Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Garden takes over

Summer abundance. Foliage everywhere. Bay laurel and thyme laurel reach new heights. Tomatoes weighing down their stems. Rose bushes in a sorry state due to too little water and some nasty little spiders. My garden greeted me and reprimanded me. How could you let me get into this state? No one here to care for me through a long hot summer? Barely watered grass, and the rest, completely ignored to do as it might.

My new sprinkler is missing a piece -- so it goes, perhaps it became a toy for the numerous children amongst the renters? -- so I set up the old one, with a very small radius, and every hour or two moved it about the lawn, close to the tomatoes as the evening (relative) cool set in and the danger of the burning sun had passed. I doused the compost pile for a few hours -- hard to make good black earth out of dry, dry, desiccated matter, and there too, I doubt the renters added to it. A pity. The range of plants along my back fence are out of the reach of my hose, so I hooked up a "home-made" attachment (one of my pool hoses) to better soak the climbing roses and the pink oleander. Perhaps one of the climbing roses is no longer (the one I planted this spring, surprise, surprise), but I'm crossing my fingers.

My sore thumbs, wrists and pectoral muscles are witnesses to my gung-ho effort (what is it about being in one's home, without children, and post-vacation that just spurs you on to crazy challenges?) to prune all the bushes. Now, I have to admit my gardening ignorance is high, and, when possible, I have delegated these tasks to others (in general strong men with the proper tools). But this time was different. I was on my own, and rather content to be so, and, I had only a very old and not particularly sharp pair of clippers at hand. Thus, with a rudimentary tool and will power, I went at those bushes, wacking off height, breadth and too many pockets of spiders to count. One pouch sent flying by my efforts landed a handful of miniscule, pale, nearly see-through, baby spiders upon my arms (and no doubt my hair too, but I wasn't really thinking of such as I just kept at it). Good thing Jonas wasn't with me. His fear of spiders already had him sharing my bed far more than once this summer.

Needless to say, I started in the somewhat cooler air of the morning, but by the time I had accomplished my tasks the thermometer was nearing 35C (93F) if not topping it in the sunshine, with more promised as the sun crossed the sky above. As I moved the hose through the kitchen to the front garden and my rose bushes planted there, I felt sad. I do hope my roses will come back next year. The combination of severe dry weather, and these spiders that leave white sticky deposits on the stems is a bit much. I was drastic in my pruning (after reading a gardening book stating that I could prune in August), and hope I've not delivered the fatal blow. They brought me such joy this spring. Never before in my life had I had a rose garden. Such a simple, and for many a trite, pleasure derived from the natural world surrounding me.

Spring in Provence is one of those moments that keep me here. Though the summer can be beastly me hot and send into hiding, the spring is magical, a moment of gathering momentum, colors suddenly transforming from pink to green, blossom making way for leaf, a range of tones and promise that enchants. I thought often of this as I looked around me in Northern Michigan. Could I give up spring in Provence for a new life in these northern woods? Would a magnificent (if very long) winter and glorious autumn compensate? Perhaps, but the nostalgia would be there.

Meantime, it is summer, I'm sweating buckets, and all is cooked, as far as the eye can see. Lethargy sets in, or restlessness. Next burst of energy I'll attack the spider webs all over the house, but for this, first to the store for more vacuum bags. At least the mosquitoes are few.

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