Good morning, July

good morning, July - 1


“The serene philosophy of the pink rose is steadying.  Its fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready
to fall, without regret or disillusion, after only a day in the sun.  It is so every summer.  One can almost
hear their pink, fragrant murmur as they settle down upon the grass: ‘Summer, summer, it will always
be summer.'”
–   Rachel Peden

On the final day of June, our rain totals caught up to the average, so we head into July in good position.  As I write this, our three California grandchildren are helping their parents load up the van, for their trek to the lakehouse.  Don has joined a friend in the wee hours of this morning for his annual bicycle ride around the lake, before the hoards of tourists clog the roads.  I’ll do the final dusting and fluffing of the upstairs bedrooms today.  Now it is July, and the start of our six week, maybe eight, season of summer.

I wrote a poem some years ago about preemptively mourning summer, before it’s even begun.  I entitled it,  Did I Miss It?  It was a cautionary tale to myself to be present, in This day–just This day, and not tomorrow.  Last week, on a run together at my sister’s house in Colorado, she talked about her love for The Lord’s Prayer, and how she’s come to understand “Give us THIS day, our daily bread”, as a call to live in the moment.  Here in the Flathead Valley, our short summer provides an excellent opportunity to just Be Here Now.

Every summer, I read this Billy Collins poem, ‘passing the time to wonder which, cries of joy or warning…’

The Chairs That No One Sits In

You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple
who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone
sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed   
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.
Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one   
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.
It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs
on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved
to be viewed from two chairs   
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.
The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,
the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.

Flying into home

home - 1


I am always awake to hear the first flight go over our lake early in the morning, and often see this afternoon United plane go in and out of the clouds, on its descent into the airport.  When I fly, I make my seat selection based on being able to look down on the east shore of Flathead Lake, and while I can’t actually see my house, I can find Wood’s Bay, and approximate where it sits along the shoreline.  Coming back from anywhere, it’s always soothing, comforting, to look down and recognize my tiny spot in the Universe.  Twenty-two years ago, when we first moved to the Valley and lived in town, I would hear the first flight out in the dark mornings of that first winter, and be tearful that I was not on it.  Now, I am coming Home, to where I belong.

It’s been windy back here at home with clear, blue skies.  Our neighbor texted a photo that she took at 4:30 a.m. yesterday, of the full Strawberry Moon, setting over the western hills, behind our sailboat.   Returning from a dinner party last night in town, the bright yellow canola fields glowed, as the big golden moon rose over the eastern mountains.  We friends had talked at length of the despair we all felt over the Supreme Court news of the day.  Another friend, this morning, told me she’d been listening to Greg Brown sing “I want my country back.”  There is a darkening cloud of anxiety hovering over these blue sky days–with the 4th of July, just around the corner.  Oh it is hard to hold it all…the red-white-and-blue parade and the fireworks of celebration.

Yet, how grateful I am to be Home.  “I shall have peace there…”

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
By  William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Summer Solstice 2018

summer solstice 2018-2 - 1


And, so the cycle continues.  The earth tilts on its axis, to the same degree every time, on the same day, at the same instant for everyone, to bring us maximum sunlight here in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is the Summer Solstice once again.  In many cultures, the solstice can mean a culmination, an end.  The sun is now setting and rising as far north as it ever does, and tomorrow, the sun begins its subtle shift southward once again.  “Thus even in summer’s beginning we find the seeds of summers end.” (

But here, at my house, we are just focused on summer’s beginning.  Sheets are hanging in the sunshine, as I ready the guest rooms for the family soon to arrive.  The sailboat–focus of Don’s attention for months–arrived at its mooring ball today and is bobbing out there off the dock amidst the diamonds shining on the water.  The pair of loons swam by earlier this afternoon.   We’ve been getting ready for summer for a long time.  The Chinese sound of Summer Solstice is ‘laughing’–so good for the heart, so good for the soul.  I am really looking forward to sinking into long sunny days, filled with the laughter of friends and family.   It’s an opportunity to “find joy among the sorrows of the world.”(Joseph Campbell).  We need summer–‘It is a limb you swung from, a field you go back to.  It is a part of whatever you do.’

