Want to know the truth? Summer has depressed the yeehaw out of me for the past four years or so, and motivating myself to do much of anything has been a struggle that I've found myself unable to come out on top of. Something about the heat, the sun, the lush green all around me speaks to my soul and pulls me back home ... a place I doubt in my heart of hearts that I'll ever return to for more than a vacation. It's a hard thing. A painful thing. A "push-the-emotion-down-so-you-keep-it-smothered" kind of thing.
Mr. Blandings, Jo, Atticus, Logan ... they've all found soft, fertile soil for their roots here. The rain, the towering trees, the impossibly large mountains all took up residence in their very being within a few short months of calling these pastures home. I look into the eyes of my children and I see their easy familiarity with this climate and these surroundings. Their voices mimic the casual, somewhat clipped speech of the natives. Mr. Blandings sighs deep, long sighs when he pushes the window open on a clear day.
"The air here just smells good," he says, tossing his arm around my shoulder. "Better than coal dust, right?"
I miss coal dust, I want to say. Coal dust and cherry blossoms and days so hot your hair is wet by the time you get back from the mailbox.
Summer: beautiful, yet blindingly bittersweet ... on both ends.
This year, the tug is not quite so intense. My feet seem more solid than they have since they last felt red clay under them. I look around and sense life, wonder and growth. And like the Lord, I can finally say "It is good."
Further proof of my slow acclimation to the Northwest has come in the guise of a small domestic project. This is the first year in a long time that I've turned my hand the gardening way. Our first summer in this clime found me plopping tomato plants into pots, scattering seeds and scratching something lovely out of the raw material of a suburban lot. After a few disasters (the growing season here is pitifully short when compared to the long, hot days of of Georgia, Kentucky or North Carolina summer) I gave up. The pots became hosts to some neglected perennials whose robustness in the face of blatant neglect is almost laughable. The flowers disappeared under the feet of our overzealous German Shepherd. And our yard spiralled into a muddy tract of nothingness that served to depress me even more.
But this summer, hope has been in the air. Not only are we looking to move to a new house with property, but our family finally (finally!) feels as if the gaps are in the process of being filled. Better yet, I am finally open to what I feel God's call has been on my life all along: more mother than writer, more wife than anything else. Life is good--and our yard reflects it.
Using directions from Pioneer Woman's blog, Mr. Blandings fashioned two little beds for me this spring. The kids and I carefully started dozens of seeds in little pots. And then, when the sun finally began to break through the gloom of a Northwestern spring, we filled the beds with our hope and our love.
It's amazing how quickly those tender young plants have grown. They sent their roots deep, drew up what they needed and fortified themselves. Soft, supple stems absorbed a few shocks, but then strengthened in their new environment. Within a short window of time, they were overrunning the area, sending out leaves and tendrils and preparing an offering of delicate blossoms.
Seeing this miracle has given me peace this spring. It has given me an optimism towards the summer months that has been sorely lacking in years past. More than that, it has given me joy. Because even as I tend the little garden that my husband loved me enough to build, I am revisiting my past and carving out my own future. My hands may be far from the soil of home, but still ... they are fruitful. I may not have azaleas or dogwoods in my landscape, but I have a handful of square feet filled to bursting with some spinach, tomatoes and the beginnings of a bean bush or two. Bloom where you're planted, I hear a soft voice whispering. It's o.k. to set your roots.
So I'm doing it. With some sadness, yes. But mostly with joy.