18 August 2014

When You Can Measure Summer Between Your Fingers

Fireweed Blossoms.

In Alaska, they said when the Fireweed blossoms bloom all the way to the top, summer is over.

I blanched.

You mean I can spread my fingers apart wide enough to measure those buds, the ones just above the full booms on each stock, and I can fit summer right between my thumb and index finger?  And just like that it's over?

I could hardly breathe at the thought of summer passing right through my fingers that way.

Maybe my heart is adjusting to this land of perpetual summer, where January looks more like an Alaskan summer than any winter I've ever met, faster than I thought it would.

Pioneer Peak.

But here in South Texas today with a high of 98F, we've had a cooler day (anything below a triple digit high is not so bad this time of year), and I'm missing those cool Alaskan summer days.

I think of Pioneer Peak, the one Grandpa says is right in the way of a good view.  I think of what it was like to go running and have the air cool me down as I passed through it.  I think of that afternoon weeding the dahlias the warm sunshine and how I looked up at that Pioneer Peak and thought I could live through all kinds of winter to experience summer days like this.

Pioneer Peak, left.  The Butte, that small little 900-foot mound bottom right.

When we'd go climb the Butte, we'd walk right past the man stacking fire wood to sell.  He had twenty cords of it or so, he guessed.

And firewood?

Oh, how I love a good wood stove, and warming up around it.  But you just don't get that kind of thing in South Texas.  

No ice storm power outages when your mom cooks the gluten steaks on a pan on that wood stove top.  No prime pleasure of sweeping those wood crumbs and bark chips off the brick for a perfect Sabbath hearth.  No trips to the woods in the summer to help cut your winter heat and then cool off in the cold Idaho lake.

I remember looking at a map nearly a year ago.  It showed when you could see the best fall colors throughout North America.  I followed the map right down to my new home, looked at the color, found the map key, looked for the dates.


I love fall.  I love apple season.  I love the smell of the season's change, when I can tell it smells like school's about to start.

I hadn't thought about ever living in a place where those things would be foreign, and while I traveled, I found myself missing those things more than I expected to.

Yet coming home to this south land where it's hot, where the seasons don't change much, and even where there's no thrill of the first snow of a new winter, I couldn't help reveling in it all, in the knowing I'd be starting my tomato seeds right then and there, hoping for a December crop.

Yes, you read that right.  A. December. Crop.

Of tomatoes.

And all kinds of other crops, too, because if tomatoes can make it through the winter outside, so can a lot of other delightful things.  Like the neighbor's flowerbed full of Amaryllis, for example.

Some things are still too strange for me to grasp, I'll admit.

I've wondered many times if I could ever move back to a land of winter, and not have something die inside from the cold-hearted reduction from two or three gardening seasons to one.  

Now that I've bounced back into the other world for a few weeks and come down south to home again, I think I'd just have parts of my heart in more than one place, like I do now.  Part of me missing the one, while fully delighting in the other.

Because I don't think you can experience the land of mangoes and cactus fruits and fresh papayas and year-round gardens and not have those things planted right there in your heart, right beside the place that will always be reserved for the wonder of a pine cone in autumn, or the winter's first snowflakes.


  1. That's a beautiful post! Now you know just a little bit how an expatriate feels. But it's just a little because while the geographical changes are HUGE for you with this move and there are MANY cultural changes, it's still the same (HUGE) country. But moving from one country to another is tougher. Something to contend with every moment of every day for the rest of your life (and if I were to go back now, it would be the same, sigh...).

    I can bear/stand the winter now, but I still don't like the Fall. For a while in the first few years I did like it, it was so pretty! But then, I don't know, maybe 8-10 years in I began to dislike it. The red was no longer pretty, but an evil fire that would take all the joy (green) from the world. Sigh... Maybe I'll get over it, but it almost physically hurts to not see green for 6-7 months in a row. And it's hard to go to Brazil in the middle of winter.

    I still miss the fruit (supermarkets abounding with fruit year round notwithstanding).

    Welcome to some of my world!

  2. Where we are almost all the fireweed has finished. Now the leaves are burgandy red. We drove across peaks where frost has already turned the Aspen yellow. I'm in a different land. Beautiful.

    But then I will head back to to fall and gardens. It is a strange thing.

    But I am seeing there is something to love in every place.

    1. Oh, if the fireweed is finished, the beautiful fall must be setting in. I think there's something special about that, and beautiful. I'm glad you are there to enjoy it.


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