Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer's treasures

On the windowsill above our kitchen sink are a heart-shaped stone from the river and a small bouquet of wildflowers, both gathered by small hands not far from our front door. These are summer’s treasures, and gentle reminders – as I’m doing the dishes, making meals, or sorting mail – of the joyful, fleeting magic of both summer and childhood.

The rock came home from a recent visit to the Ham Branch of the Gale River, where my husband and children took the dog for a quick after-dinner dip and brief respite from last week’s heavy heat. No matter how many toys a child has, it seems the simplest things are the most amusing, and rocks are high on the list. This one, gray and bumpy and fist-sized, became a treasure because of its shape and my 4-year-old’s recent fascination with hearts.

Fresh wildflowers appear regularly in our home and change with the evolving season. The small vase that holds them, an old spice jar, is filled in spring with the bursting yellow of dandelions until the variety of summer blooms through the fields. Now we have yarrow and purple clover, birdsfoot trefoil, daisies, and wild black-eyed Susans.

My son noticed a swath of daisies in a part of the field we can’t see from the house while out mowing with my husband the other day. So, as the heat waned in the late afternoon, we all headed down the grassy path cut through the field to see the wildflowers. Along the way we discovered another of summer’s treasures – wild blueberries.

We have lived in this house for nine summers, and last year was the first we found blueberries. Now that we know they are there, we find the low bushes everywhere. We discovered this year’s first blueberries the same day we picked our first peas from the garden and ate them, sweet and small and warm, straight from the pods. Both the berries and the peas are little, and it takes a good bit of effort to gather just one bite. But, oh, what a bite it is!

On shelves throughout our home, there are treasures from other summers in other places – rocks etched with small fossils, found during a climb on Treasury Mountain near my former home in Crested Butte, Colorado; sparkling white chunks of quartz from an old mine near there; jars of seashells from Cape Cod; a bent mountain bike chain ring that recalls a fun and challenging ride; a small gray stone rubbed smooth by the ocean and picked up along a beach in the west of Ireland.

Winter’s treasures of rosy cheeks, crisp snow angels, and flying ski runs down a mountain are harder to hold inside a house, just as the colors of autumn fade too quickly, and spring’s emergent green grows soon into full-fledged summer. But summer’s treasures are collectible and happy reminders in colder, drearier days that the sun always shines eventually.

This summer is young still, and many of its treasures yet to be discovered, collected, enjoyed. But summer passes quickly in a splash of the pool or the river, a week at the beach, the sounds of laughter in the sunshine. Most of the blueberries in the field now are still green, offering the promise of many pints to pick in the weeks to come. The peas are among the garden’s first gift in this hot, wet summer, and we’re looking forward to harvesting other vegetables growing there, slowly it seems (and enjoying the farmers’ market in the meantime).

Some of the treasures we gather in this season will fade – the fresh lettuce, the clamor of birdsong in morning, the wildflowers in the jar, the sun-browned skin on our faces. Others will keep awhile. We’ll fill the freezer with the extra bounty from the garden and the field – plump blackberries, blanched green vegetables, and zippy basil pesto. A few more treasures will land on shelves and windowsills. In our hearts and memories we hold a bit of every season – fall’s color, winter’s invigorating chill, spring’s awakening, and the treasures of summer.

Original content by Meghan McCarthyMcPhaul, published on her Blog: Writings from a full life. This essay also appears in the July 12, 2013 edition of the Record-Littleton.