humminbird tail

It’s the last day of summer. Lately I’ve been thinking about it, remembering its beauties, regretting the things I didn’t accomplish. But mostly remembering. The first summer of my greenhouse, which brought me such pleasure, though to be honest the pleasures were mostly in May, because June and July were the months of the heat dome when I had to sluice down the greenhouse floor several times a day, on top of everything else. But yes, pleasure, as the seedlings grew and the frogs found the leaves to perch on and the scented geraniums filled with space with their fragrance — lemon, rose, deep forest green, oranges, nutmeg.

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease…

That’s Keats, of course, and for a perfect gift to yourself on the last day of summer, listen to Marianne Faithfull read “To Autumn”.

The other day we were walking up on the Malaspina trail, itself a gift, because finally John is able to walk greater distances. I don’t think we’ll be taking on any long hikes but an hour up the mountain, with the scent of dry grass and the sight of a herd of elk dissolving into the tree line, herded by a bull with an enormous set of antlers, was wonderful.

Do you make a hoard of summer memories to keep against the cold ahead? Mine includes all the children who raced around in the mossy area they called the Field and who came to the lake with us during the mornings of their visit, two of them learning to swim while they were here, suddenly pushing off and paddling in the generous water. It holds the bees in the oregano by the table where we had our coffee after our swim, 4 or 5 species, buried in the pink blossoms. The owls. The night we kept the little children up to see the Perseids, all of us on the upper deck in darkness, a few flashlights snapping on and off to make sure parents were near, and how suddenly one of them recognized the shape I was describing as the Big Dipper. How the meteors blessed us with their light, one at a time. How we wished.

There was the afternoon in early July when I heard a commotion in the sunroom off my bedroom and it was a hummingbird trapped inside, beating its wings against the glass. I grabbed a cloth, it might have been underwear, it might have been a t-shirt, and gently captured the bird, releasing it out the door, and then realizing it had dropped 5 tail feathers on the blue tile before it flew away at great speed. It happened so quickly I didn’t think to determine if the bird was an Anna’s or a rufous (although maybe that little tip of white means Anna’s?) but it was unforgettable. “A route of evanescence”, wrote Emily Dickinson, and how perceptive she was, capturing the mystery and unexpected nature of their visits with that line, “The mail from Tunis, probably”.

A route of evanescence
With a revolving wheel–
A resonance of emerald,
A rush of cochineal–
And every blossom on the bush
Adjusts its tumbled head,–
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy morning’s ride–

Over the next months, when it rains for days on end and we are still facing the uncertainty of an unsafe world, when the fires are still burning, all of us counting our losses, I will open my hoard of summer, take a moment to look at the little jar by my bed with its five tiny feathers, “a resonance of emerald”, and that fluid line of elk disappearing into the trees.

parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme


When I looked at the pantry shelves this morning, I realized we had no herbal jelly. Usually I make a few batches—orange basil; thyme blossom; intensely-flavoured rosemary (a perfect match for roast lamb). But not this year, not yet. Until now. One that I like is one I like to think I invented. I call it Scarborough Fair jelly and I date myself with that name. “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?/Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…” It’s the prettiest pale green and sometimes I put a dried chili in to give the jelly a kick as well as to watch over the months as the green takes on a little of the chili’s colour

Any child of the 1960s and 1970s will remember the Simon and Garfunkel version of the old “Scarborough Fair” ballad though I loved Marianne Faithfull’s sweet and delicate rendering. When I sing this on my own (and I intend to work up a version for my grandbabies), I’ll think of Marianne’s crisp enunciation and the way she draws out “cambric shirt” in the last verse.

And cambric! What a lovely word. A finely woven cotton or linen, first made in Cambrai. I have a basket of cottons, two vintage linen single-bed sheets, and even two lengths of pale raw silk waiting for me to find time for a dye vat and the work of preparing the fabric for shibori. Before the frosts, before the fall storms, I want to have them dyed and ready for a winter quilt. The other day I was sorting images in a digital file and I found this,


the top of a quilt I finished for Forrest and Manon. It was the second fish quilt I made and the next two were better, I think, in that I figured out how to do the Mokume technique a little more effectively. And I used more shell buttons to articulate the fish-spines, to suggest eggs among stones.

The season turned on Friday and now we prepare for winter. Jellies to have with roast chicken and lamb, a big vat of squash and apple soup yesterday, and this basket of cloth waiting, waiting for its immersion into indigo, its transformation to something more than itself.