the deck in summer
Yesterday we had some unexpected sunshine and I went out to tidy the kitchen herbs. They overwinter on a trolley (in its former life, it was a barbecue…). New shoots of tarragon, sprouts of chives, lush rosemary, even some miners lettuce sprouting in a planter below.
I swept the deck and thought how different it looks in winter, the bare branches of wisteria, grape, and clematis tangled overhead.
In summer, there are long swags of purple blossoms, clusters of grapes, tree frogs, the occasional raccoon. Yet looking at the deck, I could populate it immediately with summer. It’s been the site of many long family dinners, parties that went into the wee hours, extemporaneous poetry readings, songs. A month ago, it seemed that summer would never come. Our area had the coldest winter in decades, one snowfall after another. Yet the honeysuckle is in new leaf and in a couple of weeks we’ll be picking miners lettuce for our salads! How reliable the earth’s timetable is. For now.
Last week I approved the copyedits of my essay, “Love Song”, which will appear in Mother Tongue Publishing’s The Summer Book. While I thought about commas and em-dashes, I also remembered writing the essay in November when I was awaiting test results. It seemed I might have metastatic cancer. But now it seems I don’t. And I’m hugely grateful. I wrote the essay as a way of gathering up my hope into a single day of memory. All the summer meals and swims and picnics, all the children (and their children) collected at the table. All the salmon from the barbecue (both the herb trolley and its successor!), all the skewers of lamb, the bowls of spot prawns with butter and lemon. And the salads! Here’s the deck in summer and here’s a little passage from the essay. This morning it’s not sunny but if I close my eyes, I can bring it all to mind.
The table is set; time to come up from the lake. Old songs play on the stereo, the ones we’ve sung all these years in summer. You can’t hurry love. Come along, your bodies cool, duck-itchy, the baby fat turned to muscle, your own children in your arms as you scatter damp towels and hang bathing suits on the railings.