The Arrival of the Past, by Scott Owens

You wake wanting the dream
you left behind in sleep,
water washing through everything,
clearing away sediment
of years, uncovering the lost
and forgotten. You hear the sun
breaking on cold grass,
on eaves, on stone steps
outside. You see light
igniting sparks of dust
in the air. You feel for the first
time in years the world
electrified with morning.

You know something has changed
in the night, something you thought
gone from the world has come back:
shooting stars in the pasture,
sleeping beneath a field
of daisies, wisteria climbing
over fences, houses, trees.

This is a place that smells
like childhood and old age.
It is a limb you swung from,
a field you go back to.
It is a part of whatever you do.

Rainy Saturday

farmer's market - 1


Our vegetable garden is coming along well, with radishes and beans up, and we are less worried about revolution than we used to be.
–  E. B. White

It was my first trip to the farmer’s market yesterday, on a cool and rainy morning.  The vendors wore wool hats and fingerless gloves which was such a juxtaposition to the green pea shoots, arugula, red leaf lettuce, and rainbow radishes spread across their tables.  It’s always so cheerful at the market as families with children in tow, carrying bags and baskets, discuss various vegetables with the farmers.  You can always learn some new way to cook the broccolini or find out that sweet white turnips are delicious in a salad.  The morning is young and the robins are singing and the rain is soft and the air is cool, and the news of the world, which troubled you earlier in the morning, fades away.  And, the whole day is still ahead of you.

After being gone for nearly a week, rainy days are the best for settling back into home.  I roasted granola and ironed clothes with a lavender spray, and spent several hours in a cozy chair in the library, just reading, as rain fell off the roof.   A quiet lull, before the onset of summer, which is just around the corner.  The yellow canola fields are in bloom, the lake is at full pool, my model sailboats are positioned on the mantle, and the furniture has been moved away from the fireplace for a full view of the water.  The sailboat, perched high on its trailer in the driveway, has been washed and waxed and ready for Don to install the new lines.  Depending upon the weather, she will be driven over to Somers this week, the mast will be stepped, and off she will sail into port–which is our mooring ball off the dock.  Then, we will be ready for summer–which doesn’t really happen until the 4th of July–which is just fine by me.   I love these rainy days to prepare for the exuberance and joy and gathering of family, the swimming and boating, the late nights by the campfire, and all the memories that are made in high summer.  It feels like “our vegetable garden is coming along well.”

Time to go home

flower box


While we’ve been here in Billings, Carol was kind enough to go down to the lake and water my window boxes and geraniums pots, and she sent me this photo, showing that they were alive and well.   It sounds like she nearly had to brush snow off of them.  Even over here, on the east side of the state, we turned the furnace on this morning.  Beartooth Pass, where Don rode his bike on Saturday, when the kids and I were roasting at downtown Billings’ Strawberry Festival, has four inches of snow coating the highway this morning.

I suppose that June often brings this kind of crazy weather, but there is something about the clear and present danger in national and world events, and the high-profile suicides, that makes it feel unsettling.  Maybe, it’s because of the books I’ve been reading here, as I wait for a household of teenagers to get out of bed late into the morning.  One book took place as WWI broke out in Europe (The Summer Before the War) and the other, (Educated), is a haunting memoir about growing up in nearby Idaho in a survivalist family–the kind of family I see regularly drive down our Main Street, with an enormous American flag tethered to the truck bed, and yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper stickers.  On the 90 degree day before the cold front came through, I sat on the back deck, under a vine-drapped pergola, with shade trees rustling in the stiff breeze, flowers in the air, and a train far off in the distance.  Duncan and Anna and a friend sat in their old kiddie pool to stay cool, and giggled over the Shirley Temple cocktails they’d made, complete with little umbrellas.  Except for the power washing next door, it was an altogether pleasant experience out there, despite the temperature.   I’d finished with WWI, and opened the prologue to Educated, as the dappled sunshine highlighted this first paragraph:


With that lyrical description of trees slowly swaying, thistles quivering, and the wheat field as a corps de ballet, she had me deeply hooked into her story, even as I imagined writing one of my own, starting with the words illuminated in the sunlight on page one–“The wind soared down the open neck, as if the peak itself, undisturbed, slowly, while the pocket of air…”.  An ominous story forming in my imagination.  The weather can do that to you…or, perhaps, it’s just time for me to go home.  The parents get back in time for dinner tonight, and we can breathe deeply, having done our sacred duty to keep the kids safe under our watch.  Early in the chilly morning, we’ll be on our long drive westward across the state, to settle back down, into our own kind of weather.


