Playdates with God: How to Save [Savor] Summer Memories

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The soil keeps giving back and tomatoes flood every counter of my kitchen. Each morning, when I walk Bonnie around the house, we visit the garden. My shirt becomes a basket—I hold up the hem, filled to the brim with romas, with one hand and maneuver the leash with the other.

Life doesn’t stop to wait for the harvest, not in this suburban household. So I must figure out ways to preserve and can in between all the busy-ness of getting ready for a new school year, sending Teddy off to college, extra hours at work, and fading daylight.

Summer is singing its last songs. In the evenings, when Jeff and I do our porch sit, the fireflies dwindle in number. Last night, as we sat in the fading light, hundreds of Starlings flocked to a nearby Poplar tree. When they flew overhead, I heard the sound of the wind rushing under their wings, and I forgave them for robbing my feeders on so many days.

Yesterday, as I stood at the sink washing tomatoes, I thought about my grandmother again. Did she ever wish she only had herself to worry about? Did thoughts of her nine children weigh heavy each moment? I weigh worry against love right there at my kitchen sink and love wins every time. How empty life would be if I only had myself to think of.

We must not wish these moments away. So I roast tomatoes, peel garlic, sauté the onions and put it all together. Then I can all that goodness and put it away to be enjoyed in the cold months.

A memory of summer.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Garden Notes: Nurture

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When I returned from the College Summit Workshop, I was amazed at how much my garden had grown in just four days. I spent Monday afternoon stringing and canning beans, letting the slow snap of the pods soothe my mind and welcome me back into the routine of home. My tomatoes are struggling this year, due to all the rain, but I still have been able to start my mid-summer diet—tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and some in-between). This morning, I diced one of my salad varieties into petite bites and stirred the red bits into a pan-scrambled egg. Is there a better way to start the day?

Our first night at the College Summit Workshop was spent in training. All the writing coaches gathered in one room and our coordinator took us through the same free-writing exercises we would be asking our students to do over the next three days. After writing for ten minutes, we took turns reading our scribblings to one another, while the others took notes; just as our students would do. This simple activity allowed us to share our stories, to learn about the hearts and passions of each person there. I learned—by the way a voice would change as it held certain words—about the greatest loves these strangers carried. By the end of the night it felt like we knew each other better than some life-long friends.

I learned some things about myself through words shared and the lens of writing. Some things, I guess, we never leave behind. But, perhaps, the broken ways, the hard memories, the things we try to prune away, perhaps these are the very things that become the soil bed for rich growth.

Sometimes I think I love gardening because it proves to me that I can care for something other than myself—that I do have the ability to nurture and cultivate. All those years taking care of myself when no one else would—they have a way of turning the gaze inward. Survival of the fittest, right?

When my boys were born, the desire to nourish and teach and give was so strong the pain of it would overtake me at times. Now that they are older, they try to shake free of the bumpers I’ve put in place for their lives. They want to make their own way. At least in part.

But the garden never shrugs off my hands. My eggplants are beautiful and the summer squash are late but they are coming. I will have late cucumbers too, my planting was distracted by a boy’s graduation this year. Every morning I visit the garden. In the cool of the evening I tend to her needs.

And she will give back in countless ways.

West Virginia Morning: The Million Little Oblivions

Yesterday, when I came home from work, I picked the rest of the kale from my garden. It was a long overdue harvest (and the fence is not yet fixed so I figured I better get busy). I worked diligently down each row, still clad in my work clothes, letting the burn of the evening sun remind my skin of younger days. Something of the smell of sun on soil stirred the memory of our family garden when I was a girl, and I was lost for a time in a rhythm of steady picking and the company of ghosts.

The kale is cleaned and waiting to be added to a soup, but this morning I couldn’t resist sautéing a little red onion in a dollop of bacon grease, dropping in some greens and tomatoes, and scrambling an egg over all that goodness. It’s my favorite springtime breakfast and it felt like a celebration.

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Today is Jeffrey’s last day of school, so I was up early to make his “hello summer” breakfast: special pancakes and a side of sausage. I sent him off with a full tummy and a mamma kiss, and sat at the kitchen table in wonder of the way the earth spins so quickly these days.

As I sat before my celebration breakfast, I watched out the window for the sparrow—the persistent little bird that has taken over my bluebird box. Every spring it’s the same thing—I pull nest after sparrow nest from the box, trying to dissuade the scrappy things from inhabiting. But they always outwit me, building replacement nests with such speed and alacrity that inevitably; the eggs are laid before I can dispose of their bed. And I haven’t the heart to toss them. Instead, each morning I watch for the sparrow head to emerge so that I might simultaneously cuss and praise her grit.

I watch her lift herself up out of the box and fluff her feathers on a nearby branch. And as she pushes off for whereabouts unknown, light comes. It’s the same shaft of light I welcome each morning—brought by a peeking sun funneled through neighboring houses and over rooftops. There is nothing remarkable about that falling light; it’s just an everyday miracle. The way it announces the day and sheds over the backyard, lifting my heart as it spreads like spilled milk on the table.

