One of my absolute favorite quotes is by Anais Nin, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” It’s why I have enjoyed writing the blog for the past eight years…because it helps me remember and relive the experiences all over again. But I don’t write much these days. I didn’t like the taste of this summer the first time around, so I sure don’t want to taste it twice! Is it a summer best left to fade into the cobwebs of my memory? Or are there small tastes worthy of savoring over again?
I’ve been in a perpetual bad mood for longer now than I would like to recall. My life has evolved around travel since I was 22 years old when I went to work for the airlines, a job that launched a career in the travel industry. After 43 years of constant dreaming, saving, planning and packing, it’s impossible to fathom that it has all come to such an abrupt end. And for who knows how long? It’s particularly frightening to look at the future for a travel addict from a 65-year old’s point of view. Tick Tock!
This may be the first summer that I can recall looking forward to it coming to an end. RVs aren’t meant for triple digits. Even the beastliest of ACs can’t keep up when it’s a heat index higher than my little Winnie thermostat will record. The reading on the internal thermostat tops out at 99, a mark reached every day before noon. RVs only make good “tiny homes” when the livingroom can be comfortably located outdoors, in my opinion.
Summer hasn’t been made easier being a blue-blooded liberal in a hot-headed red state. There are at least three giant trump flags flying within walking distance of the farm.
I signed on to the local town Facebook group, “The Buzz” to keep abreast of what’s taking place in town. Who’s requiring masks, who’s closed down because of the virus. Who’s reopened. This one group has become a microcosm of everything that’s gone afoul in our society these days. It’s not only a boiled down version of life in Small Town Texas, but pretty much the entire country these days.
An innocent (or not) poster will start out asking for information. “Does anyone know if Walmart is enforcing wearing masks?” A few legit answers will spring up. Then the conversation turns testy, with talk of “freedumbs.” From there, the thread deteriorates rapidly, plunging into the depths of racism, even suggesting the color of one’s skin might determine who is or isn’t allowed into Walmart without a mask. It turns into a veritable dog pile, with the filthiest, scrappiest dogs in the yard, teeth gnarled, tearing at each other’s flesh until finally the administrators wake up and delete the thread.
This happens over and over again throughout the day, just like the microbursts that build from the heat and humidity gathering across the hot central Texas plain. Thunderheads grow out of nowhere. They cover the sun, then suddenly turn violent pelting hail and throwing lightning bolts, and then they are gone as quickly as they came. It’s a daily event in the local “Buzz.” Not even high school football can bring out the rudeness, insults, and general disdain turned fury that has ensued over this pandemic. I raise my arms in bewilderment daily, pondering the question over and over, “WTF, Texas??” (Or the entire US, for that matter.)
As spring soared into summer, I decided to try once more to embrace gardening. Like bread baking, DIY renovation, and home gyms, it seemed like the “Pandemic thing to do.” While I never have been a fan of gardening, it’s Mom’s favorite pastime. So I functioned as her artificial limbs to do the heavy lifting, digging, and planting that at 91, she can no longer do. I do admit initially, I was extremely grateful to have something to do during “lock down.”
I look back on those first initial photos of the garden where I was so excited at the first signs of little shoots poking their little green heads through the soil, and I wonder how I lost interest? But then I look a little more closely and realize I was sporting a black fleece hoodie in that first spring harvest photo. Once summer arrived, no matter how few clothes I wore in the triple digit heat and humidity, it still felt like I was wearing that black hoodie.
But central Texas is not a friendly environment, no matter the season. Harsh weather conditions and insect infestations of biblical proportions bring on a lot of heartache to the north Texas gardener. Ever heard of a “vine borer?” A moth lays eggs at the base of your squash vines. Larvae hatches, and a worm sneaks up inside the vine and sucks the life right out of the squash, days before it’s ready to harvest. These vile creatures desecrated our entire crop of squash. And the greens – spinach, kale, chard have to be picked clean, leaf by leaf to remove worms and their eggs. A sight after which I haven’t been able to eat them since.
Even a flower garden has challenges in north Texas. Periwinkles succumb to the fungus causing “Vinca Sudden Death Syndrome.” Aphids are on the attack resisting all attempts at eradication save for the harshest of chemicals that wipe out all pollinators at the same time. Impatiens wilt daily. Even the heartiest of flowers, the perky petunia can’t stand up to the scorching Texas sun once summer heats up.
My conclusion: “Gardening is for the birds!” And the bees. And the borers, leaf hoppers, yellow jackets, wasps, worms, and chiggers. As a modern day “Lisa” would rewrite the Green Acres theme song, “Keep my nails clean, just gimme me a Farmer’s Market! “
Farm chores completed, I spend evenings escaping through countless hours immersed in youtube videos. My guilty pleasure is following cruisers as they make their way circumnavigating the globe. I’ve gotten lost scanning the blue water horizon, surfed downwind in the big swells, and observed local cultures on distant islands. I’ve reeled in giant tuna, showered on deck in a rainstorm, and trimmed sails to the wind all while confined to the keyboard. If I can’t be on a boat, I will at least follow those who are. I’ve certainly had the heat and humidity to simulate the weather.
“Travel is not some panacea. There is no place far enough away to escape your problems. Your baggage comes with you. But, what travel does is give you the space to work out your problems away from their root causes. It lets you be a blank slate. Sometimes that’s all you need.” ~Nomadic Matt