(the song sings itself*, all sparkle and white-gold light.)
True summer slipped in the door Saturday night, somewhere among the clean-scrubbed pots draining by the sink and the vegan gingersnaps cooling on my wooden pull-out cutting board. But even if I barely acknowledged that it was the longest day of the year — glancing out the window just before 9 I realized with a little jolt it was the Solstice — my farmers’ market had reminded me that morning in baskets of blueberries, cherries spilling over the sides of their little containers, piles of the first peaches and nectarines, sweet, perfect plums, flats of strawberries.
The weather even cooperated for once — sunny, breezy, smelling of the sea and promise. Summer, just for now, just for here. I won’t ask how long it will stay.
Unfortunately, though, all days like these make me want to do is go to the beach. Or swimming in the Russian River a bit up north (Healdsburg or so) at this little beach I know where you can get soft-serve ice cream at the snack bar and families get together on the lawn for Sunday barbecues and you can swim out far enough to find the shade in the water. Or maybe a canoe trip? Or a hike somewhere not in the city — the California summer brown hills at your back and a bay to your right and maybe, if you’re really lucky, a whale or two in the ocean. Or just a cold beer on a deck somewhere. I am greedy for all of summer’s delights, it’s true, but I know all this will trickle in over the next few months if I am patient.
Oh, summer! So sighed-over and long anticipated! What shall you bring to us this year? How many fistfuls of gorgeous tomatoes and tiny yellow plums will I be lucky enough to enjoy? Will there be many glorious sunsets over the ocean, the kind where you hold your breath they’re so beautiful, all golden light and flame dropping beneath the rim of the world? Will the stars blink and fall in August, the way they do sometimes when all the fog has burned off and night settles thick and hot over the trees? And perhaps most important: what shall I bake with all the stone fruit soon to droop and drop ripely from those branches?
To ease into it strawberries, of course, which to me are both spring and then real summer. Strawberries are late afternoons in the backyard with my brother, the sun burning down on the tops of our heads as we bent over the strawberry plants in the garden, the little black dog from up the street keeping us company. Strawberries are jam and ice cream and frozen popsicles and treating yourself to handfuls just because. I am eating some pretty berries right now, in fact, to ease myself into my very favorite time of year.
It will all be so delicious.
Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear
anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.
– Mary Oliver
*with thanks to William Carlos Williams