Tag Archives: summer

What I Brought Home

Summer comes hurtling towards earth on its heated equinox, an axis brought to a boil over months that travel at a fierce, flaming gallop.  Their intense progress swirls the sky into a seething panic.  And on its first day, the sun will bear night and day aloft at equal height, as Justitia holds the scales of justice.  The hours share the benefits of the new season, before autumn begins to claw its way towards its dark, harvest dominance.

I would venture out into the early summer evening, to watch the changing sky, the skeins of evaporating clouds, the caramel sun.  But when I returned, the only souvenirs I had were the constellations of mosquito bites on my arms and legs.  There was a cache of stars inside my elbow; burning recollections.  As I walked, I felt as if the remnants of that angry, heated day were seared into my skin…as if I carried shards of moons and stars back into my home.

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No Distinguishing Marks

In 1897 Max Beerbohm wrote a charming little bon mot entitled ‘The Happy Hypocrite.’ The titular character was a shocking, shameless dandy. He enjoyed a graceful, debauched life.

Until he fell in love.

However, she was a strong-minded innocent and repulsed by his approaches, by his face made ugly by a dissipated life. The man she marries, she declared, must have the face of a saint.

Distracted, this dandy found a very specific artist, an architect of masks. He had one made with the face of an angel, and it was molded to his face. He searched out his love once more, unrecognized and beautiful. They married.

But a woman from this rake’s past approached him and demanded that he remove his painted visage. Reluctantly he did and was amazed – along with his former mistress – to find that contentment and true love had wrought a remarkable change on his face. It was now indistinguishable from the mask.

Similarly, the street sign stood engulfed – it too was indistinguishable. It was obliterated by a curling garden that climbed like parasitic filigree, lissome and hungry. The steel marker was devoured, its banner threatened by a graffiti of roses and jasmine. Never had there been such a bower of vandalism, never had there been such delicate destruction.

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But this was not a hostile takeover. Rather, it seemed as if the metallic defenses of the city’s indicator welcomed the latticework of vines and the starry, chaste flowers. It must have been a ticklish business, feeling the tiny green movements and blossoms as fragrant as a boudoir.

The ascending growth dripped chlorophyll onto the cut and perforated metal. Butterflies visited to feast, dappling the structure with frost from their illustrated wings. The sign, blinkered by a bouquet of leaves and petals, had succumbed to a higher power.

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And perhaps, in the fullness of time, the invasive borders will be cut away. But the unknown gardener will be confounded, for he will find that the sign will have vanished, the street doomed to anonymity. All that will be left would be a single green sapling.

Maybe that is the way of all cities, to be replaced by networks of forests. Perhaps it is their destiny, to return to their earthly dominions, to dissolve into the twisting labyrinths of their fertile homes.

On Holiday

“Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve…”

– the monk of Winchcomb, 13th century

During the summer, the sky swerves and tilts on a new axis. It slides on its equinox like a child sliding down a stairway banister. Summer Solstice, bronzed as any sunbather, lingers high overhead, lingering in Cancer’s Tropic. The shadows of St. John’s Eve leach into the stones of Stonehenge and then are cast across the grasslands of Wiltshire. The stories and thoughts of the prehistoric builders are revealed – but no one has yet been able to read them.

At twilight, the whimsical sky is crowded with revelers. Constellations, long absent from the carnival stage, begin to arrive. A menagerie of holiday visitors – eagles (Aquila), swans (Cygnus), foxes (Vulpecula), horses with starry wingspans (Pegasus) dance an orbit to an astral harp (Lyra). The trace work of their steps pierces the indigo fabric in a metallic frost.

The astrological wheel turns along the summer ecliptics and celestial equators. When it stops, Sagittarius the centaur is rearing against the sky, pocked with nebulae and stars, shouldering his quiver of arrows. Scorpius, bright with novas and poison, waits. Libra, outlined with a distant harvest of blue, orange and red stars, prepares to carry its scales of justice and good behavior during the liveliest of seasons.

Sunsets are very gala. They are the color of sweet cocktails – honey and Benedictine, sangria with plums and nectarines, champagne and peach. They are warm and melting – coating the horizon with an invitation to an evening of celebrations.

During the carnival evenings, planets are eager to crowd into the sky. If the moon is curved into a crescent, they hang from her geometric grace like jewels. If the moon is full, wearing her summer colors – Strawberry, Rose or Red – she casts a cherry-colored cloak across her new neighbors. Mars and Saturn ride lowest on the horizon, drinking in the last of the sunset’s sugared alchemy. But Jupiter is bold and bright, sailing like a radiant ship towards the moon’s blushing presence.

