Unexpected Summer

Unexpected Summer

by Keira Havens July 09, 2013

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

My garden is leaping out of its box, throwing hairy tomato leaves about in wild abandon. The clematis is hauling itself out of the ground, tightening tendrils over the trellis with the exhilaration of a climber finding a solid hold on a sheer rock face. And the potatoes! The dainty purple flowers floating in a sea of foliage are beautiful, but the real action is deep beneath the soil, where roots sink, settle, and swell.

It is well and fully summer.

At the same time that the garden is hurtling towards lushness, I feel a sense of completion. A resting place, even though nothing has been finished. Maybe it is the dizzying amount of light and heat that comes with the season, but I have the strange conviction that there are hours enough in the day. That the harvest will come and it will be bountiful.

This confidence is new to me.

Spring was fitful, to say the least. Snowstorms dropped a foot or two of frozen water with metronomic efficiency: each week in April, there would be snowflakes and melting and just enough time for the buds to open before the next storm rolled in. The season slipped past in the way of long things broken up into small pieces, and the time to plant was suddenly in the rearview mirror.

From the perspective of late May, condemning seeds to soil didn’t seem worth the effort. If the seedling survived the inevitable late frost, early summer hailstorms loomed large. An August drought would plunge straight into one murderous frost in the first week of fall, leaving a shattered garden limping towards winter. Colorado doesn’t play softball.

Still, I had the seeds, and the soil was bare. So I buried potatoes under the ground and peas in long furrows across it. I tucked onions here and there. In a moment of recklessness I planted tomatoes and basil side-by-side in a cold frame — weeks before the last frost date.

I planted less than I could have, but more than I really believed would take root.

In June, I spent two weeks traveling, going from airport to conference and back again. The garden was left to its own devices, pencil thin tomatoes and spindly basil cast upon the mercy of the drip line. When I returned, it had been transformed.

The seeds I was so hesitant to plant, thinking I had missed my window, have become beets and carrots and lettuce. The fruits I saw withering on the vine (‘There’s not enough time for them to ripen now, why even bother?’) are instead round pebbles drinking in sunlight and water. That tiny, doubtful effort made months ago has exploded into greenery.

September will come. But today, the whole yard hums with bees.


Keira Havens
Keira Havens

Author

Keira Havens grew up in Hawaii where she was fascinated by flowers, bugs, and the ocean. After receiving her bachelor's in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2004, she accepted a commission in the United States Air Force. She left active duty to pursue a degree in a synthetic biology laboratory and received her MS from Colorado State University in 2014. Along the way, she has volunteered and worked in nonprofit marketing and outreach. She joined Ruminate’s team in 2010 and currently serves as Ruminate's Marketing and Outreach Director.



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