I usually look around and find too much time has gone by too quickly, startled it’s as late as it is, but not right now. These days seem to drag slowly by, one…by…one. Summer is over but not yet, really. Wonderful fall is around the corner but it hardly seems so.
Summer sits in its rocking chair, a quilt over its legs, regaling the children sitting at its feet with stories of days at the beach, buckets full of tomatoes, late summer sunsets. It’s like I’m politely nodding, listening to the season we’ve loved so much, now almost spent, waiting, waiting, waiting for autumn. Each day teases me with hints of fall: cooler evenings, raucous cricket choruses, one tree out of a thousand its leaves changing. Still, summer lingers. Is it my over-active imagination, or do the leaves look a little droopy, almost tired, from long months of photosynthesizing sunlight into energy. Can’t we green chlorophyll cells quit working now and fade away to reveal our colorful but shy red, yellow, and orange brethren?
School is in. Summer vacations are over. Tans are fading and digital photos of dad, mom, and the kids at the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone, or Times Square wait on memory cards to be printed and pasted carefully into albums, yet summer refuses to leave. I feel ready for the change, ready to be wearing jackets against the growing coolness of the air, ready to marvel at the leaves, ready to recite poems of autumn. I am anxious for the burning leaf smoke smell in the air and the cool taste of apple cider on my lips.
As much as I love summer produce, especially perfect, ripe garden tomatoes, I’m looking forward to a little break from all that. I’m anxious to harvest my dozens of butternut squash, but hesitate while the vines are still green and growing. Are they thinking they have time to make a few more before it gets cold? I’d like to dig the sweet potatoes to see if and how many we have, but as long as the temperatures stay warm, I should wait a little bit longer.
Waiting. I find it hard to wait for something I look forward to, something I love that’s coming but not yet here. After Christmas eve dinners at Grandma’s house, she and my parents would wash each dish, each spoon and fork oh so carefully, and dry them one by one by one lest any water remain, but really so grandsons and sons, me and my brothers, would have to wait a little bit more, sitting around the tree in sight, in reach of those colorful gifts that were ours but not quite. Those presents were like the autumn apples I love so much, almost here but hanging yet on the trees, almost ready for the first, crisp fall bite, but not quite in my hands.
Waiting. I guess what troubles me a little is wondering what I’m missing while I wait. Do I even know what all passes me by while I’m longing for what comes next? The evening before last I checked on my largest garden plot, Smith, pulling weeds that had gotten away from me, picking the last of the Anaheim and Jalapeno peppers and a few poor specimens of tomatoes. The soil was wet from a lot of recent rain. Even with my improving the soil, that plot still drains slowly. I noticed a pungent smell throughout the whole community garden, unpleasant at first but then not so bad, a kind of earthy, vaguely rotting sourish odor. I had never smelled anything like that before and wondered where it came from.
Maybe these days are a gift, an opportunity to stop, note, and learn what it means to be living in the now but not yet. Maybe I am being given a chance to experience a few new things, the smell of a garden in mid-September, the look of a tired but still active leaf on a tree, the feel of a summer-humid yet fall-cool breeze on my skin. And while I’m waiting for the apples, there are plenty of plums and pears, juicy, sweet and delicious, ready to sustain me through these days of waiting, these days of living.