Summertime. The morning breaks, the critters chatter and chirrup, and we linger on the porch with coffee and news. As the children wander down work begins to beckon from the next room. The scent of lavender wafts by and the hummingbird comes to the porch to quickly sip her breakfast from the hibiscus in the corner and together we all inhale the sweetness of this life.
The last days of July and the beginning of August mark the beginning of autumn by the farmer’s calendar. But here on this American porch, we grab the goodies from the garden and a few eggs from the hen house and eat an optimistic breakfast of basily eggs, inhaling the breeze from the sweet jasmine and we don’t notice. Or we pretend not to anyway.
I have always believed autumn starts in September. When the kids go back to school and the air is sharper in the mornings I can almost tolerate the change that is surely coming. In our old city life fresh notebooks, and new flavors at Starbucks were the markers that meant another season was coming, quick get out the sweaters and make sure the cupboards were loaded up with fast things that could be snack or even lunch in a pinch.
Now we get these more natural markers and we can pay attention or not. When the sun climbs high in the afternoons the kids mess around with Facebook and Utube before heading back down to the river or maybe the colder waterfall if it gets really hot. Then by supper it is cooler and by the time we tuck the chickens in we need sweatshirts again. Our kids live a country life with a generous heaping of city piped in through the airwaves. There’s a new boy who was supposed to call, and there’s a political rally that is another in a long list of them this year. Mom is bidding on a couple of jobs since a good one fell through a couple of weeks ago. Dad is writing a novel and submitting stories to a few new addresses. And the boys are playing some new computer game ten years apart and still solidly together across the magic of the Internet. But it all goes unnoticed in the languor of July.
Until this morning. This one special morning we ate huge breakfasts and packed the car so the big kids could go back to the Vineyard to a rental and jobs and teenage late nights in coffee shops with ice cream and a place called Back Door Doughnuts that’s open in the middle of the night. We made piles of books and towels and fingernail polish for one, and groceries and Ipod and computer games for the other. A few more towels were added at the last minute so they wouldn’t have to think about laundry. Then we all had big bowls of peaches and cream and it was time.
And so it was in this speeded up version of my life that I slowed down and sat on the porch and paid attention to what else has been happening just outside. It was cool this afternoon. Or anyway the breeze was too much for my fragile self in my bare summer clothes awash in the bittersweet sadness of mothers throughout time immortal. It isn’t that they will be gone for long. It isn’t even that I don’t want them to have this adventure. They won’t and I do. But we have never had more than one gone at a time before. And so it is rather all that this portends. I grabbed an old shawl and headed back outside and looked up at the sky and took big lungfuls of lavender scented courage. And there, high up on the tops of the bushes and the tallest trees, were a very few yellowy orangery leafy edges. Hardly any trees had them. But they were there. There were a couple in our yard and a few more at the edges of the woods. They hit me fast and hard all in a rush. What a message those few leaves sent. It cannot be stopped…none of it. It all moves at its own speed and of its own volition.
How can it be? I am not ready. The watermelon is ripe and sweet right now. Our garden is full and bursting. The corn is only in, just this week. We sauteed our first big batch last night. Oh I know it won’t really happen for a couple of months yet. But I am not ready to pretend I am a strong New Englander through months and months of winter. I am not ready for grown up kids going off on the first of what will fast become a series of these leavings. College is hard enough but it is so clearly temporary. The punctuation for now is still a bunch of commas, little breathless pauses, but there are bound to be periods on the way. Big black dots that signify the ending of one thing and the beginning of another. I know i will love the next bits as much as I have loved all of this. I will. And this little trip to the Vineyard is here to remind me to stay awake for it all. How is it I never notice those leafy yellow bits high up on the tallest trees before September no matter when they come? Yellow orangery leaves for which I cannot possibly be ready in July. Because July is the middle of summer. It is not the beginning of autumn. It can’t be. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
I am not ready.
Oh hell, I guess I’ll go put on some colorful socks….