By Linda Bergeron
It is the cool of the evening in the first week of July. It was nearly 90 degrees in the late afternoon, but now, at an eight o’clock dusk, with the brightness of the sun having long descended westerly over the ridge, the cool greens of the varied tree leaves, the bushes, and the watered lengths of grass create a softening in the quiet.
Where are the evening birds? The drops from the upward cascade of the sprinkler in the strawberry bed also dowse the nearby maple, its bottom leaves bobbing under every hit, while the plaza of a thousand blades of grass are silently drenched. Each small activity is noticeable in the great pause of day’s decline. A single wingéd thing darts through the yard’s low cathedral and is quickly gone.
The moment feels like a whole trail of seasons in a single day. While the slow hours of a distant winter, in memory, would have dragged its long gray drape – occasionally freshened in whiteness – and dulled by the constant cold – here, in summer, a day evolves through many incredible changes.
Long before dawn, when the first solitary bird sounded a meek minor key announcement shyly, and the un-darkness began in the northeast casting change upon the highest places, day moved in. It will be a slow April-almost-May series of moments in these early hours as the sun sends brushstrokes of light to touch further and further down toward the bottom of the hillsides, bringing brightness, cow calls, the slow waking day sounds. Had one looked at the mountains earlier there may have been that glow of pink upon the last snow tops when the un-awakened valley was still in old night’s shadow.
Remnants of spring stand as spent bloomed irises, their now-shabby tops upon still-strong stems; as the decadent poppy leaves, bleached and fallen over; as violet leaves (once the first tiny green when still there was snow), but now like enlarged green hearts thrilled with the early summer moments. Potato plants in rows are vibrant and thirsty; cucurbits are gaining in health, vigor, and size by the hour. The peas are crowding themselves and pendulous, all of white blossoms gone, tendrils reaching, in silence asking, ‘Where’s the string? Oh, I’ll grab hold of you! Upward we go!’ They dangle their pods so they won’t be forgotten, for their peak moments are so very near.
The basil impossibly gets greener in their scant gloss, its leaf edges curling slightly down from their rims so they can thrust their surfaces ever more so toward the sun. The tomatoes are surely deciding this very day if they can proceed upward and bush out now, or if they cannot possibly recover from that earlier weakness, and will look sad or hang low, unexcited by the season….
It is only mid-morning and dawn was such a long time ago. When the dew is fully surrendered away to the burden of the heated and breathtaking air, and the sky is the bluest blue, and the sun shines down upon it all like a great blessing of life, it is without doubt a summer day.
The heat builds up in the great surround of the valley, lying still to the utmost in some places, shimmering in others. Were we idle enough, we could patiently watch to see the grass blades heighten, or measure the amazing rapid changes in the corn.
It takes nearly a full summer of light for the day to go on toward its end, to the banter of the birds as the radiant light begins to fall from its angle, dwindling ever so slowly into little shadows in the other direction, inching up then dissolving to non-existence.
There is a quiet, and a change of activity. It has been like an evolution of seasons in but 15 hours, as darkness moves closer in, and the cool returns. Indeed, a summer day.
Originally published in Hells Canyon Journal, July 27, 2011