Monday, July 04, 2011

The Fourth of July

Martha Raber, Patty Bralley, Mary Raber ca. 1964
You’re not much of a farmer if you don’t have tomatoes by the Fourth of July.

My father spent his boyhood summers on his cousins’ farm in North Carolina working the tobacco fields. For an only child being raised in a boarding house by a widowed mother, summer was a time for being “all boy”, having brothers, and listening to rain falling on a tin roof deep into the night.
Yes, this gentle, sweet man made wonderful attempts to appear tuff.  So, from time to time he'd come out with these kind of pontifications like this one on tomatoes.
It was a challenge to me and my city gardens well into my fifties. Finally one spring, I resorted to the planting of a new hybrid that already possessed small fruit.
Voila: tomatoes by the Fourth of July!
Except, I felt I’d cheated.

Growing up, the Fourth of July was a day celebrating freedom and family, in essence what I’d now call: fullness. By the Fourth of July summer seemed the only existence. School was long forgotten and a lifetime in the future.
We lived at the swimming pool on burgers, Seven-Up, and fries. Our bodies were brown and strong.
There were colorful swim meets every Saturday that we always seemed to lose, but somehow that didn’t matter in the least. It was enough to try our hardest.
Today, this optimism seems remarkable and somewhat inexplicable.
But, I suspect an explanation rest somehow in love. It was enough to simply be together in the elements of sun and water, family and friends. I was in college before I realized that not everyone enjoyed this norm.
I never really recognized my blessings.

There’s a buzz to summer, a drone below and subtler than all the hoopla and fireworks.
Cicadas hum in the still, damp mornings before the heat silences subtlety.
Cicadas buzz this cyclic sine wave, crescendo passing from treetop to treetop like some cosmic OM .
There’s more here than meets the eye. Something is occurring that you might not notice.
Within the hot, white fullness of the Yang, there is that one black dot, the turning point of Yin.

It is this turning point that I notice now.
It’s this turning point that’s become the Fourth of July’s significance to me.
The dogwoods that bloomed in April now show one little tuff of red leaf. They weren’t there on the thirtieth. But, today they are.
The tulip poplar dropped its first yellow leaf on my house deck last night.
Amidst the watermelon and fireworks, road trips, swimming pools and grills, the tide has already turned…
even as the day is full and warm and wondrous.

What season are you in?
It’s sweet to notice both the surface and the subtleties.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully sensitive and poetic and poignant post...

somehow its heavy and pregnant..with something..that I know not of..but it is there.. never disappoint!:)

..and i think i live in autumn..


Pat Bralley said...

You're sweet! And my one Fourth comment is from a "Brit"... or another colonialist? Hard to tell. But, that's just on the surface, isn't it.
Thanks for writing! Enjoy your summer! Autumn's just around the bend. Love...