Life in the Summer

It’s the middle of July. We hear about a heat wave in the east, but for the present here in the west summer seems to have departed. It’s chilly out — the temperature is 58. The sky is gray. But my garden is full of flowers.

flowers at the entry

Some years are good for nasturtiums and this year they are going wild. The roses are slow, but they are showing promise. My front flower bed needs to be redone. That will be a lot of work.

Vegetables are growing. I have peas, cauliflower, beans, beets, tomatoes, zucchini, spaghetti squash, lettuce and strawberries. So far we have eaten peas, beets, lettuce and strawberries.

strawberries I grew

I have been doing strenuous gardening — lawn mowing, weed eating. And a lot of watering because although the sun has disappeared there isn’t much rain. I guess it’s good for the old woman to exercise forgotten muscles.

I watch the progress of the bird families. This year I have very few finches at the feeder– just a few brilliant yellow and black gold finches and rosy pink house finches. The suet keeps the flickers coming, and I have a couple of flicker families.

flickers watching mother eat

The babies are now almost as big as their parents, but they still wait for their elders to feed on the suet and then they beg until they are fed.

feeding the young

And many woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers and pleated woodpeckers.

I think these are downies. Feeding the young.

There are the starlings and grackles which I try to like — but it isn’t easy. They are ugly, quarrelsome birds. Of course, such judgments are made according to human values; I try to remember that those birds have as much right to be on earth as I do, and they probably do less damage.

The humming birds, tiny winged jewels, are a joy.

A Ruby Throated hummingbird hovers

When I am out by the fence where the linaria grow in profusion (some people regard linaria as weeds, but I think they are beautiful, and they grow and prosper anywhere) I hear the soft whirr of the humming birds’ amazing wings as they dart and hover, sucking nectar from the purple flowers.

Hummingbird feeding

Sometimes 2 or 3 of them have miniature aerial wars that last a few seconds and then they rocket away in different directions.

Jerry has been feeling old and sad that it takes him so much longer now to get building done. He is constructing a woodshed and splitting wood for next winter. I think one should always have unfinished work. It would be a shame to get everything done and then just wait for the end to come.

Jerry spends time on the computer reading his favorite financial sites — The Financial Times, The Rubini Report and Naked Capitalism. He worries about the Euro. He thinks the Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the economy so they can blame Obama. At lunch while he eats his cup of fruit and sandwich he reads The Economist; this week’s issue seems to say he is right in thinking that.

These are the rhythms of our life together. Mealtimes, gardening, news, wine time in the afternoon, and then, after our walk with the poodles, we watch a lecture from the Teaching Company (the present course is on genetics) and I read aloud until Jerry gets sleepy (the present book is Queen Victoria by Cecil Woodham-Smith.)

The cadence is sedate; it’s appropriate to our age. But as clouds dim the summer sun, with the age comes the menace of declining health. Jerry’s brother Bert is having a lung biopsy today. A friend is with him — he wouldn’t hear of our coming over to eastern Washington for a little thing like a lung biopsy. But tomorrow we will go. I hope to be able to talk to a doctor.

This is Bert’s second biopsy. The one he had last week was negative, but they didn’t access the actual tumor, and his symptoms are worsening. He doesn’t sleep well and has to sit up to be able to breath. Jerry doesn’t say much, but I can see it affecting him. His brother, only a year and a half younger, has been a constant presence in his life.

We both wonder who will be next.

You never know what will perch on the feeder

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15 Responses to Life in the Summer

  1. I love the hope and beauty expressed in your garden and your birds (who seem so exotic to me – no woodpeckers or hummingbirds here). And I have the all digits crossed for good results from the biopsy.

  2. Marja-Leena says:

    Such beauty and abundance in your garden, and in your lives even as you slow a bit as you so poignantly write. Worrying is hard work. Holding hope for good news for Jerry’s brother.

  3. Pauline says:

    Such fabulous photographs! A counterpoint to the anxiety about the economy and Jerry’s brother. The best we can do is our best, I guess.

  4. I like your photos. Our strawberry season began in february and is coming to end now. I love strawberries. I hope there’s good news regarding Jerry’s brother. Please keep us up to date!

  5. Hattie says:

    How absolutely beautiful. Those strawberries!
    I miss seeing birds that are native to the Northwest, especially hummingbirds.
    Gloom about the economy and health problems seem impossible to get around for us, too, but we enjoy what we have to the utmost.

  6. Annie says:

    Life and death, bittersweet. Wonderful photos and descriptions. I feel for your concerns for Jerry and Bert. At this age, we know these things are inevitable and we wish they weren’t, I guess it makes the enjoyment of natural beauty and bounty that much more poignant. I love the strawberries in the blue and white fish (it’s a carp isn’t it?) bowl! and the flicker and woodpecker family pics are great too. I know what you mean about starlings but I do enjoy listening to their varied songs, they are regular little mimics sometimes with quite the repertoire.

