Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I am having trouble keeping up with the vegetable garden this year. After almost 20 years of gardening in Maine, I have become used to the appearance of one red, ripe tomato long about August, but this year I will have bushels. I have been picking beans since the middle of July - unheard of - and have been deluged by cucumbers, chard, potatoes, eggplant and peppers. I am ignoring the zucchini baseball bats that lurk up against the deer fence and skip out of the way as I pass the burgeoning foliage that waves above the bed of turnips. Sweet potato vines are blooming, sunflowers fountain like fireworks behind the pole beans and the pungency of marigolds drifts up to me from the weeded paths. Everything is scrambling to germinate, leaf out and fruit.

It's happening everywhere. Hard to believe that the woods in April barely showed a haze of leaves above the dun of last year's fallen. Suddenly perspectives disappeared in emerald, kelly, forest, sea, fern, and olive greens. Now, berries - black, red, green and purple - tumble over themselves in the thickets along the road; rose hips glow like little lamps from the depths of thorny hedge roses. Wild lilies and orchis lift plump seed pods aloft in the shady places and the perennials in my garden frill out, the heads of the flowers heavy with seed.

There is more of everything this summer. Even along the shore the shiny seaweed and rockweed spread out higher and thicker than I can ever remember and sea lavender and wild sweet peas bloom in lush bunches - fat brush strokes of color against the gray shingle of the beach. The New England asters bloom, drift-like, in the fields. Purple asters are in bud and ready to burst out brilliantly against the goldenrod. Black-eyed susans and butterfly bush are swarmed with fluttering Monarchs and Fritillaries, heavy with bees and little birds.

It's almost embarrassing - this amazing bounty. These are days of grace, I know, before the nosedive into winter, and I am savoring every one, even as the shadows lengthen on the grass and the sun sets earlier and the evenings cool. At night in the clear, windless dark, it even seems to me that there are more stars, so bright and dense the stream of icy light that flows over our house in the great sweep of the Milky Way.

On the most beautiful days, in the flower garden or stumbling back from the vegetable patch burdened with more food than two of us can possibly consume, I think of the people a world away and closer who are homeless, hungry, hopeless, lost, angry, and in despair. I have given up trying to understand the why of it all and do my best to share, appreciate and be grateful. Is that enough in this crazy world? I have told myself it is - I suspect it is not.

It's tempting to think we deserved this summer - after last summmer's cold and damp and previous summers' brevity we're entitled to this glorious sweep of sun and warmth. But doesn't everyone deserve to be warm, safe, fed, loved? I hope, since it seems to be our turn at the moment to be lucky, that our salvation lies in recognizing the inequities, attempting to correct them and in accepting our blessings with humility and grace.