When I bought my house, thirteen summers ago, my three baby crape myrtle trees were so small that I could look right over them from my porch swing. I’d sit there on summer nights watching people come and go up and down Swain Street. There was a prostitute, Sheila, who would always stop and ask about my flowers. The kids in the house across the street were usually up to some sort of shenanigans, and that was fun, and the neighborhood drug dealer would wave every time he walked past and was super friendly, but then, he was in sales. That’s how people in sales are. Other neighbors would come by with strollers, or dogs, or sometimes it would be really quiet on the street and I’d just sit on the porch at night and listen to the cicadas.
The crape myrtles got bigger and bigger. I hardly noticed the change, year to year, except they edged out my flagpole, and at one point threatened to take a shingle off of the roof, but they grew on past that danger. They’re way too close to the house, but nobody asked my opinion when they landscaped just before I moved in. I don’t mind. For the past few summers, they’ve bloomed in July and into August, and when they bloom the branches are so heavy that they droop, and I have to duck under them to get down the steps. At this point, when the blooms come, the whole situation threatens to swallow my tiny house.
I love it.
In other news, I’ve declared this summer to be the Summer of Beer in Cans, because I’m broke after being laid off for a couple of months when my office closed, and from traveling to Brussels and Budapest and down Route 66, and I don’t regret any of that. I love my new job, and am also squarely facing the fact that it will be at least a year or so before I’m caught up. Unless my car falls apart. Then I will never ever ever be caught up. But I can walk to work. So that’s fine.
It’s been the Summer of Beer in Cans ever since Veronica and I decided it was fun to drink beer out of cans while sitting on the curb during the Cornhole tournament, and then I ended up with a pink tray full of (mostly) my friends’ empty cans at Kirby Derby and we drank the rest out of china cups, and then I just made the call that $3.98 six-packs were fine. Even better than fine. Maybe it’s a hipster thing, and all the kids switched back to cans way before I got on the bandwagon. That’s fine, too. My self-esteem is not wrapped up in this issue. I’m just looking for simplicity, this summer. Things that are easy, and straightforward, and good. Things that aren’t overblown, overpriced, overpackaged, overpromised. Things that are exactly as they should be.
I’m reclaiming the general spirit of summer this year: taking things a bit more slowly, folding up the to-do list and losing it in my giant work bag, relaxing the schedule, relaxing the rules. I’m still getting used to a new job and a new schedule. I’m being fairly easy on myself. I’ll tighten everything up in the fall, but right now, I count myself among the seriously lazy. Simple pleasures, y’all.
The Summer of Beer in Cans may also be part of the general 2013 theme of Pleasant Surprises. (Never leave an English major alone too long. We will always start creating extended metaphors and recurring motifs. It’s pretty irritating. Imagine what it’s like in my head.)
My thirteen year old crape myrtles have been looking a little ragged, lately; I hadn’t really put my finger on it, but the whole yard is a jungle with al of this rain so the ragged trees hadn’t stood out much. This week something unexpected happened. The crape myrtles exfoliated. Just shed their bark like a snakeskin, in long tattered strips. It curled, and puckered, and then hung on for a few days, then started falling off in sheets. It’s fascinating to watch. It’s like they decided, “listen, people, we can either blow out these piles of billowy flowers, or we can maintain this veneer of perfect appearance down here where we’re holding everything up.” They chose billowy flowers, and shed the bark.
The in-between stage is not pretty. After I cleaned up the mess, piles and piles of discarded tree facade, much of it dangling like jungle vines, I touched the smooth trunk that was underneath. It’s subtle, and finely patterned, and now that it’s all structure, it’s totally a form-follows-function kind of architecture. It’s substance over appearance. Crape myrtles are supposed to do this when they hit maturity. It makes them even more gorgeous, in the long run.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I know I’m mixing up my stories. I claim artistic license. I’ll leave it to you to work out the metaphor you need most. Change is good? Change is messy but worth it? Don’t overthink things?Enjoy the small things, even if they’re not fancy? Especially if they’re not fancy? You never know when something will surprise you? What’s underneath is so much more important that what you think you see on the surface?
Or, maybe just, it’s summer, and everything is proceeding exactly as it should.
I like all of that. Summer on, y’all. Summer on.