Veeder: Summer don't leave me
Columnist Jessie Veeder says she blinked, and she's lonesome for summer before the season has even ended.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — What can happen in a summer at the ranch? When you’re raising two young daughters, this is where they sprout and bloom, in this season of sunshine and sprinklers and butterflies and toads. We’re winding it down now.
If you’re reading this in your local newspaper, I am probably in one of the big towns coaxing those daughters to try on a pair of school shoes, making them stand up, walk around a bit, feeling where their big toe hits, asking them if they feel OK. Do they feel OK? It’s the exact same thing my mom used to do, word for word it seems. Because these days you can get just about anything to come to you in the mail out here with the click of a button, but the shoes need to be tried. It’s a back-to-school ritual that we’re in now because I blinked.
They all told me not to, but I did and the spring that brought record-breaking snowdrifts with it, then it melted and made way for a summer filled with armpit-high grass and wildflowers and healthy black calves kicking up their heels on the hilltops and laying down in the cool draws. Because the rain came to feed the hay crop and you should see the bales dotting the fields. Here we spend our three fleeting months of summer preparing for the long winter and we’re all more prepared than ever it seems. Thanks to the rain. Thanks to the sun. Thanks to the work.
I watched my daughters’ sandy hair turn blond under that sun, and their pale skin tan, their cheeks rosy and flushed when they came in for Popsicles. And I saw them stretch out of their long pants so they could properly skin their knees on the scoria road as they ran wide open toward their cousins’ house. I want to run wide open with them right back into the spring so we can do it all over again, but this time I’ll keep my eyes wide open. I promise.
Why does this always happen to me? Why do I get lonesome for this season before it’s even officially over? Is it because it always feels like we’re at the end of one of those predictable summer-themed movies, where the lighting is perfect and they conquer a fear and they all fall in love in the end at a beach house somewhere along the coastline? Back here in the real world, I’m picking the ripe tomatoes from my garden and hoping for rain again, the sun is setting low at 9 p.m. and the credits are rolling and I have to get back inside to get to the dishes…
And nothing has changed here except sort of everything. Kids learn to ride their bikes and climb the monkey bars backward. They make friends in the campground they’ll never see again. She decides not to wear shirts with unicorns on them because she’s not a baby anymore. They fix their own hair, get their own milk to pour, decide they like tomatoes, grow an inch…
It’s all so gradual, these quiet transformations, like summer herself. You go out one day and notice the sweet peas coming with the green grass and the next time you look, they’re dried up and gone, making way for the sunflowers to bend in the wind alongside that green grass turned golden.
This is us too, you know. I need to make the reminder should we forget that we are as much a part of the transformation of seasons and time ticking as the rising and setting of the sun. You might not have noticed. You might have blinked, and that’s OK.
So stand up, walk around in it now, how does it fit? Does it feel OK? Do you feel OK?
'Summer Don’t Leave Me'
Summer don’t leave me
stay under my feet
hang warm in the sky
don’t dry up the wheat
Summer stay near me
to kiss my skin tan
mess up my long hair
hold tight my hand
Summer please stay here
in the chokecherry trees
on the back of a good horse
in the green of the leaves
Oh, summer my good friend
there’s only so many hours
so take the storms and the rainbows…
but don’t take my wildflowers.