Summer Vacation

One unanticipated benefit of living in the country is a feeling of permanent summer vacation. This I just realized today as I was picking the wild blackberries that line one side of our property.

As a youngster, I did spend time in country with relatives that owned farms years ago. I can even recall picking cotton at my great grandmother’s though I don’t really remember her. I can’t even remember actually picking berries as a child though I must have. Surely I picked berries during those years as well as cotton.

Now I’m spending my free time slowly picking berries, liberating my peach tree from its heavy burden/bounty and putting some walls and windows in that decrepit shed behind the house. All these tasks performed in the muggy, hot weather speak to me of long ago summer days when the world seemed so full of opportunity.

I can forget the pressing issues of grownup life out here. I can forget the necessity for making a living; I can forget the marks of time on my body; I can forget the hallmarks of that cruel (faraway) world. Time has slowed around me as I have adapted to the rhythms of country life.

We did some planting earlier in the spring: some Leyland cypresses for privacy, some azaleas for beauty, some morning glories for memory (Daddy used to wake me whispering “morning, morning glory”), and some caladiums for spot color in my “garden”. I’ve never been much a one for growing stuff. I’ve even insisted for many years that I had a brown thumb, that I would kill it if it couldn’t remind me to water it like my dogs do when they get really thirsty. (Beagles can really give you a stare that communicates!)

But now, I have found myself watering, watching and worrying. Seeing those sprouts come up from the morning glory seeds was a triumph quickly diminished when the deer decided they were tasty enough for breakfast. The caladiums have finally made an appearance without any special care or watering-a miracle in itself. The azaleas might last the summer. We’ve lost some of the cypresses as the drought has progressed due to less watering (we are trying to do our part to preserve the water table).

Our “grass” in the meadow that is our front yard bloomed beautifully white in the spring with some sort of ground cover but it all turned brown in May. It’s now looking greener with the recent rains we’ve had and we are grateful for the reduced growth since the riding lawn mower isn’t running.

I never imagined that sky watching would become a habit, that rain would be an occasion for porch sitting. I never imagined that I could care so much about the weather.

Especially in the summer. Although I was raised in North Georgia, I’ve always hated summers as an adult. Asthma doesn’t mix well with heat and I hate sweating. I spent many summers as a child in the swimming pool or lake: that’s a reasonable activity for a southern summer. Without a pool or lake, I’ve been huddling in my air conditioning since the mid-eighties until last year.

That summer I started working in the yard up there in at my last house. I love buying old houses because they usually come with automatic landscaping. There does come a point though when the yard starts taking over. Because of my decorating interests, I have been exposed to many magazine articles about gardens. I’m talking about decorative gardens, not the eating kind. It finally has started affecting me.

My first efforts at taming the overgrown views from my front porch were not incredibly successful. First, though I didn’t spend much money, I did manage to kill off some dollars planting in the heat of August. Secondly, I proved that I really couldn’t recognize poison oak. Of course, I did get my Girl Scout merit badge for plants; I used to be able to point out many things to be avoided. Since I’ve never broken out from poison anything, however, that knowledge has totally disappeared from my citified brain. Those tiny red spots on my ankle last year were a warning I managed to forget.

This year in an effort to start taming this new yard, I kept rooting around in hedges and flowerbeds before everything bloomed. I would spend 15 minutes here or there on the way to or from the mailbox. After one day when I had spent a fair amount of time pulling vines, I suddenly had a thought. “What if there was poison oak or ivy in those bushes? Did I even notice?” Well, the answer quickly appeared on my legs and arms. I am so grateful that I really am not very allergic!

I had my husband walk the yard with me that week and I was horrified to find I had been wallowing in all sorts of unhealthy stuff. That thought has effectively curtailed my weeding tendencies since then.

Besides a thorough coating of sweat (ick), I only gained a few scratches today gathering my juicy blackberries, ha, ha. I spent the time thinking about writing another column. It’s so easy to wax philosophic out here while listening to the birds, frogs and crickets. The country quiet is definitely tempered with a wide range of natural, soothing noise, once again awakening in me memories of long ago summer days.

Oh no. What if there were poison oak or ivy in amongst the blackberry thorns? Did I really forget to look again? Well, I think it’s time I quit writing now. Perhaps next on my summer agenda will be a thorough shower and a change of clothing. Oh, dear, now I’m itching!