Double Dipped, Gardens at Effingham
Double Dipped, Gardens at Effingham
Ah ha! Captured! That stray pen–twirling, whirling, edging ever closer its way towards me. And Paper? Well, that’s a given. I’m already sitting on top of a stack of papers. ’Tis my place (always) to sit atop her papers, especially when she’s writing, especially the papers she’s trying to use.
And besides, what use does she have of this paper without her favorite pen? Oh how she loves me.
Cat Sketches and Stretches
‘Tis September 8th, day after labor day weekend. Hot and muggy the likes of mid-summer—but the shift is palpable. Leaves are turning yellow, falling, trees shedding. Not dormant, and still, one hopes, far from dormant—for that would mean cold– freezing temps and dips below the temperate nights we’ve been having, all for which I’m not yet prepared.
September remains glorious. ‘Tis I who am not ready, which is, I suppose, why we’ve been given the reprieve of this transition. Movement forward yes, though lingering still the comfort and warmth of summer.
So today, heat lingers and sun shines brightly still. Massive thunder storms last night—thundering, booming, lightening striking, preparing the way. Signaling to all—birds, trees, plants, insects, critters, cats, flowers, shrubs, even us—that seasons shift. Our summer shifts. And fall? Already blowing through winds that chill, winds that bring change, winds sweeping away summer—and sun and warmth.
We are in that pause between joy and settling in; laughter and taking on serious tones; colors and the inevitable browning, drying up, and cloaking us all in the drab of winter.
Already, I miss summer. Already, I dread winter. It is hard not to think about falling into the abyss of winter’s gray days, though necessary to keep moving past the point of that dip where the fall is inevitable, the darkness everywhere, the mood lethargic, and so much of everything seeming hopeless ’til spring.
Oh my, I’m beginning to sound like Daddy Cat who lives outside in the gardens. He bemoans losing summer and spends far too much time stretched out on top of the warm bricks of our garden walls. Frankly, if you ask me, I think he reads far too much literature. Heavy reading. Long reading. Not the books with happy endings, the ones we can easily forget, the ones we might even feel compelled to put down and not finish.
Oh my, I do feel in need of a cat nap, for as hard as I try, I cannot seem to stop yawning. The sun streams brilliantly through my window, its warmth my comfort.
I look up and above to the picture Mom gifted me of my 11-year-old self, hand across the back of our Labrador Retriever’s shoulder, and Dusty (our rescued groundhog) pulling at his jaw. I was sitting, plaintive smile, faraway look in my eyes even then, blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, choppy bangs, knees tucked both under and sideways, on the top of the hill of our orchard.
And I fall back, am called back, where 88 acres of orchard defined all the summers of my childhood and young adolescence. Rich Haven and Hale Haven peaches—Alberta Cling peaches, peaches by the peck and by the pound, peaches in half-bushel baskets, Montmorency sour-pie cherries, Sweet Cherries, Bartlett Pears, Concord Grapes, Jonathan, Melrose, Red and Golden Delicious apples. Nectarines, Black Raspberries. My mind drifts. My tongue remembers.
Peach fuzz from picking sticky on my hands and arms, peaches bigger than my fists could hold, sweet, ripe peach juice dripping down my chin. The ’54 Ford tractor with the wagon hooked up, flatbed, empty crates out into the orchard and full crates of peaches coming back on that slow, bumpy ride from bush-hog rough-cut orchard grass clear up to the packing shed.
Dad driving the tractor, his lopsided smile beaming, my sister and I riding on each of the tractor-well wheels, our black lab up on the wagon along with all those crates of peaches that we had picked in the heat of late July and early August sun. The kind of heat that sinks into you in this part of southeastern Ohio. Humid heat. Overhead, brilliant noonday-sun heat. Heat that makes you thirsty—before-anything-else heat.
Grandpa bought that land, 100 acres at the top of Malta Hill, to start an orchard. After WWII. Money from his G.I. Bill. Planted an orchard 4 miles straight up that hill to get all those fruit trees close to the heat of the full Ohio sun. And far enough away from the Muskingum River valley where trees, townspeople, and a stronger chance of a killing frost could wipe out a full crop of peaches.
Memories of so far away and long ago, wispy—as if, almost, they didn’t happen in this lifetime, in my lifetime. And yet still the peaches cling, the orchard clings, a love for planting and growing. A heart for all things earth, sky, trees, plants, flowers, animals, that way of life from so long ago, my love still.
And so on this late August day, I am still who I always was. Perhaps a riper version of self, but still, at my core, that 11-year-old girl sitting atop that hill of our orchard. A bowl of white peaches today centers my table (though these peaches came from California).
And the box they came in? That box belongs to Most Beloved who relishes sitting in (and looking out from) a box clearly labeled “Peaches.”
“Oh yet to relish, to sleep, to bathe in the heat of the midday sun–”
–sighs the cat
Oh yet to languish, to sip, to savor a cup of catmint tea–”
–bemoans the cat
Listen for verbal sighs and dramatic monologues. See especially planned pauses. Watch for wistful longing and waxing poetic. Smile and nod as you listen to your cat’s woes.
Act 1, Scene 1: Bay Window in the Breakfast Room.
Most Beloved upon seeing a shadow and in her most dramatic voice:
“In the middle of a mid-summer’s heat, late July or early August or perhaps middle August or maybe just summer’s end, without significant rainfall—almost enough to feel the standard repertoire of feelings common this time of year. June has bloomed, the massive undertaking of mulching and weeding, planting and wanting to be outside in 75 degree-weather has faded, and a certain weariness sets in. All-out efforts, even down to the hiring of help in the gardens, have not delayed the setting in of what always seems too short a bloom season.
One month in full summer bloom, June through July, then the sudden drying up where not only flowers fade, but moods do too. A bittersweet longing for what can only ever be temporal, an ache for beauty and warmth year round, and the reality that late summer brings the heaviness of high humidity, temperatures too hot to be comfortable outside, and the dip of disappointment that no matter how fierce our efforts, no matter how much our devotion, colors fade, the blooming ends, and the browning decay of this too soon mid-summer still come.”
Most Beloved sighs to take a paws (or “pause” in lay terms)
Resurrection lilies revel us in their sudden vertical growth and striking pink blooms, a shade far more common in the spring here than during the mid-late summer months.
But where is my Beloved Catmint?
Where has my catmint gone?
Herbs, in full bloom, spill over the sides of their pots.
Daylilies, also in full bloom, burst in a sundry colors.
And so yes, Most Beloved, the leaves are beginning to drop–the 100-year-old Silver Maple is shedding some leaves; a few Elm tree leaves are sifting down; and the dwarf-mounding chokeberries have traded their green summer attire for crimson leaves and purple berries.
Look up at skies laced with love, and glance around to see flowers yet to bloom. Fall ushers in cooler nights and gentler days, though dearest one and forever Most Beloved, the temperature today is nearly 90 degrees.
And perhaps most importantly, Most Beloved?
Sunshine, glorious and warm, still radiates from the bluest of skies, willow-wisp clouds still drift carefree, and our many trees and shrubs still lift up their arms with joy.
I am Most Beloved, she who looks after all of us here at Gardens at Effingham. I have always enjoyed a cup of catmint tea, the company of good friends, and stories that delight and visit me regularly from my garden journals and notebooks. I invite you to join us for a good cup of tea and stories from the sketchbooks, notes, and heart of Gardens at Effingham.