Midsummer night, June 21, is the start (not the middle) of summer, not because hot weather or any other nearby thing snaps at our heels and dampens our armpits, but because of events far away in space. The relative position and tilt of sun and earth reaches a certain point, then their slants and orbits revert and the days (periods of daylight) shorten. We note this cosmic watershed by proclaiming the start of summer, a time for vacation and recreation, books and beaches. Historically, and even in some European and South American countries today, humans note these midsummer days, June 21 – 24, by celebrating John the Baptist’s birthday on the 24th, or conversely, by lighting bonfires.
I’ve been tending growing things for five months now here in Virginia, the Eastern Seaboard, North America, the World. I started at the end of January with snow on the ground just outside the wall of our apartment along which I set up the grow light. I planted lettuce and bok choi and broccoli with great hope, rewarded with plenty of all the above, and still being rewarded with broccoli, less welcome now than when we first started harvesting it a month ago. I’ve planted plenty more these five months, much that’s growing well, some that has yielded its bounty or at least promises to do so soon. Surrounded by all this green evidence, I can’t fathom, my gut can not wrap itself around the reality that I have entered a new era, this next frame of time that will take me through September 21 when I’m hopefully harvesting winter squash and planting fall lettuce, to December 21 when likely I will have brought all of this year’s bounty in, the sheaves carried joyfully to the pantry, the freezer, the table. I haven’t picked bean one, yet I’m on a trajectory to winter.
I have a sense people and time don’t get along very well. Some, like me, can’t judge time well and find themselves already in the next bit of it. We have a hard time fitting things in to any given allotted portion of the stuff. Others, are ruled by it, live to serve it rather than the reverse. For them punctuality is a cardinal virtue. To be early is to be on time. A schedule and a habit become Holly Writ, the goal rather than the means to accomplishing whatever it is. World cultures fall into these two camps. In some, you drive to the place you’ve been invited to eat supper and wait in the car until almost the exact moment so you can knock on the door at the precisely correct time. In others, the stated time means an hour or more after the stated time. Members of these cultures, when thrown together, are frustrated and confused, as I am now having crossed the mid-summer peak only to be coasting to Christmas.
I am grateful for things like a garden that requires tending, that changes as it moves through seasons, that forces me to take regular actions in time. I suppose I’m grateful, albeit dubiously so, for bus schedules, work starting and quitting times, for specified mealtimes and, even habits. I don’t get along well with time in a cosmic sense, but I think time and I can manage pretty well if I connect myself to something that moves along, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
Writing words regularly in my journal and on this blog has become another way to move me through, to mark, maybe even connect me to time. The tick-tock of what I write, word after word, whether a long essay, a photo caption, or something in-between, gives form to my experience of time. My dance with words helps me from tripping over my feet as I dance with time. I still can’t believe I’m on the path to winter (the okra, doing well in their individual pots aren’t even planted, yet). Words and the garden give me a meter by which I walk each unbelievable step.