Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Sweet Part of Summer

If I had to choose a favorite season, I'd pick fall. Something just comes alive in me when it's time to get out my red chamois shirt, the one with lots of holes worn in the sleeves. It's been my autumn companion for decades. Maybe I like this season because I'm a Libra; who can say.

But a close runner up, in the All-Time Perfect Season category, would be early summer. I'm not talking August here. Weeks of three digit heat, frazzled flower beds, air choked with forest fire smoke, sizzling cars, iced offices: not my idea of summer.

The summer I'm liking is the one that's outside the door right now. Mellow. Moist. Rich. Sweet as can be. That's the summer I like.

Just mowed the lawn and then set out a sprinkler. Oh my goodness...look at the shocking purple of those six foot larkspur! I know they're toxic to cattle, but can you imagine a more regal and, at the same time, scruffy flower! Some kind of gypsy flora, I'm thinking. While mowing, I apologized to the bees for chopping off the giddy white spheres of flower on the clover. The lawn looked like it had been hammered with hail before I mowed. Saddened that I took the bees' treasure, I referred them to the hundreds of Barbie-pink pentstemon, the gawky stalks of yarrow, and the inviting pastel cups of mallow. I also reminded them that the clover would be back in a few days.

In early summer, plants are in a good mood. They're not stressed, quite yet, with Sol's stare. Among the happy blooms are columbine. I like the whimsy of yellow columbine clamboring around in my aspen grove. Posted in an idyllic setting of dappled shade, rattly leaves, and moisture, these odd-shaped blooms are thriving. Columbine, whose scientific name refers to their eagle-like shape, are fun flowers. They're hardy and long-lived and prolific. Columbine greet me in late spring, keep blooming for months, and generously spawn new generations.

I'm liking the early summer explosion of the giantic shade tree in my back yard. A "trash" tree, this elm is demeaned by power company staff and horticulturalists alike. But mine is SO huge and shades the house so well, that I rarely need to turn on the air conditioning. It is my summertime friend. Right now, this tree is draping long strands of lovely green leaves above the yard like a Southern debutante. Oh my! Just look at this sweet shade, will you, Ellie Mae?

And the summer morning sounds! I tune out the neighbors' mowers et al and zero in on the gossipy sparrow chirp, the lilting giggle of goldfinch, and the sharp curse of crow. Earlier killdeer and robin had offered their hymns to morning and, on our run, quail broadcast and red-winged blackbird trilled.

The aromas of early summer are hard to match. When I unlock my front door, the fruity sweet of petunia and cranebill geranium greet me. When I perch next to the hummingbird haven, it's the tangy drift of lavendar, phlox, and delphinium. And when I wander to the raised beds, it's the lucious explosion of just-ripe strawberry and the rich pinch of dill and cilantro before they bolt. Mint and oregano rim many flower beds and they're spraying their scent everywhere, all the time!

Yes, I'm thinking early summer is almost my favorite season. I'm savoring every single minute of this lucious time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Knit One

Knitting has been a special hobby of mine for awhile. I've made lots of scarves, baby clothes, hats, sweaters, and even a coat. I've written poetry about the precious gift of knitting:

Each stitch is infused with hope,
not just to become garment,
not just to warm or grace,
but another kind of hope,
a prayer,
a wish,
a memory,
to be preserved in fiber.

from "Knitting," The Silence of Bright Star

But last weekend I was blessed to work on the most important piece ever and to work with the most precious yarn ever. I knitted a laprobe for my daughter out of yarn spun from the hair of her stunning dog Marilyn. An Audrey Hepburn of a dog, Marilyn was pure grace, with a ladylike prance and a model's posture. She would delicately cross one paw over the other as she reclined. Incredibly beautiful, she turned heads, with her glossy black fur and electric blue eyes. When my daughter and I helped Marilyn cross over the Rainbow Bridge last June, this planet lost one of its elegant queens. She was royalty, through and through.

So knitting something for my daughter, something that was part of Marilyn was a thrilling prospect. I couldn't wait to see and feel the yarn that Christine O'Hara ( created. Christine posted a picture of Marilyn (shown in this blog) while she was spinning Marilyn's hair. Surprisingly the yarn was dark brown, even though Marilyn's coat looked black. The undercoat was lighter than the outer and that must have comprised most of the hair combed from Marilyn. The yarn was very soft, like angora or cashmere. I was anxious to transform it with my needles.

And what an ideal setting for me to do so! My daughter's current dog, Trudy (described in an earlier blog), and I spent almost four days together at a blissful hideaway, a house tucked among twelve acres of pinot noir grapes in the wine country of central Oregon. We had perfect knitting weather in this edenic spot: lots of rain and one day of blissful sunshine. Trudy and I sat in the living room enjoying the view and the quiet or lolled in the grassy yard enjoying the birds and the trees and the vista and the quiet. I knitted and Trudy sniffed and snoozed.

Knitting Marilyn was magic. Each stitch was special. The yarn was supple and fine to the touch. Each row brought new sensory pleasure. I was able to knit a laprobe about 18 by 28 to keep my daughter warm. I found a light blue mohair wool mix for trim, echoing the striking light blue of Marilyn's eyes. I liked the result: a fuzzy dark piece of love, looking much like a bearskin, edged in pale sky. Trudy liked it too; when I spread it out on the carpet she stepped onto it, laid down, and closed her eyes. It was sweet seeing the white dog asleep on the hair of the dark dog.

I was pleased to help transform a memory into a momento. Marilyn's presence was all around me as I knitted, a continuation of her insistence on being with my daughter all the time. "The apron strings on this one are short," my daughter used to say. This dog wanted nothing more than to be with the precious creature who rescued her and, even after she left this realm, she was able to be with her. I am so blessed to have helped.