I used to hate summer. Okay, I didn’t really hate summer per se, but I didn’t like it either. And I hated the heat. That’s still true.
But one thing I do love about summer is the scents. Out our front door, the previous owners had planted a sweet pea vine, and while I’m still trying to figure out how to tame it and not let it climb over the porch and make our house look like the scary one from the after school special, it smells wonderful. Floral in a way that perfumes never quite capture.
I can stand outside on a hot summer day – if the humidity lets me – and breathe deep enough to feel the flowers in my lower back. It’s a beautiful thing.
Yesterday, I did something I would never have imagined I’d do when I was 22 and ready to become a college professor, elbow pads on the tweed jacket and all – I rode around the back roads of Virginia in a Jeep with the top off. Philip whipped the top off King, our Jeep Wrangler, and we headed toward the adorable, old town of Rapidan.
We traveled a dirt road and inhaled our fair share of dust, and we breathed deep when we hit thick patches of tree canopy, the shade instantly cooling the 90+ degree day.
But it was when we passed an old plantation house followed right by a field that all of the best smells of summer washed over me – boxwood and freshly cut hay. For me, these scents speak quintessentially of summer.
They call up my languid days of avoiding the heat by staying as still as possible, books piled high and read fast, sparklers, and fireflies. Now, they also remind me that those fields and those boxwood bushes have seen the labor of enslaved hands who had not the option to lay still or read long.
But this sweet memory with this hard knowing only deepens my appreciation. I can love a thing for its joy and for the way it pushes me to remember. Boxwood and hay can hold all the richness of Virginia country life in their richness.
As we drove, I threw back my head and watched the clouds roll by . . . and I breathed deeply – when we weren’t on a dusty road.
Today, it is going to be over 90 again, and we are going fishing. Philip has promised me that we’ll put the canopy up on the boat (how amazing is it that I married a man not only with a Jeep but with a boat, too?). We’ll float and catch and release. I’ll probably read a little, and I’ll most definitely sweat.
But here’s the thing I’m only just beginning to understand – a wonder, a joy can hold some pain and discomfort, too. The beauty of plantations up tree-lined drives and the slave quarter falling to ruin behind. A relaxing Sunday on a boat with people I love and humidity that makes me sweat with each breath. Dusty roads and hayfields. Boxwoods and sunburn.
Sometimes, a thing is made more beautiful when lived full and imperfect.
How do you feel about summer? Love it? Hate it?
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Also, my book The Slaves Have Names is now available FREE as a download from NoiseTrade. I hope you’ll pick up a copy. Feel free to pass along this link to anyone who might be interested – Books.NoiseTrade.com/andilit/the-slaves-have-names-ancestors-of . Many thanks.