Reflections on a Vocational Happenstance
Summer is in full swing now, there's no denying.
The 4th of July has been and gone, in all its complexity.
I wondered why this gentle landscape that I so much love suddenly sprouted so many Confederate flags. I was forced, once again, to ponder what it means to be "patriotic" and to ask whether there can be anything useful about nationalism.
How can borders and flags be relevant in the 21st century?
Independence Day we call it, and celebrate. But what does it all mean?
My garden is certainly running independently in these full summer days, doing its own thing with an urgency far beyond anything I might pretend to control. Day lilies and bee balm and honeysuckle; evening primrose, cone flowers, and clematis -- all abloom now. Phlox and rudbeckia straining to burst onto the scene, not wanting to miss anything. No more tender green shoots, vulnerable and new. Bleeding Heart, iris, lilacs, and peonies all gone quiet now.
My summer garden is robust and wild, like an adolescent escaped -- racing headlong and free toward maturity, unconcerned about what waits on the other side. Me, I sit watching, my emotions mixed and mingled.
Sure it is that I'm glad for the health of my garden, and grateful for the teeming life. Indeed, this is what I plan for, what I work for, the success I imagine all winter long. Birds and insects of every shape and size and color are here in my garden, enjoying its bounty.
But I want it to move just a bit slower. Pages are flying off the calendar -- days into weeks into months -- but nothing in my garden cares at all for the passing of time. Nothing but me feels melancholy.
Knitting is completely different from gardening, I'm sure I've told you. The work progresses (or not) at the pace I set. The quality of the finished product is all up to me. I like that feeling of creative control, and knitting is dear to me as an occupation. As you know, I knit every day with pleasure.
But sometimes in summer -- when my eyes just can't stop loving the garden, caressing each bold and brazen flower reaching for the sun -- my hands grow still and my knitting lies lifeless in my lap. Who do I think I'm fooling, I think then, because nothing I make with my two hands will ever rival the magic that happens with or without me in the garden, and my carefully progressing stitches feel too tame.
There's whimsy in summer, too, which I mostly see in the clouds as they move untethered across the wide sky. They drift or race or hover. Sometimes they dance, and they can glower, too. Stars are mystical, serious things, and the sun and moon are comforting in their consistence. But clouds are wandering around up there, shape-shifting, playing hide-and-seek, marching to their own beat.
William Carlos Williams saw some whimsy in the summer moon, though -- saw it wandering rather than constant like I described it -- and wrote a lovely poem called Summer Song. I will leave you now with his words, and pick up my knitting once more.
faintly ironical smile
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?