It’s only mid July and signs of Summer’s passing are already evident. The twig trellis outside the bedroom window, which has given such delight with its climbing morning glories in bright color, is now decorated with heart-shaped leaves turning yellow.
The garden is enormous with voluminous mounds of overgrown foliage of all varieties. Everything is entangled: roses with daisies, oleander with butterfly bush, chrysanthemums with sage, geraniums with four o’clocks. Pink, yellow, red, pale blue, lavender, purple, magenta, and every riot in color explodes in that last push for being. Even the Old Mother Epithelium is magestic in her fading last hours.
It is nearly a full moon again. Late at night, early in the morning, she shines through the sgraffito of black, fine lines and oval shapes of branch and leaf in the massive umbrella of the Chinese Elm under which Ms. Andie attends that which must be attended at approximately four o’clock in the morning. The atmosphere at that hour is exquisite. The blue light of the moon makes magical all the white blooms in the garden. The shasta daisies glow like garden spirits and while the last of white roses emit no fragrance at that hour they enforce a magnificent presence that only night can bestow. The white four o’clock’s however are sweet with floral perfume and intoxicate this old poet with memories of joy in a jumble.
For all that Andie and I consider the secret night garden our own mini Sissinghurst and omage to Vita Sackville-West, whose Gaia spirit is always welcome here. Andie doesn’t know about Vita or Gaia for that matter, but while I become intoxicated by the moon and remember Li Po poems on said subject, Ms. Andie hunts for field mice and failing in that scores the last of the plums. If or when that fails, Andie remembers the ripe strawberries that grow alongside the path and hurries them inside, places them like the plums according to some dog stratagem, in the middle of the hallway, where too often, I forget and get the cold squish when in the wee of the night I plod along on my way to you know where.
As for the plums, I have learned to can: tongs, simmering for hours, sifting, boiling, sealing, and labeling—-Plum Jam. This batch of plums came from the side yard where an ancient Burbank plum managed a spot near the grove of wild plums which tower above him. Andie even contributed about a half-dozen that fell, sun-ripened, to the ground and lay buried in the thicket of flowers and foliage wherein she sniffs the trails of creatures unseen. Sweetened with Blackberry honey, orange juice, and a shot of Cointreau ( alcohol burned off) The batch was a success and has contributed to our early morning Toast-Time, which gives Andie her first exercise of the morning when she sees me raise the coffee cup and toast plate. Off she goes like an Olympian, racing down the hall to sit at the desk and share our first bite.
Food has been a Summer theme, because of the wonderful abundance of produce at the farmer’s markets. This time of year blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, peaches, local lemons, apricots, nectarines, melons and other delectable luxuries are affordable and do not require a second mortgage to buy. But, when it comes to tomatoes, which for me are the only excuse for Summer to exist…..the garden bestows her wonders.
If there are any tomatoes left over after numerous lunches with just sun ripened tomatoes, kosher salt, Tellicherry pepper and a splash of Meyer lemon Balsamic vinegar, I may try that old New York Times recipe for tomato jam.
On a passing note, speaking of food, Andie has learned the noodle game. When body and soul are weary I resort to old comfort food like ramen or simple pasta. In a stroke of genius Andie has converted Toast-Time skills into noodle slurping and enjoys it immensely. I take a long noodle dangle it above her head and it goes down and down like a pasta mulcher. She loves it. I love it.
Life is fun and then you nap!