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As a buttery bite of kale crisps on my tongue, I watch the light move across the yard and I realize, as Christian Wiman says, “the million little oblivions of which the day is made”—all everyday miracles.

Good cause for celebration.

Garden Notes: Seed Changeling

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Yesterday, one of the goats slipped through the fence and when we returned from graduation practice late morning, she was standing in our back yard—perilously close to my garden. I called our neighbor, the goat-man, but he wasn’t picking up, so all I could do was stand guard with a little poker stick and prod at her every time she took a bite of my greens. Each time I did so, I felt so bad that I gently scratched her course-haired nose immediately after. My discipline had little effect. She looked up at me with those vertical pupils—something like adoration on her sweet, kale-stealing face.

We still had a lot of preparation to do for the graduation ceremony that evening. My mom was driving down and I needed to put clean sheets on her bed. Teddy’s slacks still needed ironing, and his gift wasn’t wrapped, not to mention he needed to practice his speech. Time was slipping through my fingers and here I was, goat-sitting.

I walked along the fence line to see if I could find the escape spot. Maybe I could gently urge her back through to the other side. I ran inside and plucked an apple from our fruit bowl. She followed the apple and me along the fence, softly bleating. But I could find no open door through which to coax her. It looked like she had somehow squeezed underneath the already bowed out metal fence. I tried to lift the skeletal remains up and tempt her back under with the apple, but her kindred on the other side caught wind of my fruity treat and came running in a cloud of witnesses. I was soon in danger of having a herd of goats in my yard.

I put the graduate in charge of the poker-stick and drove up to my neighbor’s house to see if anyone could come and retrieve this errant goat. There I learned the goat-man was on his way and when I returned upon the scene he was making the last strides through the meadow to assess the situation. Meanwhile, Miss Goat kept stealing little bites of kale as Teddy ineffectively poked and reprimanded.

The goat-man walked the fence adjacent to our yard and was as mystified as we as to how she had slipped through. He was apologetic, but wondered if I could just lift her up and over to him, then he would inspect the fence for the weak places.

Pick up a goat?

Hilarity ensued. Miss Goat somehow knew we were going to put an end to her adventure and managed to deftly elude us from all sides. At one point, I was possessed with a fit of giggles so pervasive I thought I was going to have to give it up. Finally, we had her cornered by the garden and when she took a bite of kale, I pounced.

Pygmy goats are small but compact and it felt like I was picking up a small Volkswagen. But I handed her off to the goat-man without incident. She joined her other goat friends gladly and soon I was left standing alone, surveying the remains of my kale.

She hadn’t done too much damage, and the greens are nearly past prime anyway. Already the summer squash seeds I had pressed down in between the leafy greens were poking up through the dark soil. I needed to harvest the rest of the lettuce and spinach, pull up all the greens and either use them or feed them to the goats. It is time for the garden’s second wave of crops. The tomatoes and peppers are looking good. My bean plants are nearly four inches tall and looking for more room to vine up and out. I studied the beginning of their twinings and noticed how the remnant of the seeds still clung to the sides of their stems. I gently touched the soft, yellow half moons of the broken pods in wonder.

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How do these growing things begin as one thing and change into something entirely different? Beautiful and fragile all at once?

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I knew I needed to harvest the kale very soon. But the sheets still needed changing and the slacks pressing. And my boy was waiting in the house, filled with anticipation for the evening.

I took a last look at the goat-nibbled greens and headed back inside.

Playdates with God: Harvest

We’ve been enjoying the garden; canning, cooking, eating from her table. This is a post from last summer when we were deep in the same. Makes me hungry…

The garden’s days are waning but still the tomato plants are heavy with fruit. There are mounds of peppers and some cucumbers too. So Sunday after church, Jeff and I spend the afternoon in the kitchen. We seed and core tomatoes for the puree, dice, chop, and roast until our valley home is filled with the aroma of love.

The spaghetti sauce simmers and I get out our favorite book of salsa recipes. Something must be done with all these jalapeno peppers. The basil is looking peaky too, so I dig around in the cupboard to see what I have to make pesto with. There are no pine nuts, but pecans will make a rich blend, so I press the garlic into the processor and think heaven must smell like an Italian deli. The pesto goes into an ice cube tray for freezing individual portions.

Jeff and I stand side by side and scoop fresh salsa onto tortilla chips—I like it spicy but he prefers the mild. We can some of it to keep for the winter, along with the spaghetti sauce, and my eyes are full for the blessings of the vine. The pickles will have to wait for a bulkier yield, but I dice up a cucumber for a salad at dinner time and taste clean joy.

It’s a delicious way to open the eyes to the world around, I think. A delicious way to unfold. But we are not ready to open to full bloom just yet. This place of tender love is sweet medicine.

Besides…there are still more tomatoes.

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

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