rich gardening lady but what I’m trying to convey is I felt the pain for the plant…being killed. And I felt a responsibility for allowing this to happen. I felt like a murderer. A landscaper friend consoled my by saying that perhaps the poppies had seeded before they were pulled, and if so, they might come back. Guess what? They did! And how! Better than ever and maybe even more beautiful.
The point of all this is…all things begin and all things end. The days get longer, the days get shorter. People marry, people divorce, people separate and try again. Kids grow (darn it!) and move away (not yet!!) and I keep planting flowers wherever I go. I feel each passing more deeply than I used to. I cry more often. I love more. I give thanks for flowers and for bees and for children and a home with a garden, for good neighbors. I embrace the mess and chaos – the perfect imperfection – of being human and judge less (thank god/spirit/grace) and miss the faces I used to see and embrace the new ones. I love and appreciate my husband for being on this wild ride with me for the past decade. I’m grateful for seeds that come back from under the ground, even when everything above ground is telling me they’re goners – it’s all a metaphor, get it?