Although, unlike the kids in my neighborhood, I am not going back to school tomorrow, I felt the need to write a report on how I spent my summer. Here it is.
We had enough rain (more than enough for the grapes and the Italian basil) and the weather was mostly moderate. After all these years of living in Virginia, “moderate” is my word for not so damn hot and humid for so long that I can’t stand it. Notable elements of the garden include:
- the best crop of green beans since the early 1980s—bush and pole,
- the best crop of green chilies in at least seven years—New Mexico style, not Anaheim,
- crazy, prolific summer squash, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s “tromboncino”—the plants took over most of the garden until I finally hacked the vines back and offered the fruits to passersby,
- tomatoes only pretty good—they suffered from being overrun by the rampaging tromboncinos,
- Tom’s rose, “Awakening”—I had nothing to do with it, but I got to see and smell it (his moonflowers are just beginning to bloom in the night and they bring the sphinx moths, more on fauna, below)
Sometimes I have trouble separating the fauna from the flora. I like to think that is because I am an integrative person. Maybe that’s why I always grow my herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables together. Whatever the reason, my jumbled gardens have worked for me and for the fauna.
- we had first the bumblebees, and then, slow to show up, the honey bees did come,
- cabbage butterflies, skippers, red admirals, and, now, one monarch (I’ve had a jubilant crop of native milkweed—more than in years) I’m hoping more monarchs will arise from the jumble, and
- cardinals nested by the porch, then disappeared, later the catbirds came, some wrens and gold finches, always the sparrows, and the crows still keep watch
Special Sighting: Last week Tom and I camped at Loft Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. We took a short hike along the Appalachian Trail. On the trail, a long, lovely, lean timber rattlesnake crossed our path. He didn’t hurry and he didn’t rattle.
Because I am an integrative person (so I think), I have trouble separating the fauna and the flora from the music. This summer we had a very successful music harvest.
- In June, we heard and saw Paul McCartney. I was amazed, no maybe about it. I kept thinking this old guy is going to need a break, but all he ever did was pause briefly to switch between guitars and the keyboard and the voice. Richer than Croesus or even Richie Rich, older even than I am, still, McCartney sang every song (some were old, some were new, some were even from video games) as if he meant them. He sang a cappella about a blackbird sitting on the edge of night. He told us that “we can work it out” and we believed him.
- In early August, we walked to the downtown mall to hear and watch Garrison Keillor. This performance was part of his valedictory tour, “America the Beautiful.” I liked many parts of the show and, of course being an English major type myself, I am a fan. I have loved the way Garrison—may I call you Garrison? As a fellow mid-westerner I feel so close—walks slowly up and down the aisles singing songs with us. When we sang, “I’ve been working on the Railroad,” I was transported back to the car rides of my childhood and to singing with my friends in school or in lilac trees. Garrison sang, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Yes, here 70 miles north of Richmond and he sang, I do believe, all the verses. I want to mention that I knew at least parts of all of the verses. I think that comes from my latter-day abolitionist, overly righteous younger self and to my reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and To Kill a Mockingbird (many times) during my formative years. I will remember singing with you, Garrison. Thank you.
- Last Saturday, Tom and I went up to Wintergreen Resort for the Blue Ridge Mountain Music Fest. When we are in Charlottesville, we attend every August. Each year we fall under the spell of the flowers and the butterflies, the blue hills, and the music that seems integral to the place. All the groups we heard sang and played with that wonderful precision that we’ve come to associate with old-time music and bluegrass. This year, though, it was the group, Balsam Range, that blue us away. I took a dozen photos hoping to catch the passion, the skill, the humor, and the love (sentimental, plaintive, but heartfelt) in their songs. The photos didn’t work out, so now I need to figure out what to say. In their own genre and in their own ways, the artists of Balsam Range seemed as world-class as McCartney. Like Garrison, the group sang a song about the Civil War. This time, though, the sensibility was from the Confederate side. It was a song about a young man about to die a few miles outside of Birmingham. He pleads with the listener to tell his mother that he had been a brave soldier and that he would miss that life he would never have with his sweetheart back home. As I learned time and time again from my refugee and immigrant students, it’s the people close to the ground (on either side of the conflict) that die in war–the farmers, the storekeepers, the women, and the children.
We are part of the flora and the fauna, the music, and the blue and rocky hills. We are integrative types, you and I, and, perhaps we are lucky to be here. We were only waiting for this moment to arise.