A block down the street from my home, there are folks who planted a raised-bed vegetable garden, right in their front yard. I watched it go in, with tiny stakes and then brave, green shoots shot up and I wondered how it would fare. It is lush right now, filled with leafy green plants drooping, just slightly, over the edges of the wooden border. It appears not to have suffered the neighborhood deer, thinking it was a well-placed snack tray.
My tiny garden was planted this week, my latest-ever attempt. But I figure with global warming I should be able to harvest in October and not worry about frost on the pumpkins 'til the end of the month. And I just planted my flower baskets. I know, but I've been distracted and busy and when I had free time, I just sat on the porch swing. Or on my tiny, postage stamp-size deck, off my bedroom. Sometimes with a book or a notebook. Sometimes, I just stared at the birds. Or the tree branches swaying. Or the sunsets the endless, full sky, Technicolor sunsets.
I sleep each night now with all the windows and doors (that have screens) completely open. It is like my own customized camping trip, without the bugs or lumpy sleeping bag. And with a hot shower and quick-starting stove for tea. I love the nocturnal noises of the raccoons knocking over the bird feeders. Or the deer, knocking into tree branches, walking through the yard. And the wind rustling... everything. And these past few weeks, the delicious rain hitting the roof and the decks and windows and changing the air in my room. I am safe in my tiny home but it feels like a secret adventure to sleep so open to the season.
When I arrived home this evening, after an early dinner with a dear, longtime friend, the sun was still in the sky and the neighborhood children were in their yards and in the cul-du-sac squealing in some joyous game that required them running across yards and man-made borders along grassy yards and out onto the asphalt and through trees and bushes and even flower beds. That kind of music is lost on the young. On the exhausted parent who is "running 'em til they drop." To the other children. It all seems like time will remain this... endless and somehow elastic, forever.
When the sun sets, the streets are suddenly quiet. The trees become black silhouettes against an indigo sky. The birds stop singing or cooing. This night, there are no neighbors on porches laughing and sharing snippets of conversation. There is just the delicious summer stillness. Sweeter then the farmers market peaches, just now coming into the fullness of summer.
It is in that place the Scottish call it "in the glooming" the space between when the sun sets and the darkness descends, I almost slip away some nights. Almost go across some imaginary border to another parallel place. I'm not certain what exists there but I know there is that place in the universe that is close to this one but somehow just a bit different. And I want to visit there from time to time, I do.
And it feels like, with just the right amount of concentrated effort, I could... be somewhere else. Safe. Not frightening. Just different. Maybe captaining a ship somewhere. Or being a cocktail waitress in a bar in Montana. Or a novelist in a comfy shack on a beach. Maybe this exact age and body or maybe older or younger or male or of a different race. Somehow, I think I could fit into any number of skins and live another life. And it would be okay. More than that actually, it would be good.
When I do wake in the morning, after a night of delicious dreams, where I journey so far, far away, I am slightly cold from having left everything open. And I like it. All burrowed under the covers. Grabbing the giant terry-cloth, full-length robe. I like the cool mornings where the grass is still all dewy when I go out, barefoot, to grab the newspaper and no one is stirring. 'Cept a few birds. And for some magical reason, rarely, the magpies. Doves often. Cooing softly. And I think, what did I ever do in my life, to end up with a morning so sweet and original?
In contrast to the winter, when the weather requires layers of clothes just to be safe and practical, it is a guilty pleasure to be barefoot and bare armed and bare legged. Hatless in the day and gloveless, too. I hunker down into the wide-armed wicker rocker and I sip my tea and start to read a story but something flitters off the corner of my eye... a butterfly? A hummingbird? And I glance about and notice somewhere in the night, the sunflower has gone from a tight bud to tiny yellow petals stretching out to find the sun.
It doesn't sound like much. It seems like a rather quiet existence in a quiet neighborhood in the fullness of summer. And it is just that. A gift unbidden. Delivered without preamble. Short lived. So short lived the first tree to turn colors for fall is just weeks away.
But right now, like the heirloom tomato salad with the fresh basil, picked this week from my friend's garden, right now, it is ripe and full and delightful. Right now seems like the perfect moment to declare how simply perfect a Sunday in the Park can be...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.