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    Entries in gardening (2)


    real summer


    There are times, usually in the depths of the long, dark, damp winter, when I truly regret that we can't can't hop a bus to a real museum. There are summer evenings when the ten o'clock light inspires me to sit on a patio and drink gimlets in a dress, or at least wedges, but everywhere closes at 9, or earlier, or never opens at all on Sundays. The air is heavy with sweat and pesticide here where we live, and the bargain quarter acre lot comes with a price I never envisioned myself paying: a dearth of "the arts." The children's museum resides in a mall next to Chuck E Cheese and the historic theater only shows movies on the weekends. If you look hard, you can find potters and screenprinters, painters and writers who love this place, who infuse their work with their love for this place. But, for the past eighteen months, searching has mostly been a luxury whose spot in line for my time is so far down the block and around the corner that it seems prudent to just leave and grab dinner instead. When the rain starts, when, vitamin D deficient and bored, I'm California dreamin' of my own sunny childhood, I lament our location. I do. It's bougie and stupid and futile, but I do.

    But July and August. Late summer, here, in 75 degrees, when the water sparkles and the trees stay green. I pocket a little July for later. For January, when I have to remind myself of Washington's virtues. My kids can't take the bus downtown to see a Cornell diorama and eat a slice, but they already know the supple willingness of a perfectly ripe blackberry on its cane. They pick peas while they play and chase the chickens that laid breakfast. 

    Where I'm from, the summers are endless, even though the locals will tell you otherwise. Seventy degrees is seventy degrees, except when it's ninety, and the beach is always open, will always be there tomorrow, and the next day, so there's no need to rush. Nobody or nothing ushers in the change of seasons. Halloween costumes don't have to include room for longjohns, the palm trees are always expectedly understated in their greenery, your yard probably doesn't need raking, and for a long time I saw these things as givens, then virtues. But now, I appreciate the northwest's vastly varying daylight, and the other tangible qualities that make our collective perpetual spinning obvious. These loose markers -- our apple trees' June drop; the pears turning gold; our giant black walnut's falling leaves; opening of our first summer preserves; the return of nearby steller's jays' raucous arguments -- keep me aware of the passage of time. Help me appreciate what each month has to offer. Help my children learn about their place in the world. 


    like rain on your (neighbors') wedding day

    Spring around here is a funny thing. It rains; it pours; your carport floods. And then, for one day, it is 62 degrees, bright and warm from the time the sun shows his unfamiliar face until he lays it down in the Sound. And those twelve hours are enough to make you optimistic about the possibility of enjoying outdoor life again, in a sincere way, not a ha-ha, good thing I'm wearing galoshes kind of way.  

    We actually had, like, THREE of those in a row, a week or two ago. And then my poor neighbors who had waited TWENTY FIVE YEARS to get legally married found themselves putting up clear flashing around their gorgeous deck in preparation for a torrential downpour that waterlogged their wedding day. PNW, we can't quit you, but you sure are a jerk sometimes. 

    To console ourselves after we put some measly starts into the garden only to have it frost overnight at 37 degrees and kill our broccoli, George and I decided our raised beds could use some flags to jazz them up a little. Zelda had never potato printed, so we got out some muslin, cookie cutters, a potato, some paint and a paring knife.

    If you don't know how to print with potatoes, there is no shortage of tutorials online that probably give all the details you need, but all I do is press a cookie cutter deep into the freshly-cut side of a potato, then slice into the side of the potato with my paring knife and cut away the excess potato. Not exactly rocket science.

    George and Zelda chose an arrow, a heart, a star and a leaf. One arrow attempt failed, and turned into a bunny. Zelda kind of just tried to eat the potatoes, but George had a good time stamping the strips of muslin I had torn. Speaking of which, I didn't bother hemming these; I just snipped the selvedge edge of the muslin and tore it along the entire width of the fabric, leaving me with strips. 


    I gave George dishes of the paint that came with a paint-your-own wooden car kit. I have no idea what kind of paint it is, but it's labeled non-toxic, and it hasn't yet run. Do I need to tell you how many times it's rained? When the kids were satisfied that they'd eaten enough raw potato and sufficiently stamped the soon-to-be flags, we cleaned up, and let everything dry while we ate lunch.

    While George napped that afternoon, I cut the strips into smaller pieces and sewed a ribbon across the top, bunting-style. We stuck bamboo poles into the ground on each end of the garden and tied on the flags. I love that it helps give the kids some ownership of our garden in these early, boring days of germination and perseverence.