In the Time of Summer



By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Heat roils across my hill as I step into the dog days of summer, plunge into the pool and surface into a shimmer of my youth. The hours barely passed then, as we sought the morning’s flickering shade, splayed under the swaying arms of weeping willows. The grass cooled and tickled, and when the breeze stilled, when dew abandoned the ground and bedecked our brows, when boredom prevailed, we scooted on elbow, heel and ass to peek up just past the edge of the willow, to spy pictures in the sky, to find fancy piled upon fancy in shades of white and blue and wonder. Drifty, dreamy images fluttered by on tendrils of hot air and moisture, visions of summers to come. Now, they are visions of summers past. Vague recollections entice others, memories evoke memories, and I succumb to the warm wave of reminiscence. ...

At Tydings-on-the-Bay, the family seeks respite from Baltimore's stinking markets and steamy Southern Baptist socials. The season’s heaven is as hot as hell, so my father's mother swims in the early morning sun, the rising light, the silence of sleeping progeny. Her ears fill with the water of two hundred fifty years of fishermen's traps, floating battles of wits and finance, sunken souls. Framed by dusty lace and handprints, she returns from the edge of land, ankle-deep in the pine needles of last season's hopes and sighs. She pulls back moth-wing coverlets to wake us for breakfast and draws us from bed with the scent of frying scrapple, grits and green tomatoes. We pray for her watermelon rind pickle as she repositions the tortoiseshell combs that hold her endless hair in place and her world together. ...

Harmony buzzes — a chorus of lawn mowers, insects and low flying planes. The grass is yet moist with tears of another day's passing, another day closer to replacing steamed crabs and corn on the cob with brown bag lunches at the big kids’ school. But for now, summer flowers play pub to bees and lipstick to girls who yearn to be women. We dress in fairy gowns of weeping willow and woven clover, with tomato breasts and berry-stained nails, and we smoke cornhusks when no one watches from the kitchen window. We hide along a stream's bank, escaping plebeian Cheerios, taunting big brothers, demands to be something other than our dreams. We imagine gossamer barges and honeyed rosebuds, the grace and wisdom that will one day be ours. ...

Inner tubes with six-pack anchors voyage across a watering hole. Once boys and girls, now barely adults, we plot the world's salvation: Love and revolution are the answer — or is it revolutionary love? This is our wholesome debate as cows bellow to the music of a generation wading through sparkling ripples of change. We feast on homemade cheese, the sprouts of provocative vision, the final summer of our youth. We dive to the murky bottom one last time and surface with the muck from which our species first emerged. It oozes between our fingers and we know the very world is in our hands. ...

Wafts of ocean breath curl round limbs entwined in sweltry sand. We draw long strokes of air and each other, tremble at the touch of fingertips, the sun, the lees of a million million waves, the ebb and flow of unanimity. Tears mingle and meander the joy and sorrow between us. Romance has blown in before a ferry of tourists, binoculars perched on the ship’s rail searching for secrets, cameras poised to frame history — but will we have one? Passion crosses over them like an angel over blood-marked doors and alights dangerously in our lovers' arms as we crest with the waves. And by summer's end, all evidence, save the love, of a couple walking hand-in-hand is shifted by the tides to someone else's strand. ...
North Iowa Tea Party Billboard
We watch the glue of an inflamed mob bubbling beneath the sky-high images of Hitler and Obama and Lenin. The three are falsely strung together by practiced loathing, the vitriol of glib puppets who toss the masses bonbons of fear like cheap Mardi Gras beads — in hope of bare-breasted adulation. The mob feasts on the ephemera their idols spew with such self-serving vengeance — dark accusations that evaporate in the sun but linger in unquestioning minds, calls to arms amputated by ignorance, dried tea leaves that swirl out of reach on the hot air of hate. ...

And I look back to earth. The quest for grace, the harmony of hopeful discourse, the rhythmic balance of unsullied tides, the common embrace of responsibility for our future — are they such arcane notions? I finger the ancient tortoiseshell combs and wonder if in this time they can hold the world together.

Love, K-B

©2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Billboard photo courtesy of Bob Fisher, KRIB.