Summer gets so still–it’s been sweltering hot for days now, and the cricket’s chirp under the floorboards is slow and hypnotic. It sounds as tired as I am. The birds’ chirping is quieter too, and the constant hum of the cicadas seems to be in a lower pitch, as if they are losing decibels as the season goes by. I get into a funk at the end of summer that feels similar to the stagnation that comes at the end of winter. A warm weather seasonal affective disorder–I wonder if anyone else gets this? I guess I thrive on the change of the seasons, and when they last a little too long, like winter and summer, I feel drained. Fall and spring are lively and full of changes, but summer and winter really make you sit in place for a while.
This was a strange summer, in many ways. After an early severe dry spell almost to the point of drought, followed by a heavy deluge of rain, we received an explosion of mushrooms that was dizzying in its scope. There were thick patches of massive boletes every step you took. I’ve never seen so many Old Man of the Woods and Bicolor Boletes. The amount of coral mushrooms was astounding–purple, white and gold–so many that if you squinted you could imagine the mycelium was everywhere under the soil. And so many mushrooms that I couldn’t identify! It was thrilling, and after the rush of boletes (which usually seem to come out in late June) there was an onslaught of black trumpets and chanterelles that made everyone rejoice. The past two years I found no black trumpets, so this year was a real treat. I located a few new patches of chanterelles, as well. I restrained myself from picking too much. It’s hard to resist sheer bounty, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes my eyes are indeed too big for my stomach or even the pantry.
After the rush of mushrooms had passed, the normal drying out of August returned. Now it’s September, and my neighbor is burning a huge pile of brush. I can hear it crackle in the distance. The smoke is a welcome smell, one of autumn and changing seasons. The change of the seasons is something I rely on in life, and I’m not sure I could live without it. Perhaps that’s why I feel so out of balance–the seasons have been so strange due to the climate change we are going through. When I stare out into the trees, I eagerly see the fade of the green, and the tinge of yellow subtly start, the start of the leaves changing color.
The crackle of the fire from my neighbor’s yard startles me from thought. She must have put some extra wood on, and it snaps and rustles like dried leaves. A fire sounds like a good idea, right about now: to burn, to cleanse, to stare in the flames. The garden has been very disappointing this year, due to the chaotic weather, and I am not the only one who has been affected. An informal poll says everyone suffered this year, even true farmers who make it their business. I like to remind fellow home gardeners not to take it too personally, because I know I do. Maybe that’s another reason why I get low this time of year–all the exuberance of the early garden is stripped away, and you are left with a pile of blight-stained tomato vines that you need to burn.
Even amidst all this prickly heat, I try to cling to the good things like a tenacious vine. There are trays of tomatoes all over the house, despite the blight. There is a half-bushel box of plums waiting to be made into jam–a mix of Elephant’s Heart, that has an unassuming khaki skin with a stunning crimson center, and huge goose-egg sized prune plum, I think called Early Italian. A tidy bundle of garlic hangs high up on the screened-in porch wall. There is a patch of beans that are going crazy despite the odd weather–I initially thought they were black turtle beans but they are starting to reveal that they are actually Ideal Green Market green beans. I knew I had mixed up the seeds–they look very similar. The abundance is still there, and I cling to it as I sit still and wait out the end of the season.