When summer’s hot allure is exhausted, the sky revolves once more to reveal unfamiliar populations and landscapes that bend over a ripe solstice, a golden equinox heavy with crops. Constellations float in the thin, cold air: dolphins (Delphinus), fish (Pisces), whales (Cetus) swim in oceans kept full by the Aquarian water bearer. The full moon dons her working garb: Harvest, Hunter’s.

Breezes as chilly as lace curl like a fichu across the diamante bosom of the modest sky. They kick up gusts of meteors and shooting stars: the Orionids, the Taurids, The Leonids – even the final sweep of the Perseid meteor shower.

Stars that did not take these giddy rides are left behind, glittering and lonely in the cinnamon sky. They are scattered like the ribbons and furbelows of the departed revelers’ indulgences. They were the madcap reminders that tickled the crooked backs of the workers in the fields, the residues of warmth that whispered of the pleasures they had missed.

I Hate Summer

I hate summer.

With the onset of its equinox boiling in the sky, insects begin to bloom like teeming gardens. From wood, curtains, carpets one wanders through a seething soup of unwelcome life for three unwelcome months.

I hate summer colors. In the sky they are blank and innocuous, with none of the sculptural intensity of clouds, save for the occasional low cirrus ceilings loaded with moisture – so low I could reach up and pull them towards me, trying to shake some sense into them.

On clothes summer colors are loud and foolish. They lack subtlety and wit. Summer clothes lack style – their only objective is to display bodies and limbs made taut through a spring of diet and torture.

I hate summer foods. They are light and lack interest. They are delicate. They labor under the misapprehension that just because one is enduring the inexcusable summer heat, one can only consume edibles whose only advantage is that they are cold and/or simple. Recipes are designed to keep one out of the kitchen – but has no one ever heard of delivery? Some say that ice cream is a summer food – I will say that if you consider ice cream a one-season food, then I can only pity you.

Foods spoil in the heat. Stomachs are in an uproar with flus and viruses – whether for 24 hours or for a week. I should know – I’m just getting over some sort of bug-bout myself.

I hate the summer heat – it builds and builds inside me like a sealed cauldron: a mushroom cloud waiting inside my torso. It sickens my blood. It saddens my heart. I hate the summer heat at night – it makes the darkness fidgety and nervous, like a jungle that is blistered with impatience.

I hate the summer air. It is thick and lifeless. It stuns the flowers and trees, turning their DNA sere and feverish – shocking them into losing their color. The viscous atmosphere smothers all breath and stills the wind. From each of their four corners of the map they turn their faces away, sullen and quiet.

And most of all, I hate summer in Southern California.

Because I know that things are so much worse everywhere else…and so I shouldn’t be complaining at all.

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Jacaranda

Like a lavender propeller

As capricous as a feather

As focused as a stone

It fell in a dismal spin

Into gravity’s hypnotic embrace

 

From a canopy that spread like a garnet cloud

A feminine twilight

In filigree flight

Flagrant and fragrant

It was detached, still in its summer youth

 

And I watched the tiny, delicate descent

A silent and subtle thing

Blossom before the tree

Child before the parent

In gentle acquiescence

Resting beyond my troubled hands

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A Wild Bouquet

They reach across the sidewalk, green curls that twist at throat level, ready to submit a quick garroting to the unsuspecting traveler.  No amount of effort can tear them apart:  they are as tangled and loyal as lovers.

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Two obstinate vines that have leapt over the garden wall:  the breeze gives them chase, and they bounce in the air that hunts and hurries.    A botanical filigree that is suspended in summer’s rich air, they are lonely, misplaced decorations.

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Pale blossoms erupt from the green skin of the escapees, distorted like the faces of sulking children.  Dry blooms, parched and coiled, they live within the vines; their pouting petals aligned along their parents’ winding spines.  They should be ugly, these parched and irregular buds.  However, they thrive within Nature’s flourishing breath and are touched with her earthly creativity:  the wisdom that is rooted in the ground.  They were born out of her imagination:  therefore they are unpardonably lovely.

Even though they scratched my face as I walked, unsuspecting, straight into them.  Even though their impulsive coils upset my thoughts.  For all of their mischief, they were still the products of fertile grace, a wild bouquet that was there for the catching.

A Heated Argument

When I was walking home, I felt the microcosm of summer, a bauble gleaming like a bronzed sunset, land on my shoulder.  This gleaming toy began to whisper to me, telling me its secrets, its axis of seasons, its golden solstice.

I listened to its confidences.  It took pride in its air, where molecules were jostled and pushed into a thick equation of stillness and warmth.  It explained that throughout its turgid currents there ran a glistening drift of coolness, a cold metallic blessing woven into its heated tapestry.   It was a promise that autumn would always lurk in its sky like mercury reflecting behind a mirror…and that perhaps I should be patient.

