Another Day in the Country
© Another Day in the Country
Today promises to be hot again. I keep telling the plants, hold on! One of these days the weather suddenly will cool, summer’s heat broken, and won’t we all rejoice? They don’t answer, of course, because they are busy surviving. You’ll flourish in September and October, I tell them.
The only things setting on the porch these days are tomatoes I’ve picked, filling up a seat of a rocker — a midpoint between vine and stew pot.
My sister is out watering her flower gardens. She does this every morning, often wearing this long white shift she adores — hose in one hand; pulling weeds, tending flowers with the other. The scene is so beautiful, pastoral, that I grab my camera and take a picture, zooming in from half a block away.
I hear a diesel truck warming up next door. Farmers are harvesting — probably corn, I’m thinking, which is standing dry and depleted in the fields. It seems earlier this year — corn harvest — and it also seems hotter, longer.
My cousins who grew up here tell me it’s always been this hot in Kansas. They remember long days on a tractor without air conditioning. They recall horrendously humid, hot days, pitching bales in June and July.
My most vivid memory is coming back to Ramona in August for several years when we were fixing up Ramona House — this ramshackle cottage on Main St. We blamed the heat on August. Little did we know!
“Why don’t you girls get up at 6 in the morning?” Uncle Hank wanted to know. “Do your painting then, when it’s not so hot.”
We hadn’t thought of it. We were just powering through, trying to get a coat of paint on a house that hadn’t been painted in years. It was so hot that paint began drying on the brush before it was applied to the board. We changed tactics. Got ’er done! Learned something.
These days, the early morning hours, which most often are serenely lovely in a small town, find us watering, preparing for the onslaught of the day.
I was looking at the trees in my yard, this morning: apple, tulip, magnolia, Bradford pear, bald cyprus, liquid amber, Cottonwood, amazed at the size of them. They are lovely, big trees now, and when I planted them it was so hard to imagine the size they would become. It is so satisfying to plant trees for the future and then watch them grow.
After I’d bribed my grandson to learn the names of vegetation and animals in the yard and he’d arrived back in California, I texted him, “It’s hard work, but lots of fun to build something — whether it’s building a house like your grandpa and I did in California (which you are now enjoying) or planning a yard like we did here in Kansas. I hope you get the chance to do that in your life.”
“Oh, I do it in Minecraft all the time, Baba,” came the reply, “and I have this new game where you can create and design a whole planet. I’ve been working on one. I’m anxious for you to see it.”
I paused before texting back.
“I’m sure it’s beautiful.”
He’s such a good designer. I tell him he should become an architect.
If you were forecasting the future, would you predict that this new generations of kids, who’ve teethed on technology, will learn to appreciate the difference between virtual and reality?
Will they be as fascinated watching real trees grow as the blocky greenery that stands for trees on a video game — even though they actually grow, which is quite miraculous in a game?
But, seriously, will they eventually enjoy digging a real hole in unfamiliar soil to plant a possibility? Will they care for it? I hope so!
That’s one thing I’ve loved about living in the country and living here long enough that we’ve gotten to see trees grow up. We’ve lost some along the way: the cherry tree went kaput, the dogwood never really took off, and the birch that finally gave up the ghost. They just weren’t meant for Kansas, I guess.
For so many years in my early life, I never even planted tulip bulbs because there was little assurance I’d see them bloom in the spring. I never knew when we’d be moving on. I hated that feeling of constantly moving somewhere.
But here, in Ramona, we’ve planted trees, put down roots, and we’re spending another day in the country.