Putting Away Summer


 

 

The pile of cushions grows outside of the shop, summer dust and fall leaves swept off, and the heavy dew of this fall morning now drying in the afternoon sun.  The chairs, too, and the lounge under the tree, where I spent some afternoons this summer reading, and looking up through the leaves at all the blue, losing myself in a daydream.

 

The little charcoal barbecue goes inside, too, after I clean out the ashes left over from that last steak and zucchini cooked on the grill, the smoke wafting around, in a fall evening stolen from the summer gods.

 

The umbrella and chairs around the table on the deck go, too.  Its best time this summer was an impromptu dinner with young people, tired and sunburned after an afternoon at the beach.

 

“Can I invite some friends over?” our son asked.  And, the evening was filled with laughter, new stories, and a second helping of corn on the cob, and big slabs of peach pie, vanilla ice cream melting in the evening warmth.  The peaches had come from a roadside stand, along with the corn, yesterday’s trip to the valley, where the wheat threshers kicked up clouds of straw and dust into the August sky.

 

I put away the little red cafe table and chairs in the flower garden outside the bedroom, where we sipped coffee one perfect morning, and then, a bit of wine before dinner, the evening we watched the full moon rise above the mountains, the silence reminding me of my insignificance in the universe ruled by astronomical math formulae, and the laws of physics.

 

In the garden, I reap the first real harvest of the tomatoes I planted back in May, when nights were cold, and I was gambling on the date of the last frost.  The pole beans, too, their pods now shriveled, the seeds destined for a pot of soup on a cold January night, my farmer’s tan long since faded away.

 

Tonight, we will eat the next to last feed of corn on the cob out of the garden, with fresh sliced tomatoes, and talk about the coming storm.

 

The cat surprises me by the onions, coming up for a chat, and a long pet.  Usually, he’s stalking mice in the corn, or napping under the fennel, too busy to pay me any attention.  Here, he is the mighty hunter, the lion on the Serengeti.  But, today, he crouches at my feet, needing his ears scratched, needing a long pet.  He feels the rain coming, too, not willing to say goodbye to summer.

 

Tomorrow, a big storm comes, promising close to a foot of rain, and three days of wet.  I still need to find my serious raincoat, the one with the hood, long enough to reach to my knees.  And, maybe my Alaska pants, the rainproof ones that slide over my jeans, for those treks into town, or maybe the beach, when the wind pushes the sheets of rain sideways, and maybe even up a bit, until that bit of uncovered cloth gets soaked, sodden against bare skin.

 

But, today, the sun is out, warm against my skin, still ripening the tomatoes I’ve found to put in my bucket, still warm for the yellow jackets feasting on an old apple I dropped in the grass a few weeks ago, when I’d found enough apples to make a pie.

 

The chairs in the garden come in, too, no longer needed for me to rest, and let the sweat dry, after digging or hoeing or planting in the garden, my fingers black with ground in dirt, my eye admiring the row of seedlings, or the patch of now weed free salad coming on.

 

And the wind chimes, their pipes making one last horrendous clatter, as they argue against me putting them in the garage for the winter. A vine has snaked its way around the hook, so I tug hard, ending another summer friendship.

 

“One last song,” they beg. “We will make it pretty, just catching the breeze, as you play your guitar in the evening, on the deck, the late evening light lighting up the pink on the roses.”

 

No, it is time to go now.  That storm is moving in fast, and soon everything will be wet, the evenings even now so much earlier.  We are past the Equinox now, moving fast towards Halloween and the first frost.  Summer has lingered, but now its gone.

 

One last slow sunset now, the sky still empty of clouds, the horizon’s blue turning darker by the minute, until I finally realize that it is night.  I can smell the coming rain, a bit of wet, a bit of damp leaf, with a hint of toadstool.

 

In the shop now, the stacks of chairs and cushions, and fun little garden ornaments, and the old dresser mirror we painted red and hung on a tree, sit there in silence, put away.

 

The metal windmill sulks in the corner by the wood stove, its blades still now, no longer catching the wind in the garden, telling me if we might get a summer shower, or that tomorrow, the breeze off the bay will make the corn stalks whisper, as they aim for the sky.

 

I shut the door and head in now, my shoulders aching from the day’s work.  It is time, now, for all of us to rest a bit, even the metal heron that guarded the roses, even the chair by the redwood tree, where I read my books, and played my new summer song on my guitar, not so long ago.

 

 

Neal Lemery, 9/27/13

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