Farewell to May

farewell May - 1


“How did it get so late so soon?
Its night before its afternoon.
December is here before its June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”
–  Dr. Seuss

I’ve been clinging to May, not wanting it to end.  Perhaps, I do that these days with all of the months (well, maybe not February), but how lovely it has been with soft air, filled by the scent of lilacs.  Over the holiday week-end, we put the old aluminum fishing boat in the water and went for a little evening cruise.  Rich, my son-in-law, named the boat, Boatie Mcpileface, after the infamous incident in which the motor fell off the back one summer day, into twenty plus feet of water, while Don was at the helm.  It is quite the story which involves Rich and grandkids snorkeling off the raft, in search of the underwater motor, a hired scuba diver, and late hours in the garage as Don and Rich poured quart after quart of oil into the motor.  They saved it, and for the birthdays last year, Rich gave us highball glasses, etched with the name “Boatie Mcpileface” on the side, and a drawing of the motor, which comes into view when you’ve finished your margarita.  Don is still not laughing about it– nor the ‘adventures’ we had last summer with our new sailboat– especially the one in which he, the Captain, jumped overboard to save the ship from crashing on the rocks.  Yet, such are memories of summertime.

And, this past week-end, while we cruised along the placid lake, as sailboats floated in the distance, and people sunned themselves on Adirondack chairs at the end of docks, I remembered Summer–the lake smell, the scent of sunshine warming the fir trees, campfires at dusk.  I remembered the smell of lying in the grass, as a child, making daisy chains, with the sound of small airplanes high in the sky, and a lawn mower somewhere in the distance, and the smell of sheets fresh off the clothesline.  It all comes back in June, and I am ready now.  It’s time to say farewell to May, and call it quits with all those spring chores.  “And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” (This Ivy House blog).  The moon sparkles on the water, periwinkle Lupines and white Wake-Robins line the roadside, and the Wild Rose have sprouted on our walkway down to the house.   It’s gently raining this morning and the only movement in the trees is when water splashes down through the branches.  June has arrived.

“The castle grounds were gleaming in the sunlight as though freshly painted; the cloudless sky smiled at itself in the smoothly sparkling lake, the satin-green lawns rippled occasionally in a gentle breeze: June had arrived.”

―J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix




partly-sunny-and-sometimes-rainy days - 1


In my birthday card, Rita wished me, “partly-sunny-and-sometimes-rainy days”.  And, my birthday month has been just like that.  We are in its final days, before the unofficial start of summer, this Memorial Day week-end.  Already (how did it happen!), summer is upon us.   She also included in her card, a quote from Thomas Mann, “Time has no divisions to mark the passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year.  Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”

I’ve been thinking about how it ‘is only we mortals who ring bells’, realizing that is what I do in these blog posts about the weather.  I am making my own divisions, in marking the passage of Time, by describing whether it was sunny that day, raw and cold, or quiet and still– whether or not it felt expansive, or closed in, filled with melancholy or hopeful expectations for the future.   The weather is a wonderful metaphor.  It’s unpredictable (despite the increasing accuracy of forecasting), constantly changing, impervious to our wishes, and totally outside of our control.  It’s something to connect to, nonetheless, as the earth spins on its orbit, galaxies expand and open black holes, and the atom gets smaller and smaller.  On my tiny speck in the Universe, I can frame a day by asking myself, “what were the skies like this morning?”, and, hopefully, just be here for it, and believe that it matters.  Natalie Goldberg, in her book, Writing Down the Bones, says it so well:

“We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important. Otherwise, if they are not, we can drop a bomb and it doesn’t matter. . . Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency.”


On This Date  by Annie Lighthart

On this date many things happened.
Governments were heaved into being, creeds
were repeated, maps and speeches given and believed.

There was quiet on this date. A little boy lived.
There was sleep, and one birdcall stitched all the way through.

On this date there was longing. Someone walked
through a room. One hand brushed loose crumbs into the other.
The earth received them out the side door on this date, on this day.