For Now





Last summer was a blur…a weepy, sticky haze of emotion. With my oldest just graduating from high school, a global pandemic finally in the rearview (psych!), and my impending reality as a half-empty nester— pride, relief, and fear overlapped like a rubber band ball ready to snap.

 

Except in the garden. 

 

Last season was the first year, I cut the fluff. All that remained were the essentials. 

 

Flowers—for cutting in heaping arrangements.

Tomatoes—for many batches of my ceremonial sauce.

Herbs—because they make everything better.

 

Out with the squash.

Only dabbled in peppers.

And the addition of a wildflower border in the back!

 

It was pure joy even if, as usual, by early August the entire garden blended with the wildflowers. Weeds have their own degree of beauty; I now comfortably rationalize.

 

Then—with the swiftness of a first winter storm, late August moved in. Dorm prep was in full motion and there was finally freedom to fly away on vacation with the fam before we were down a member. Serendipity left me ill-prepared for what came next. 


Covid quarantine. We were among the first Delta variant alumni to utter, “Us? No. We’re vaccinated.” Such idyllic times.

 

Through those strange, strange days of disbelief and dread, it was the zinnias and tomatoes that kept me sane.

 

A friend with proximity to medical advice, fielded truly delirious questions like: “If I make sauce, and freeze it, is there any chance that when we defrost it months later that we’ll get Covid?” And “Is there any chance of me giving Covid to my neighbors while outside picking flowers?”

 

I am indebted to her decisive and empathetic emojis. 

 

As abundant offers emerged for staples like soup, beverages, reading material, supplements, and the coveted oximeter (much more effective than panic in reading oxygen levels btw), I’d text: pick some zinnias and tomatoes! Scissors on the garbage can! 

Last Summer's Haul

Then, I’d add a paranoid quip like: “Don’t worry, I wore gloves when I took them out there!”

 

I find humor to be a highly effective delusion-masking tool.

 

It was an unusual period. Add in that we sent the boys away to their grandparents' cottage because as the kind CDC woman put it, “If they haven’t gotten it by now, they’re safer out of the house.”  Just what every parent mourning her child about to leave for college wants to hear.


Still…as bursts of energy emerged…

 

I made batches and batches of sauce.

Flooded the house with flowers.

Fielded fun pictures from friends enjoying their zinnias and tomatoes.

 

What a colorful, juicy contradiction last summer was. Happy running alongside fear, with gratitude the ever-present assist. 

 

This year, summer’s middle is fast approaching, and I don’t yet have a descriptive. It’s too early to label this full, yet quiet, (where am I?) time. 

 

Except in the garden. In there, the flowers, tomatoes, and herbs are popping alongside the mostly manageable weeds. Harbingers of a beautiful August. 

 

Thankfully, it’s always summer—in the garden. And that’s enough, for now. 




This Summer, So Far...



Either Way





Having a Daisy means twice daily walks. 

 

Fortunately, I love being outside and I adore my dog but not all days are created equal. Some are jam-packed with obligation, others bursting with snow, still others are teeming with lazy. Doesn’t matter, Daisy needs to walk.

 

We have our familiar routes. The short, the medium, and the long with the “wooded” jaunt mixed in. You would think being the human in this equation that I would control which path we take. That would be too simplistic a conclusion.

 

Daisy has a decidedly determined nature. She is not easily taken off-task.

 

When we get to the milestones, the obvious decision points where Daisy knows left means long and right means short, if she doesn’t agree with my decision, she plants her behind on the sidewalk and motions with her neck to say, “This way.” 

 

She’s so darned cute and stubborn. 

 

Most days she nudges me toward the larger loop—which means more exercise and fresh air for both of us. Occasionally, I pull rank with a “Nope, not today” when work or dinner or new episodes of Ozark are calling.

 

Whichever route we take, I never return home thinking, “Wish that walk was shorter!” It’s always the other way around. 

 

As motivating as Daisy is to get me outside and moving, she is the opposite when it come to my writing. In that process, she is my…detractor, preventor, saboteur.

 

The warm snuggler that begs me to hit the snooze button again. The tap, tapper, wanting me to play or go for a walk. It takes willpower to say no to that face. 


But I mostly do because Daisy isn’t the only one with stubborn as a character trait.

 

Words and I have a mutually beneficial relationship. After tossing them around for any length of time, I’m happier, more content, energized. And the world makes loads more sense to me.

 

That said, I am, as the writing community calls us, a “pantser” which means that while I have a general idea of where the story is going, the characters give me the details. I fly by the seat of their pants as I write.

 

Unlike the tried-and-true routes that Daisy and I have carved out for our daily walks, storytelling necessitates taking unknown paths—ones filled with heartbreak and possibility. Not knowing what will happen next is exhilarating.

 

Until it’s time for editing. That’s when we—the characters and me—must sort out if we like where they landed or if there is a more genuine destination. 

 

Editing usually feels like walking in circles looking for potholes that go deeper, then clawing my way out alongside my characters, the whole time wondering…do we always have to go the long way? It’s a fraught process.

 

And just as I am about to throw my hands up and stare off into space wondering, “Why?”

 

Daisy comes tap, tapping and it’s my moment to decide. 

 

Keep going in here or out there?

 

Luckily, either way I win.