I was thinking this morning of all the summers we have lived here, the damp ones, the hot ones, the ones where our house was simply a shell, window openings without glass, the busy ones, the quiet ones, and I found myself re-reading an essay written a few years ago for Mother Tongue Publishing’s The Summer Book. “Love Song” tries to catch those summers like gossamer and keep them preserved in a kind of poetry. I read it and remember the summers and think of everything I didn’t know. The names of the bees, the bird making a last call beyond the garden (one note like a varied thrush but a little fuzzier, a little raspier), where the snakes have gone that it’s been weeks since I’ve seen one sunning itself under the Japanese maple.
The light is our clock. We talk quietly in bed, listening to the birds. In the night there were loons and we’re glad they’ve chosen the bay below us for nesting. One of us remembers a summer when the house was filled with children. Another remembers waking in the tent to face a day of house-building, framing and lifting walls, running out of nails, measuring and measuring again the bird’s mouth notches so that the rafters would rest snugly on the wall plates. One baby slept in a basket on the sleeping bag in the blue tent. (The others were still unborn, waiting to be dreamed into being.) One baby slept in a crib in the new wing of the house, in a room next to the one with bunk-beds, while I walked in the garden in a cotton nightdress, coaxing the peas to attach themselves to wire. Three children didn’t sleep as the sun set later and later, long past bedtime, and we made campfires in rings of stones, sat on a cedar plank while the smoke rose to the stars. In the garden, the sun-dial (Grow Old With Me, The Best is Yet to Come) was smothered by lemon balm.
There’s a moment when the bees come. I went out to the deck for my bathing suit at 8:15 and the oregano was moving slightly in a breeze but the only bee to be seen was a dead one on the the surface of the deck, lying on its back with its legs folded neatly. When we returned just after nine, the blossoms were dense with bees, a couple of dozen. Some of them seemed to be coming from a different nest because their trajectory was right over our heads as we sat at the table with our coffee. A big one, a queen perhaps, arrived and dominated one area of the oregano, her legs heavy with pollen. There are at least 3 species, maybe 4. Maybe more. Only one entered the orange nasturtium, backing out with her pollen baskets full.
I’ve gathered enough chairs for everyone to sit, taken the summer plates out of their box, painted with figs and dark grapes. The fig tree a seedling, the grapes sending out first tendrils. Wind-chimes are making music of the air…
I’m thinking ahead now as well as backwards. In a few weeks the house will be full of children, grown ones and young ones. Even John and I are children, though our parents are dead. In the night when I can’t sleep, I try to dream myself to my childhood, the long days in the Ross Bay Cemetery running my fingers over the worn inscriptions or else watching for muskrats in the slough behind the house we lived in on Matsqui prairie. How can we contain it all?