Category Archives: summer

Done With This

It happens every year.  My prized herb garden begins to bolt. Plants become leggy, and I wonder if I will pluck the caterpillars from my parsley or let them gnaw the lot to sticks. The grass (what little there is to be had amidst the clover and wiregrass) becomes my enemy, a vast refuge for countless mosquito swarms that swell upwards in a whining cloud the moment my feet brush its surface.  I begin to grumble about the heat and humidity, shrug off the raggedy appearance of my hedgerows.  Last night I dreamed the tree leaves were beginning to yellow, first one, then another, a creeping progression of golden, glorious decline.

It is now official–I’m done with summer.

I knew this moment was coming.  The past few weeks have been hot, intolerably so.  While cranking the AC and stalking the weather page to find the one acceptably-climed day in which to venture outside and quickly shear my grass, I have been perusing stores’ shelves, impatiently watching for the first peeks of fall decor, knowing the Halloween products will not be far behind. It is no secret I love Halloween more than Christmas, that I search for odd and wondrous decor like others hunt for the perfect holiday gift.  I walk through craft stores in late summer and breathe a sigh of contentment at the walls of orange, gold, crimson, and black.  Fall is my holiday season, and Halloween sits atop it like the cherry on the most perfect sundae.

It is by fortune my mother-in-law shares my zeal for All Hallow’s Eve.  We covet one another’s collections, share our spooky resources.  She gives me books to peruse for ideas and inspiration, brings me Day of the Dead dolls from her travels to Mexico, and finds the most promising shops in Florida for us to haunt when I go down there on vacation. She feeds my desire to have the Perfect Halloween. It is, then, no surprise I have decided this year I will have a party. What might be surprising is I have never hosted one before. Maybe it was because I never before had such huge resources of friends to fill my house, or maybe I was waiting to have a collection big enough to support my grand ideas.  Either way, I am ready, and stupidly excited about it. I have thus far planned on spooky projections (or maybe a silent film showing on a wall), a tree branch barrier, my huge ouija board collection displayed, my glittery Illuminations lanterns hanging from the ceiling…  I have more ideas than space, and more ambition than money, but that is not going to stop me from hosting one hell of a bash.

I’ve sounded summer’s death knell and begun counting the days ’til Halloween on my own internal, dark Advent calendar.  I will continue to tend my garden, of course, but my soul’s longings will stretch to October. My only concern is, can I spend the next ten and a half weeks sporadically breaking into, “This is Halloween” without going mad.

I guess we’ll soon find out.  

Lightening Up

A week ago I was at a nearby antique store. It’s a pretty cool place, located inside a monstrous old factory. The rows of antiques flow from massive room to massive room, the walls dematerializing from sheetrock to exposed brick as the spaces become less “done” and truer to their history. The aisles loop around, taking shoppers back from the final, huge warehouse space and back into human-scaled territory. I followed the u-turn of rows–like a rainbow slumped on its side–to a veritable pot of gold. Around the corner I found waiting for me a used book section consisting with numbers of science fiction and fantasy rivaling that of any new book store. And these weren’t just some grandad’s old, beat-up collection of seventies serial sci-fi (although that category was represented), there were tons of modern authors like Gaiman, Williams, Salvatore, Hamilton, Harris and Reynolds. Every category from steampunk to high fantasy had a representative in attendance. I ended up grabbing an armful of two-dollar bargains, seizing the opportunity to both expand my bookshelves and explore some new-to-me urban fantasy. I also picked up a Philip K. Dick complete collection (I’ve been dying to read the real Minority Report), and a handful of random, easy-on-the-brain fantasy titles, including a new Redwall book from Brian Jacques (I have a thing for mice and squirrels with swords).

In all, the selection I chose was fluffier than the usual–nice, short, fun books. And that made me start thinking about the term “Summer Reading” and why we feel compelled to lighten our mental load during the hot months. Does it have something to do with our old schooltime habits? Tossing our proverbial pencils in the air as the last bell rings and turning to more leisurely pursuits? Or is it embedded in our need to shed the heavy weight of winter? As our parkas, boots and sweaters are peeled off, as our diets become leafier and infused with flavors of citrus, do we continue to jettison of all things bulky and cumbersome? As soon as March has a firm hold on us, the tables at the bookstores entitled “Beach Reads” come creeping into the center aisles. I don’t go anywhere near the beach during the summer (despite the fact I live a mere twenty minutes away–it has something to do with heat, sharks and sand sticking to my sunscreen like Shake-n-Bake), but I nevertheless gravitate towards this pile of printed matter like a bird towards the equator. I like to think it’s my inner Peter Pan calling the shots, the little girl who used to sit on the lush grass and read under the shade of a giant tulip poplar insisting I take some time to run through the sprinkler just for the heck of it. It’s hard to deny her that urge; the pure, uncomplicated enjoyment of the shade, a nice swing, and a good book is hard to match.

Summer inspires much in all of us: a compulsion to try our hands at gardening, a yearning to put match to charcoal–and if you’re from the Eastern Shore a desire to sit at a table covered in newspaper and pound the shit out of crabs while eating corn and guzzling beer. But, most of all, I think summer reminds us to find the fun in life, if only one chapter at a time.