  7. wisewebwoman says:

    How lovely to visit you and your life is far from sedate it is rich and full – lovely photos, lovely birds, and I like the line about unfinished business.
    I will keep Jerry and his brother in my thoughts and hope all is well.

  8. Darlene says:

    Your bird photographs are worthy of showing in an Audubon publication. And those strawberries are to die for.

    You are such a busy lady. Do you even have an hour that you just do nothing? No travel, no studying, no gardening? I am amazed at all you do.

    I am sending healing thoughts to Bert and hope the biopsy is negative. It is very stressful for Jerry, I am sure.

  9. Ernestine says:

    Your garden is beautiful
    Mine started that way
    Now with the past rains and now severe heat and the “insects” nothing looks worthy for me to take a picture.
    You lead such a busy life
    I am near your age and solo
    never stop
    but do not travel as you do.
    Will keep you, Jerry and his brother in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. maria says:

    Your garden is bountiful, and the birds that flock to it know that. And your words are lovely, the way they bring the magic of summer (even when the sun is lacking) brightly to the forefront.

  11. Hattie says:

    Anne: I can’t seem to get through to you via your e-mail. Could you send me your tel # via my e-mail address at
    For now I’m assuming our plans are as stated.

  12. Betty says:

    Good luck to you and yours. Thanks for the beauty of your site – those photos must be taken with a lot of love! I think you exaggerate your age darlin! – it can’t be true.
    take care,

  13. jt says:

    I think Jerry’s conclusion is absolutely spot on, Anne. They control so much wealth that they can easily manipulate the economy for the sake of making Obama look bad. They want the oval office back and will do anything to undermine confidence in the president. For instance, I believe the high unemployment rate is the Republicans doing. Either they get what they want, or no investment, no hiring, and more workers are made redundant.

  14. K says:

    Hi Anne. You sound so sad in this entry. I’m so sorry. I know the death of loved ones and self weigh heavily on you. My mom told me a few months ago that it’s just really hard to describe how sad it is to be her age (78) and feel like there is nothing left in front of ones self to look forward to in their future.

    I can understand that feeling of loss, because I have it at only 50 years of age. I’m already morning my youth. Yes to that quote: “youth is wasted on the young.”

    On the other hand, I can promise you that the physical death on earth is not the end of existence. Different people were born with different gifts and one of mine has been my faith, which I can hardly call faith since I have had so many burning bush experiences. “Burning bush experiences,” that’s what I call encounters with God as he has shown himself to me in so many different ways over my lifetime. I wrote a short story about my most recent burning bush experience. It’s called “Why Was Jesus Kickboxing?”. It’s about a burning bush experience I had related to the Virginia Tech masacre. My son was a student there at the time and was in class in the building next door when it happened. I was in San Francisco and friend of mine called me from Toronto and told me to turn on the news. When I called my son he said they were in lockdown, lights off, doors secured, hiding under the desks. While my son was not hurt the event had a profound impact on me. I was watching the news as it took place while he was secured, reading the impressions of his friends from texts. “They’re shooting students,” he said, not knowing what was really happening. In the end, the kids new more than was being reported. If you’d like to read about it I’ll send it to you. It’s just a few pages long. But it gave me hope when I felt so sad for the students that passed on that day.

    I think you do a fine job living life to the fullest. I have always found you to be a kind and loving person. I’m glad to have known you. I still wear the black onyx necklace and earrings you gave me some twenty-seven years ago (although a good friend borrowed the necklace last year and I’ve been trying to figure a way to politely ask for it back.) Please let me know what kind of camera you use to take those wonderful photographs. I think it’s been years since I had a really tasty strawberry. They all taste like tart cardboard these days. But yours look like they might be a culinary delight.

  15. IslandCAT2u says:

    Oh Anne, I see you have mastered your new camera. I especially love the picture of the hummer with the “jewel.” What amazing bird shots – my old digital camera is so slow, by the time it has actually clicked the bird would be gone! I’ve done some research on the newer cameras and was overwhelmed by the options and choices – I couldn’t make up my mind, although the prices a couple months ago were such great values.

    I never think of you and Jerry as “old” – you both seem so much younger than many who are 60. You each are such great examples of making the most out of your days. Jerry’s brother is fortunate to have you both around for him – I send blessings his way and yours, hoping that his days will be comfortable and satisfying, how ever many are left.

    I totally agree with Jerry’s assessment of the political climate vs. the economy. You would think that by now…we ALL would understand that we are in this together and that a rising tide carries all boats, eh?

    Well, see you around the neighborhood – I’ll stop by for wine one of these afternoons! Thanks for this latest update.

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