Sunday, July 05, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 5 Summer heat

Prompt: Pick a line or a word or an idea from this poem and use it as your starting point.

A Warm Summer in San Francisco

Although I watched and waited for it every day,
somehow I missed it, the moment when everything reached
the peak of ripeness. It wasn't at the solstice; that was only
the time of the longest light. It was sometime after that, when
the plants had absorbed all that sun, had taken it into themselves
for food and swelled to the height of fullness. It was in July,
in a dizzy blaze of heat and fog, when on some nights
it was too hot to sleep, and the restaurants set half their tables
on the sidewalks; outside the city, down the coast,
the Milky Way floated overhead, and shooting stars
fell from the sky over the ocean. One day the garden
was almost overwhelmed with fruition:
My sweet peas struggled out of the raised bed onto the mulch
of laurel leaves and bark and pods, their brilliantly colored
sunbonnets of rose and stippled pink, magenta and deep purple
pouring out a perfume that was almost oriental. Black-eyed Susans
stared from the flower borders, the orange cherry tomatoes
were sweet as candy, the fruit fattened in its swaths of silk,
hummingbirds spiraled by in pairs, the bees gave up
and decided to live in the lavender. At the market,
surrounded by black plums and rosy plums and sugar prunes
and white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, perfumey melons
and mangos, purple figs in green plastic baskets,
clusters of tiny Champagne grapes and piles of red-black cherries
and apricots freckled and streaked with rose, I felt tears
come into my eyes, absurdly, because I knew
that summer had peaked and was already passing
away. I felt very close then to understanding
the mystery; it seemed to me that I almost knew
what it meant to be alive, as if my life had swelled
to some high moment of response, as if I could
reach out and touch the season, as if I were inside
its body, surrounded by sweet pulp and juice,
shimmering veins and ripened skin.

by Carolyn Miller, from Light, Moving. © Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009

1 comment:

Michele said...

I felt tears
come into my eyes, absurdly, because I knew
that summer had peaked and was already passing

Here on the East End of Long Island, we know in August that the end is near. August by most counts is still a summer month, but we know that the time has come because of the tomatoes and corn and beach plums, by the rose hips and the feel of the cool sand between our toes as we can throw off our sandals, instead of running across the scorching sand of June and July.

The best tomatoes, red and yellow, come in around August first – if the weather’s been good to the farmers during June and July. We have “jersey tomatoes” earlier and then red ones from the North Fork which gets the strongest sun before us and we are happy to have these. However, it is the south fork, local tomatoes, still bearing dirt from the rain-washed plants of the nearby farms, that make our hearts quicken and we reach for the salt and pepper and the vinegar and maybe a little oil and garlic and basil and we have a feast.

The corn from the North fork has already appeared on our table and its is good – better than any other. But then, after the first of August the real south fork corn comes in – and it is the best. There is nothing like it. We all clamor for it – get to the roadside stands just at the right time, not too early because we know that it is just being picked. Early afternoon usually yields plenty and it may even still be warm from the fields.

There is yellow corn and white corn and the one called silver and gold or sugar and spice because some kernels are white and some yellow. The corn is more tender than any you will have eaten in other places in the world and we eat one, two, even three pieces. The meat or fish for the evening meal is good – but it is the corn and fresh tomatoes that herald the reason for being in the East end of Long Island in August.

But these fruits also bear the news that summer is coming to a close. The days are shorter now, the sunsets come around 8, not 9 and they don’t linger as long in the sky. The beach is cooler if you walk there after the evening meal; you pull your woolly sweater that you have brought around your shoulders. The dogs wander along, there is more of a clip in their step and they don’t stop as long over the detritus of clam and mussel shells on the beach.

These summer night walks on the beach after dinners of the freshest food available on the East Coast, remind me that we will leave here soon and that summer is going.
I remember the first summer I spent here – walking on Labor Day with a new friend. Many people had left this bay beach and as we walked the path through the dunes at Fresh Pond, I felt sad – we were both sad.

It had been a discovery for me, this beautiful part of the world that hearkened to my beginnings on the other side of the great Long Island Sound. That part – Saybrook, Old Lyme, Clinton Connecticut all belonged to my father’s family. This south fork of L.I was my discovery. All the blessings of the vegetation and the land and waterscapes were visceral reminders of my own beginning and now I had my own place that reached that early little soul.

Now my romance with the farmlands, the sea and the bays and all they deliver to us would be gone for another year. I knew then I would surely return here as I have now, for 23 years. I know as I write this in my little cottage in the Springs that I will feel sad in August as we pack up to leave. I almost cherish that familiar feeling. I begin now to look forward to being with old friends next year and walking on the sunset beaches in early evenings.

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