I love my hydrangeas when they first come into bloom -- so lacy and innocently white. Soon they become huge mounds of flowers streaked with dusty rose, filling my hands with their heaviness as I gather them to dry for autumn arrangements....
There is so much beauty all around us in August, as flowers fill the air with a deeper, more musky scent, birdsong becomes more muted and peaceful, and darkness falls earlier each day, with a heaviness that reminds us that the days of summer are waning.
Yesterday morning I was roused from sleep by quiet little taps and flutters outside my window. The sparrows were on the porch roof, pulling seeds from the spent Rose of Sharon blossoms and cracking them open to eat. Suddenly, the flowers that were so beautiful and perfect just short days ago are wilting and going to seed.
Summer has seemed short here in the Northeast this year. The long, cold winter seemed to linger much too long, and the warmth of summer was slow to arrive. Due to changes in the school calendar last year, school was in session until the very last week in June, and reopens the first week in September, leaving us with an abbreviated summer vacation. For those who love sunshine, heat and humidity, it was a disappointing time -- for me, the cooler temperatures were a blessing.
It was a summer of contradictions for me -- both very good times and very bad. In July one of my daughter's best friends invited us to her lovely wedding. How beautiful it was; how beautiful she was, and how much fun I had catching up with the lovely young women who once spent so much time with us, chattering about boys and activities. It seems just a heartbeat ago that my house was filled with their laughter. This was definitely one of the good times.
Another highlight was the engagement of my son's best friend to his long-time girlfriend. I am so excited for both of them, and looking forward to their wedding next year.
But, then there was the sadness -- hearing of the death of an old friend. She was in her 90's, and had been living in Texas for ten years, but we had kept in touch until recent months. Her thoughtful nieces phoned all of her friends from far away, so we could say our last good-byes to her as she lay dying. I will always be grateful to them for giving me this one last chance to tell her how much she meant to me.
Another long-time friend is fighting a battle with an aggressive form of cancer -- she was diagnosed early in the summer, and has been on my mind and in my prayers constantly. She is bravely holding on for as much time as possible to spend with her family. Her illness has felt like a cloud over my summer.
I had some worrisome health issues myself during much of the summer, with doctor appointments and tests; hopefully, though, this has been resolved, and I can put it behind me.
The news has been a constant source of dismay -- with the horrors of Ukraine, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, the missing airliner, the airliner shot down, the ongoing divisiveness and hatred in our own country, the increasingly powerful changes in climate. We have come to the point where it seems almost impossible for people to compromise -- where do we go from here? What will life be like for my precious grandchildren?
And, there were also wonderful times with friends -- between my babysitting, and my own medical issues, I didn't have as much time as I had planned to spend with friends, but the wonderful memories of coffee dates, lunches, long talks, and precious time together have been a highlight of my summer. There are still several people I want to see, but the days of summer are almost past, and I will probably have to put off some of these visits until school holidays.
If anything, this summer has taught me to treasure each moment I can spend with friends and family, from family gatherings, to phone calls, to Facebook conversations. I am a person who loves solitude -- the deep quiet of late summer evenings, working silently in my garden, reading, writing -- and it would be easy to forget how important it is to make time to tend as lovingly to friendships.
This is the final full week of summer vacation. Next week, school begins again, and my life will once more be filled with schedules and the needs of my little grandchildren. I am thankful for this summer, with both its good times and sorrowful times. I have spent this Sunday in quiet pursuits -- tending my garden, my birds, and my house. I bought three small pots of chrysanthemums to place on my front porch steps -- how lovely they will look when they are in their full autumn bloom. While I do wish summer had not passed so quickly, I find myself looking forward to autumn -- to the colorful trees, the scent of baking apples and pumpkin pie, the comfort of a much-worn sweater. Ahhh - bittersweet August!!