Summer Settles In


The Fourth of July has come and gone, and summer is here for real.

When I leave out early for my summer class, the sidewalks are busy with people walking their dogs, or just walking. Joggers and cyclists vie for space in the bike lanes. It’s time to get your exercise early.

All afternoon kids coming from the pool bike through the ‘hood wrapped in damp towels, and sell lemonade on street corners. Later they’ll be back at the pool with their families, while the streets are redolent with the unmistakable aromas of grilling. At our house Floyd may cut open a watermelon; you might look into our kitchen window to see us standing at the sink with fresh slices dripping.

Are some aspects of summer the same everywhere? Even in those places where temperatures remain steady from one end of the year to the other, doesn’t summer signal a time of slowing down, setting aside routines, and seizing every chance to take a day off?

I hope it does.

Once again we’ve had a nice long spring, but it was clear to me that something had changed when I found myself buying fabric and ironing tissue patterns. ??? The weather had managed once again to make outdoor play somewhat unpleasant during the middle of the day, and though it’s a whole lot better than February, I was still spending an inordinate amount of time indoors. Might as well make something.

Besides, there’s not much to do inDSC_0131 the yard at this point. It’s too hot to plant anything. We don’t have enough water to stand around playing with the hose. It’s a good time of year to trim live oaks, since the beetle that transmits lethal oak wilt is not very active during the coldest nor the hottest months; but I wouldn’t dare trim a really valuable tree. However, I do like to photograph the one that lives across the street.

While I was standing there sweating over the tripod snapping way too many photos of the sun going down among the clouds, the young couple whose yard this great tree graces pulled into their driveway. Naturally they were curious about what I was doing, and we got to chatting – mostly about the new little boy they’ll be bringing into the neighborhood in a few weeks. Well, he’s already in the neighborhood; we just haven’t seen him yet. New babies are always turning up around here.

It’s a good time to stand around and chat.

Apart from some trimming and bug chasing, the garden doesn’t need much. I give the newest perennials lots of drinks from the rain barrel, make sure the two bird baths have clean water, and remind the plants that we are all sagging at four p.m. so don’t panic.

It’s a good time for cloud-watching, and DSC_0051seeing creatures like this giant cloud dog run from treetop to treetop. Sunlight has a weight to it now, and though shade isn’t truly cool any more, we can say it is slightly less incendiary than pure unadulterated sun. So in a way you can feel the clouds as they move across the sky. If you are lying on a garden bench, it can be hard to keep your eyes open. Maybe that’s really a rocking-horse cloud…zzz.

These are the big issues we confront in summer.

DSC_0004I had a very pleasant surprise the other morning when I was passing out drinks to the new plants near the northwest corner of the house. Among the thousands of feathery leaves on stalks studded with the most grabby thorns on earth, the fragrant mimosa had produced three flowers (see the pink-white-pink line-up?).

This is a native mimosa (Mimosa borealis), not the typical Albizia julibrissin, that beautiful Asian native sadly relegated to monsterpest status. If you were to drive through east Texas in springtime, you would see hundreds of Albizia julibrissin lush with ethereal pink blossoms; and if you were walking through the woods near them, you would smell the mildest pink smell imaginable. I just love some monsterpest plants.

I have every confidence, however, thatDSC_0003 I will love Mimosa borealis just as much. I leaned in close to the flowers – about as big across as a nickel – and detected a faint, mildly sweet scent. Excellent plants always give you something to look forward to; and this one, even when it’s not flowering, makes really pretty shadows on the brick wall all afternoon.

The air was still, so I hurried inside for the macro lens. We hadn’t gone to the fireworks this year; who’d want to drive all the way out to the Circuit of the Americas track to watch them, only to spend three hours getting out of the parking lot? Not us. We haven’t gone to the fireworks since the days when we could bike down to the Congress Avenue Bridge (one year I biked and Floyd skated). Point being, you don’t need fireworks when you have flowers like this:


The Pride of Barbados are beginning to bloom, and that’s always a happy event for me. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of such exotic flowers. Our Esperanza lags behind every other one in the neighborhood, but at least I can watch hummingbirds do their pendulum swing into and out of the bright yellow bells across the street. Every morning the gourd plants have three or four new blossoms, and every morning they are filled with honeybees. I can’t imagine I’ll actually get any gourds, but I don’t really need gourds anyway.

The air is electric with cicadas all day and all through the night. Mockingbirds seem especially fond of chowing down on the giant crunchy dudes. I find myself feeling badly when I see one being flown off still rrrt-rrrt-rrrting away as if awaiting rescue. No knights in shining armor in the insect world, I guess.

And yesterday a little rat put me in a terrible bind.

I’d placed a tall bucket by the back door in which we might collect extra kitchen water – you know, like the water that runs while you’re waiting for it to heat up, or the rinsings of the coffee pot. When I went to grab the bucket to deliver it to the herb garden, what was there in the bottom but a little rat?

Now hardly anything is less attractive than a rat running along your fence in the dusky evening hours, or flying out from under a plant you are watering; much less crunching away in your cabinet or behind your wall. But a wet little rat swimming helplessly, drinking away, looking up at you with great big eyes? What was I supposed to do?

I’m not happy about this! I grumbled at the wet little punk as he ran across the yard toward the blue plumbago.

It’s summer. All rules are off.




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