I promised myself last spring it wouldn’t happen again: the summer, this year, would not spiral out of control. I would manage my time, balance my obligations, ride herd on my expectations.
But the summer got away from me. Again.
I can never figure out how this happens, can never reconstruct where, exactly, the days go.
Weeds take up no small share of my time and energy, of course. Having decided that providing expanded opportunities for native plants in my surroundings is one of the things I do for the good of the world, beating back the aggressions of bindweed, kochia, yellow clover, thistles, cress, prostrate knotweed, and cheatgrass keeps me working away with pulling gloves, string trimmers, shovels, and hoes for hours each week.
The garden also requires effort I don’t expend in other parts of the year. Once I committed to planting this summer’s garden, I did my best at due diligence, at least early on. When mice dug up and ate the seeds of the pole beans, I replanted. I replanted again when those seedlings failed to show, and yet again a couple weeks later when there was still no sign of bean leaves unfurling—and then one last time, to fill in gaps. In the long, hot, smoky days of a fierce June, I coddled planting beds with mulch from the worm composter, coaxed tender young plants with sips of compost tea.
The hot haze of June was also accompanied by a project related to the rental properties my husband and I own in Cañon City, keeping me hustling with meetings, research, phone calls. As the calendar rolled into July, we had visitors, socialized here and there. I managed to corner a few hours in my office now and again, picking away at sections of the Big Writing Project. A smattering of thunderstorms brought relief from the blazing of both heat and wildfires burning around the region. The monsoon was welcome, but it egged on the weeds and delivered just enough hail to pummel the garden right as it was hitting its stride.
While we were hauling hay and splitting wood in August, I didn’t notice that the garden had rebounded from the hail. Things went feral down there, devolving into a free-for-all of pea vines and bolting greens. Volunteer cosmos fountained and tomatillo plants surged, hiding the beets and carrots, and covering for the underperforming pole beans. When I went to harvest carrots in the waning days of September, the objects I uprooted bore no resemblance to the shapely tapers of carrot-inspired imagining. Their purple hue was expected, since my proclivities toward that color in my gardening efforts are unabated, but the spiky masses beneath the luxuriant tops can only be called freaks.
I decided, however, that the carrots are perfect emblems of what the summer had become by that point. From orderly hopes set forth in May, the season had morphed into a welded jumble, an overcrowded confusion: gnarly, un-thinned, and chaotic.
I’ve been thinking lately that summers at this stage of my life are beginning to resemble those of my school-age youth. Back then, too, the elongated days of summer passed in a flurry. Weather and daylight framed priorities, with each day finding its own urgencies, or lack thereof. Now, as then, outdoor pursuits wrestle indoor matters to the ground, dominating them and pinning them into the forlorn corners of the weeks. In our house, in summer, dust bunnies mature and raise young under the dining room table. Laundry overtops its basket, making a break for the hall. Paperwork accumulates in piles, swamps desks, and laps over our office floors.
Then, abruptly, fall takes over, slinging brassy colors and staging the world in spectral light. Darkness gatecrashes earlier each afternoon and lingers later each morning, damping the frenetic spin of extended daylight hours. The weeds retreat, the garden freezes. I no longer dash mindlessly out the door, but pause long enough to see if I need a jacket. These shorter days reverse the spin of my body’s gravity; they slow my outward flinging and bend the currents of my energy, gradually, inward.