It was windy last night. An empty garbage can banging around woke me up to fears of racoons, skunks, robbers or worse. A check of the garden revealed Jasmine blossoms blown off the potted bush that will soon have to come in. For now they scent up the kitchen. The pretty runner made by a dear friend who is a quilter help boost the illusion that it will always be summer. I don’t have the exactitude for quilting or stained glass or anything that requires precision. Better stick to knitting , a simple skill that will produce something cosy. We’ll need cosy sooner than we like to admit.
My garden is fragrant with rosemary, basil, lavender and the many blooms of a Jasmine plant. Summer is ending and my roses are few but this is the golden season. It seems to me that sometimes plants give out light. These brown-eyed susans and the wild golden rod in the lane are luminous. Sunflowers are not a surprise on this list….except for the brown one!
For about thirty days there was no rain in the Muskoka area. “great summer”” good boating weather!” ” good for haying” and then a little concern “for the farmers”, more frequent watering of flowers and veggies, some uneasiness, more attention to the weather forecast, grumbling about the ban on bonfires. As the hot and brilliant days followed one another, a lassitude set in. It became tiresome to go out in a wide-brimmed hat to face the ever-blazing sun hanging every day in an ever-cloudless sky. The creek dried up. The grass turned brown. The birch trees, delicate as young slender girls, began to drop yellow leaves. The house kept dark to thwart the relentless heat, seemed gloomy. Impossible to read or write, each breath a chore. Cold meals were scratched together and many showers taken in the sulphur-scented well water. Waiting, impatiently, anxiously, a little indignantly. We worried about the frogs living in an ever receding patch of mud that was all that remained of the creek and a little dark shadow of panic hung about. Perhaps it would never rain again.
Then on Friday the scent of pines was more distinct and the air ” smelled of rain”. During the night a light sleeper was awoken by the tap of drops on a metal sheet below the window. A comforted smile and a turn under the white cover. Then morning revealed a damp landscape. All day Saturday it rained a steady moderate rain – no torrents to wash everything away. It was ” just right”
isaac the Syrian wrote in he sixth century,” what is a merciful heart? It is the heart’s burning for the sake of the entire creation, for man, for birds, for animals, for demons and for every created thing; and by the recollection and sight of them the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears…….his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in creation. ”
So our care and worry about the frogs and the grass and the birch trees was well founded. It is a good and natural instinct, I think to be happy when a gentle rain comes to soothe that little corner of Muskoka that was parched. It seemed strange to hear someone in the bus say their weekend had been spoiled because it rained.
I don’t. I have no knack for remembering what has already been played. My past partners have gawked at my beginner’s luck or tutted in annoyance at my carelessness, stupidity and lack of competitive spirit. I have trouble remembering the rules of various games and when they tell me there are two types of Canasta, my heart sinks. As a girl I played a mean game of whist but I put my present inability to play any sort of card game down to my dwindling mental faculties….and a burning desire to do something else with my time whenever I see a deck. Yesterday I went to pick up a friend of mine who was playing with four friends. These are Greek ladies. Greek ladies playing cards make a lot of friendly noise. There is a wonderful casualness about a group of people who have a total grasp of what they are doing. I sat at the head of the table and watched. The scolded about who should deal and how the deal was done and what had been dealt and who put down what. They knew what was happening, they knew what was going to happen, they remembered what had happened two or three hands earlier. They drank water and coffee and ate sweets and puffed away at vapor cigarettes. Even the Greeks have abandoned real cigarettes. They listened to music from the sixties and seventies ( Greek music from that era is wonderful) and argued about who was singing and who was alive or dead and who had been imprisoned by the junta. They kept score with a wonderful grasp of mental arithmetic and when it was over they kissed me heartily and pitted my total lack of skill at cards. No one offered to teach me. Wise women.
Suthern Ontario is superb farming country. I am staying a little North of the farm belt just on the Canadian Shield. There are still large swaths of farmland too. I got something of an object lesson in how land is claimed from nature. It is all very well for me to rapturize about a beautiful field of pale green hay bordered by tall dark trees. At one time, not so long ago, the whole field was covered with trees and patches of swampy wet land sat hidden in the forest. My host showed me a large stump that he is burning out. When one has no back-hoe or team of horses to pull it out, that is the time honoured way of getting rid of an unslightly stump in the middle of a stretch of grass.
What about the wet, marshy patches? Well, here in pictures, is what you do. Set a five inch plastic pipe from the source of the wet to a stream or roadside ditch, cover it up and presto….the land dries out. Hmm….” Set the pipe” means dig a trench with a pick, a scraper and a hoe to remove the earth, grass roots and stones. Covering it up means hauling slurry from the creek and a bit of grass seed is a good idea to help the scar heal too.
The whole process involves thought, sweat, persistence and satisfaction. It’s manipulating the land for human use. In the adjoining field, the farmer was mowing hay for his animals. The smell of sunshine wafted over as we worked on the drainage pipe. I liked this way of spending a summer afternoon.