The Windblown Time

The summer flowers have lost their innocence, their fresh chlorophyll drying to a standstill within green, clogged veins.  Their scent is a final gasp, rather than a graceful birth…their colors are garish, beyond their prime and on the brink of death.  Yet the affable season continued the discussion, making sure I was aware that the flowers’ slow liqueur only reached their pinnacle during the summer months.

The Overwhelming Air

I was aware of this.

During this heated time birds either migrate to cooler climates or rest in the trees in a stunned silence.  There was a time when the leaves would jump with mystery as their unknown occupants clutched at branches and fluttered with vexation.  Quorums of sparrows disputed, mockingbirds hissed and battled…but not during summer.  The shorebirds I loved – whimbrels and godwits carving the sand with sabre-like beaks,

Swords in Sync

sanderlings darting across the beach in packs of tiny earth-bound clouds…gone for the summer.  The heated breath in my ear explained that perhaps other regions should enjoy these birds’ song and flight illustrating the blank air.  Perhaps they should get the chance to read the tiny footprints in the sand; the dainty, flickering hieroglyphs.  Perhaps.

A summer sky during the day is bland and soft:  an expressionless face, without texture or wrinkle.  It is a vacuous hothouse, heated by a single star that tears a white corner out of the sky.  The summer night, however, burns with stars.

The Scalded Sky

Constellations – Scorpio, Hercules – and triangles made from Vega, Deneb and Altair – bloom out of the horizon like jeweled gardens.  There now, I heard the triumphant reasoning in my ear – isn’t that pretty?  But I prefer the harvest moon, the wolf moon,

The Moon Sails in Arcs

The Moon Sails in Arcs

its scythe and jaws fierce and penetrating through the cold twilight and swirling Delft-colored clouds.

By now, summer’s heated argument was weighing heavily on my shoulder.  Its points of debate were gallant, but I was having none of it.  I twitched my shoulder, and the golden bauble stumbled onto the sidewalk, shattering into a thousand prisms – its final bewitching challenges.  But I stepped over this wasteland of regret and continued walking and waiting.

Waiting

They were waiting.  Their shapes were wilting; the fine edges becoming dim and unfocused, like aged eyes.  Their chlorophyll was running thin through a green cartography that was drying into faded rivers.  The palm print of Summer pressed with an alchemist's anticipation – but the leaves, the waiting leaves, fought the heated transformation.

The triumph of Spring was over.  Their birth had finished, when they had emerged in verdant curls from stems thick with the muscular promise of a growing season.  Their green scent had been dainty and cool; Persephone's fragrance heralding her return from black obscurity.

But now the sun had run rampant across the sky; his heat turning the blue eternity into a blank wilderness.  The leaves curdled during the fierce day; their fatigue betraying their internal botany.

So they were waiting.

They were waiting for the season of harvests; for the smell of horses waiting in the yellow fields, shivering under a rising equinox:  they were waiting for the sunsets to burst in their veins, so they could fall once more into the darkness.

 

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I Listen For My Voice

I have become reconciled to Spring.  Even though it puts the soft chills of Autumn and Winter to flight, I do not resent that pastel-colored season.  If Summer is a lazy voluptuous woman, immobile in her thick and fragrant bower, then Spring is blithe and slim: as changeable as sunlight under water, breaking into watery prisms, impossible to count.

Spring is busy.  Nature's offspring are born during that verdant time, when the earth becomes lush again and the air is blue and spinning.

During these months, birds become loud, reckless and bold.  Where I live, real estate is at a minimum, and the days are strident with their arguments.  Gables, street signs, garages, rooftops – all are populated with perfect creatures that maneuver through the air with a mathematical ascendancy.

Their songs pierce the sunlight until the golden fabric becomes a pattern of their febrile joy. 

When I walk to work, I always pass by a row of decorative shrubs: prickly, tropical and dense.  Once, I heard in their sultry depths the plaintive pwee-pwee of a newborn bird – too childish to realize the danger of its voice.  I stopped, hoping I could discern where the nest was.  It was then that I saw a peculiar machine perched on top of the shrubbery.  It was a mockingbird, rising its wings up and down like an automaton, a heraldic toy.

It was trying to make itself as intimidating as possible.  But despite this whimsical masquerade, I moved closer.  It was the sight of its needle-like beak, ready to embroider the skin of any intruder, that finally gave me pause.  I spoke a few calming words, all the while waiting for the gasp of wings: the impatient breath in my ear should I not be retreating quickly enough.

I have often thought about the words I spoke to that angry parent.  Mockingbirds are famous mimics, and I imagined this bird measuring my voice, analyzing its tonal equations.  And I hope to hear it again one day, coming back from its green, concealed places or floating down to me from the sky.

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