Summer is a delicate balance

IMG_0239Remember when you were a little kid, when summer was unalloyed gold, just hours and days and weeks of playing and lazing about?

And then, eventually you had to get a summer job, but there was still plenty of time to ride bikes and do big splashy cannonballs into the water?

But then you grew up and bought a house, with a big yard. You became an adult. It seemed like such a good idea at the time . . .

At that point, summers changed irrevocably.

Now, summer is the best time, in this region where winters are long and fine days may be few, to do outside chores and upkeep.

We have been working like dogs!

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We have been sanding the deck and the steps and all the other outside wood, sanding it and filling cracks and repainting. We need to seal the cedar siding on the house and paint the trim and deal with the gardens and so many other tasks that can really only be done in the summer months.

But summer is also the best time to enjoy our lovely lakeside location, in the beautiful region where we live.

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It’s the prime time to bask in rare perfect days.

So, we work for the delicate balance that is summer.

We clean the house and plan meals and enjoy time with family and with friends but we balance that with time for just us two, alone, where we find ease and contentment.

We balance the time our cats spend outside, on the roof, in the gardens, lurking in the bushes, with our annual trips to the vet with each of them.

We turn our attention to the details of our surroundings, how the color of that purple iris is nothing like the color of this one.

And wonder whether frogs are like snowflakes, every one unique.

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And the first buds of the first flowers, ever, on the climbing hydrangea.

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We have flowers on the climbing hydrangea!  And they said it couldn’t be done . . .

But we also look to the wider view, the sky that seems bluer in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain than anywhere else ever. And the dancing white sails of boats, finally set free from winter.

We balance trips to the local ice cream shop, for Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate Moosetrack ice cream, with brisk walks and weeding and more sanding and painting. It is, after all, bikini season (bwahahahaha!) and the best time to be outside, moving one’s muscles.

Summer is the only time, in my purveyor-of-vintage-linens persona, when I can take decent photos of larger vintage items, like blankets and big tablecloths, so I balance ironing and picture taking on sunny days with making new listings and other Etsyfying on days of gray.

Through it all, we kind of lose the idea of a lazy, hazy summer. We’re never bored.

Summer can be hard work. It can be physically exhausting. It can feel stressful, trying to fit everything in.

We balance all that with strict rules about quitting time. We meet at the fire pit, out by the lake, at 5. I might do some hand sewing but no other work is allowed.

We put our feet up. We chat. We plan the heavy lifting for the next day, we have a cocktail, we listen to the foolish kingfishers chatter, and watch the cats snack on the catnip plants.

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And these really quiet moments are all the sweeter because our bodies are tired and hands are sore.

There will be time to be lazy and hazy during the winter . . .

It’s summer now.

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Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!

Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”

When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.

Some are subtle.

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Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.IMG_3303

It may look like striations in rock

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Or waves of water, breaking

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Or just plain peculiar . . .

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This was from earlier this week. Those “duck bills” have an overhang of at least a foot!

Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .

Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?

Winter’s Silver Lining

At this point of winter, we Northerners look for silver linings.

Many are the reasons to pity the poor Southerners, but one presented its silver self this morning.

Freezing fog and the delicate, sparkling rime it leaves behind.

I’m no meteorologist and I would have to look up the specific conditions that give us freezing fog, but Northerners know it is distinct from garden-variety frost.

In its wake, freezing fog leaves the most delicate fuzz of crystals on the entire outdoors. Every tree and twig and dried weed and fence post is enrobed so they all appear a bit softened, muted, as if behind a scrim.

(If you click on the photos, you can count the little spikes of ice!)

The temperature rises a degree or two, the sun comes out, and it’s gone. Winter is cold and a little bleak and hard-edged again. 

But we had our silver lining for a moment . . . and that counts for a lot during winter.

Beyond My Ability to Capture

They’ve come. 

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They’ve gone.

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And I still haven’t gotten a really good photo of them . . . 

Few things cause me more agita than seeing something spectacular and a little unusual and not being able to share it with you.

And for that reason, the snow geese that come through here on their migration have  been a source of great agita.

Every November, septo-quazillions of snow geese arrive. I think they choose this area because we have lots of water and protected bays as well as many, many corn fields that have recently been harvested. 

They are the absolute highlight of late autumn for me. I follow them around with a camera and, yet, I am never satisfied. I can’t capture the sheer numbers of them, I can’t capture the racket they make, I can’t capture the way their white wings, with the black tips, glitter against a blue sky, and the way a mass of them, rising from the lake, appear to be a storm of snowflakes, falling up.

The first time I ever saw them, I was taking a walk by the lake and could see a line of snow across the bay. But it was well above freezing and that couldn’t be snow . . .

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Plus it was moving.

My mother and I went to watch them a couple weeks ago. The geese were all placid and happy and chortling near shore. I said to my mom, “If I were a different kind of person, I’d throw a stone, just so we could see them all take off at once.”

A moment later, a small plane flew low overhead . . . and the geese all took off at once. And me, not quick enough to get a video that might’ve conveyed the majesty . . .

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A few days later, I drove home at twilight. We’d had snow that covered the ground and made it difficult for the geese to find leftover corn. But at that moment, three huge harvesters were at work in the fields . . . and uncountable geese were whirling and swirling and rising and falling around the harvesters.

A Thanksgiving all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry birds.

All along the rural road, cars pulled over to watch the scene. I sat and gawked and took a ton of photos and was so excited  . . . and the photos look like nothing special at all.

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Maybe some moments are not meant to be captured, to be frozen, to be stopped in time. 

Maybe the snow geese are simply to be experienced. 

Maybe you need to come next November and see them for yourself!

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Autumn Respite

It seems the internet and airwaves are awash with bad/crazy/scary news. I care about it all and am paying attention and cannot wait until next Tuesday, when I will be pressing my nose up against the window at my local polling place, eager to vote.

And yet . . . one needs a break. One needs a reminder that our world isn’t only bad/crazy/scary. You, my blog friends, offer many and excellent reminders of that. And I want to contribute my own, from my lovely part of the world.

Autumn has been awesome this year. It’s always my favorite time of year, here in upstate New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, near Lake Champlain. But this year the color of the trees, in addition to being bright, has persisted longer than usual or so it seems to me. A few trees fade and more have taken their place.

I can’t give you the freshening breeze that makes the leaves dance and sparkle. I can’t give you the tang of woodsmoke or the crunch of dry leaves beneath your feet. I can’t give you the snap of an Autumn Crisp apple or the sound of the snow geese as they make their raucous way south.

But I can give you the sights of autumn. Many, many sights of autumn. You can click on them as you choose . . . I just know I feel better having been out there, in our pretty world.

 

 

An Autumn Pet Peeve

I love a field of autumn corn. The stalks all golden brown, lined up, and waiting to be harvested. It’ll be cut down, chopped, and used for silage to feed cattle during the long winter. (Silage goes in a silo and that’s what most farmers call it. I grew up on a farm very near the Quebec border and never heard the word silage until a few years ago. We used the word “ensilage” exclusively–the French influence, I guess.)

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I even love a field of mown corn. It looks restful, harvest finished, and its sere, muted shades make the surrounding foliage seem all the more radiant.

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But this? This make me peevish. Who does this?

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Who harvests an entire field and leaves one last corn stalk standing? So untidy . . .

(And can you see the blue jay photo bombing the picture?!)