You know that feeling when a long-awaited work break is right around the corner, how every minute seems to drag its heels in ten feet of mud and all the clocks have stopped changing their numbers?It’s late in the afternoon on the second Monday of August. I’m up in my therapy office two hours before my only appointment of the day because no matter what you may have heard, life in Austin, Texas is a recurrent nightmare in which you find out that because of the dissolute life you have lead, you will now spend eternity in traffic hell. It’s risky enough to try to get from here to there at 3:00 p.m.; if I’d left the house any later it would have been an hour’s drive at minimum. Twelve miles.
Outside my office window at least, all is not in stasis; the whoosh of cars flying down toward MoPac in their vain attempt to beat the rush is trumped by the thrilling sound of wind in the live oaks and thunder in the blue-gray sky beyond. Rain is about the only thing that could cheer me at this point. Well, besides the antibiotics kicking in. (A sinus infection has been making my left ear and eustachian tube feel like someone is cleaning them out with a knitting needle. It takes quite a bit to get me to the doctor, and sometimes I leave it till a little too late.)
Vacation is four days away and I am counting the minutes.
While elsewhere in the country this is the prime of summer, we are in the doldrums. This is the time of year when I resolve (typically with little success) to let go of whatever won’t thrive on its own in the garden. Floyd will be in charge of everything for the next couple of weeks and preparing for an adventurous vacation of his own, so he doesn’t need to worry about coddling any plants that haven’t the wherewithal to dig down deep and get through the coming weeks of pressing heat. It’s hard. I’d hoped the lion’s tail (lionotis lionurus) would make it.
Yesterday I cut one of the herb gardens to the ground. If we have any rain, fine; if not, that’s where spinach, chard, and kale – the only foods I seem able to grow – will go in a few weeks anyway. The caterpillars have taken full advantage of all my parsley, so it will be time for a few new plants; I’ll put in flat-leaf for us and curly for the butterflies.
Yesterday also saw me stuck on the couch for much of the day; it hurt too much to move around a whole lot, and I was having a bit of a snit for the wasted time. Bored stiff, I consoled myself by ordering wildflower seeds from The Native American Seed Company. Ordering seeds is always such a comfort.
By October I’ll have cleared away all the non-survivors from the sidewalk garden and all I’ll have to do is stir up the ground a little and throw down handfuls of seeds. At three years of age, the sidewalk garden has enough established plants and enough cactus/agave types to be able to hold its own with just a spray of wildflowers for spring and early summer color. I know we’re supposed to be mad at Amazon for something or other, but how long can I stay mad at an entity that brings stuff to my door almost as soon as I had the notion to buy it?
Other than that, I haven’t done a thing. Now how many minutes is it to vacation?
This past weekend was the superest super moon of the year. I really need to take at least one class in night photography this winter. Floyd always swears that the full moon brings trouble, and as usual he is correct; it’s been a terrible week. Classroom drama; a student’s mother killed in a car wreck; our collective immense devastation at Robin Williams’s death; the horrors playing out around the globe in the name of religion… It all felt like too much.
By the time a vacation arrives, I always feel like Malamud’s sin eater, loaded to the gills with all the worst humanity has to offer. Not surprising when you listen to peoples’ sorrows for a living, but a clear signal that I’ve waited too long to escape.
There were a few joyful moments, though, like the night I brought Travis outside for his last potty of the evening and saw a fat toad in a patch of grass beside the road. I knew I’d heard toad singing in the yard, but I hadn’t seen any yet. He was right on the brink of hopping into the road, and even though our street is quiet, I’ve seen enough flattened toads to want to encourage him back toward the house. I managed to coax him into the bushes, but must assume that after I retreated to the house he turned right around and went where he’d intended to go in the first place.
As I headed inside, I saw his significant other at the corner of the garage. I imagine they are living in a space between the driveway and the foundation. Maybe the ten-second rain we’d had that day drew them out, or maybe they come out every night and I just happen to miss them. Either way, I just love having toads around.
It’s one of the reasons why I put my foot down every time Floyd threatens to call an exterminator just because ants are parading through the kitchen. I prefer to take care of the ants myself and not call someone in who will spray every square inch of the property with poison, wiping out every spider, lizard, and toad who calls our house home. I watched a little lizard die at the hands of a bug spraying guy, and I will never get over it.
See what happens when I am sorely in need of vacation? Even a pleasant interlude spirals into thoughts of suffering and tragedy. Nothing can cure me now but two weeks of Mary, Mary’s cooking, and the Pacific.
It is now Thursday morning, my last day of summer school and my last day of therapy. Tomorrow morning I’ll be doing a non-stop to LAX, and by 1:00 their time we will have crested the hill into Manhattan Beach. I’ll open my car window to get a blast of cool salt-scented air and my first view of the blue expanse, the water that cures everything. A few days of friendship, tradition, biking up and down hills, and great food will have me set right again, happy as Travis with a hose and a ball and someone to play fetch with. My tail will wag for weeks.