I experience midsummer similarly year after year. For decades, I assumed that the wild/chaotic, abundant/overgrown, juicy-sweet/covered-in-fruit-flies vibes came mostly from the mindf*ckery that is trying to work while the kids are home and wanting to do fun summery things! but willing to settle for screen time.
Guilt was always in the mix (because REALLY!? I have to choose work + kids on screens or not enough money to pay the bills but time with my kids?!), as was the question of how life could at the same time feel so abundant yet so…on the verge of a stinky, rotting mess.
However, now that ¾ of my kids are grown and #4 has a car (and therefore little reliance on me for fun), I’m realizing that summer will be summer whether my kids are in the mix or not. Yes, their constant needs made things feel extra chaotic, but I still find this time of year to be uniquely challenging. No other time of year has me…
…longing for long, lazy days with friends, sipping tea on a shady riverbank, yet not often having the energy to organize and be the hype-gal for such outings.
…in awe of the apple trees in my front yard and the best apple season I’ve seen in my eight years here, yet filled with irritation that I can’t seem to keep up with the falling fruit, which means perceived judgment from my neighbors (as they step around bee-covered sidewalk apple smash) and frequent visits from bears who apparently like their fresh fruit with a side of overturned garbage bin contents.
…longing to lay in the sun yet aware of the sun spots I just had burned off my nose.
…so grateful to have a farmer boyfriend who brings me literal tubs of vegetables every week, yet so busy with work that I compost more cukes and squash than I care to admit.
It’s a time of extremes for me. A time of contrast. A time of wild abundance, that feels both incredibly generous and one bumper crop of brassicas or bear-ravaged trash can away from me throwing up my hands and admitting defeat.
Actually, I’ll just call it now. Summer, you win again.
I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t one more place where what I’m actually feeling is the unique grief that’s present in the absence of the village. How much of this particular inner conflict comes from not being able to meet the abundance with enough hands, mouths, and collective sense of humor to see potential and savor pies and say yes, please! to the so-muchness instead of going into a freeze state? I put a sign on my fence about the apples (“Please take all the apples you want! They’re sweet! Come back with a ladder if you’d like, we can’t keep up!”), but I suppose people are too timid to unlatch my gate and help themselves, or too busy with their own lives to be bothered with someone else’s apple “problem.” Somehow this feels similar to how, back in the day, no one was sending their kids to my house to see if mine wanted to play, maybe because they didn’t want to bother us with their “problems?”
It strikes me that an abundance of apples or a pack of bored kids is only a problem if there’s not a community to appreciate their wild sweetness. They’re simply too much for one person, and the rot of all we can’t manage by ourselves thickens our grief.
And so, I turn to Summer for the answer. I say to her, “I know you designed this abundance for collective receiving/holding/baking/delighting in. What do we do if and when it’s just one of us up against a gazillion apples?”
Last week while raking up the rot, my dog walker rounded the corner and commented on the shocking bounty this year. I asked if he’d care to take some home and he said it was his birthday and yes, he’d very much like to make a pie! Another neighbor stopped and remarked on the heavy trees. We laughed at the fine line between abundance and overwhelm, happy to have connected for the first time in months. Yet another neighbor would make a cobbler and thank you sooo much, and the guy next door sure had enjoyed that pie I made him a few years ago (hint hint).
So basically, this is what Summer said in response to my question:
If you don’t have the hands and the mouths and the collective sense of humor to handle the abundance, find them. Or at least rake the apples up often enough that they have a chance to find you. And if neither of those things feels accessible, let the fruit fall. Let it rot. Rotting is only a problem in the capitalism-conditioned mind that wants to maximize and tidy and control everything. Rot leads to fertile soil and new growth. It’s necessary for new life.
My mind is messy right now and I’m getting better at being okay with that. It’s summer-messy, after all; in-season, just like my fermenting front yard and the sack of cabbage I’m about to compost, and the fact that I’m not having to entertain my kids while I write, but I also couldn’t tell you where a single one of them is in this moment. Grief has taken the place of their needs and chaos. Messy like the final summers of my childrearing years.
And you? What is summer teaching/saying to you this year?
Inviting you to let the fruit fall,