Summer is here! Hoorah! Saturday marked the solstice — the longest day of the year and the peak of the sun’s photosynthetic potential.
Ever since the kids were little, we’ve dedicated the top of a little bookshelf in our living space to be a “nature table,” the place where we put our found trinkets and treasures as well as small ornaments to mark the season. I like to keep a bouquet of seasonal flowers (or foliage, depending on the season), as well as an art card depicting kids outside doing seasonal things.
Hiding the messy contents of bookshelf itself (games, school supplies, etc.), I’ve hung a curtain. Years ago, I sewed four different solid-colored curtains for this bookshelf, a different color for each season. This weekend I took down the bright green we use for spring and hung up the muted yellow that we use for summer.
And, already I can see this same change taking place outside in our fields. The spring rains had turned our fields such a vibrant, alive green, and even with the June wetness, already that color has shifted as grasses set their seed heads or go dormant. There is still quite a lot of green in the scene, but I can see the shift. Spring is about growth; summer is a time of maturity. Grains fill out and are harvested; summer annuals put out flowers and fruit; potatoes secretly size up underground. Spring is potential; summer is fruition.
While this summer feels like another beautiful turning in that endless reliable wheel, it feels different too. As I’ve noted before, this entire year feels like a step outside of time. Even though I can see the same ancient patterns at work in the natural world, in our human world it feels as though the future is unpredictable. What will next year bring? What will the next season bring? What will the next month or even week bring? We’re living amidst a global pandemic as well as global awakening. It’s a major election year to boot. My oh my, there is much to ponder these days.
And even as this time feels unprecedented, I feel a slight reprieve from all the unknowns as we go into the reliable dry season of summer. After months of avoiding All The People and All The Places, it feels as though summer could provide the opportunity to see some people in the safer context of distance outside. Our family certainly isn’t about to host any potlucks or sit close to friends, singing by our outdoor fire like we used to. But. It does feel as though we can connect outside one-on-one in ways that are mindful of maintaining distance. Hiking. Kayaking. Sitting across a fire from a friend. These are activities that would feel normal in any summer, and finally something normal is also (reasonably) safe. I, for one, am SO grateful for this renewed ability to connect in some measured ways.
I don’t know what fall will bring, and if I think about it too hard, I have to admit I get scared and anxious. Most days can feel reasonably normal, but at night before I fall asleep, the weight of what has changed and remains uncertain bears down on me in the dark. A good friend reminded me that this experience is grief.
At the very beginning of the quarantine, I happened to read Julia Butterfly Hill’s memoir of her two years living the tree she called Luna. I had purchased it months before out of curiosity. Reading The Overstory made me want to learn more about the real story that inspired much of that novel, but the book sat on my shelf for a long time, perhaps just waiting for the right moment to plop into my lap.
If you’re unfamiliar with her story, Julia Butterfly Hill lived for two full years (1997-1999) in a redwood tree in California in order to raise awareness of the clear-cutting that was destroying the last of these ancient forests. She did not touch the ground at all for two years. She lived and slept on a tiny plywood platform high up in the tree with only tarps for shelter. When storms blew through the forest, she had to hold on to branches and learn to move with them to keep from falling to her death. When it snowed, she woke up covered in snow. Flying squirrels crawled over her in the night. It was an intense experience, to say the least.
What I didn’t know at the time was that she started this process with no intention of remaining so long. She was very new to activism at all and went up the tree based on a gut instinct. The situation evolved over time, and she never knew how long it would last. The days simply added up and as she gained more and more media attention, her resolve to stay increased. She makes it clear in her memoir that she never would have had the fortitude to plan on a two-year stay. Would Hill ever have climbed into Luna if she had known? Unlikely. But as she stayed, she learned how to live in her unique new environment. She couldn’t have prepared beforehand; she learned how to survive from the tree and the experience itself. She literally developed new muscles from climbing and living in Luna, but she also developed inner strength and patience as well.
I keep thinking about her experience as we go deeper into this pandemic. None of us were really prepared for this or knew it was coming. We still don’t know how long it will last, and it’s probably for the best, as like Hill we will continue to develop our stamina and patience and necessary innovations as we go. Hill missed a lot of life squatting in that tree; she missed celebrating birthdays and milestones with friends and she missed years of potential college education or career building. We are missing much of the same down here on the ground now. But her experience reminds me of how deeply resilient and innovative we are as humans. It reminds me of how we can endure and find ways to grow in unusual circumstances. Hill kept her body healthy by climbing rather than walking; she connected with a large network of fellow activists to keep her stocked with necessary supplies; she read at length about forests and trees and the politics of the timber industry while camped out on her platform.
We too have this unexpected opportunity. I never want to sugarcoat this pandemic experience. I would never choose this for myself, for my children, or for the world. But, here we are, working our way through this global crisis together. We have a much bigger world than Hill’s tiny platform and tree, and we too can innovate and grow in unexpected ways. We will all be marked by this, but I hold on to the hope that we will learn things about ourselves and humanity that we truly never anticipated. It is my hope that, like Hill, we learn to pay better attention to the world around us, learning to appreciate the natural world and other people in deeper ways. For sure, we have already learned how real the connections are between all of us. We can no longer pretend to be isolated creatures now that we see that the air I breathe is literally the air you breathe and vice versa. This is a profound lesson that could have profound impacts on how we all live our lives going forward, not to mention how we choose to run businesses and operate governments and communities. That gives me hope. It is still all very painful, but I feel hope in these potential lessons.
And hope in the summer’s coming gifts as well. I can see the pregnant world before me, ready to burst with so many fruits and glories. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Payment reminder! (This is only relevant for CSA members who started in April! If you just started in June, please disregard …) Goodness me, the second scheduled payment date came and went without me even noticing! Oops! I’m going to blame this on “Covid-brain,” which I think is a real thing. Either way, second payments were originally scheduled to be due last Thursday, but because I dropped the ball I’m going to send out statements this week and it’d be wonderful if folks could deliver payment by the end of the month. Watch your email for a statement — if you don’t receive one, it probably means that you don’t owe any money! You are always welcome to email (farm at oakhillorganics dot com) or call me if you have questions about your balance due!
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Meet this week’s vegetables: It was fun to have the number of orders for the “humbler” veggies go up last week! I especially loved every time I put those gigantic bunches of chard or kale into bags. It was very satisfying, and I hope you all enjoyed them! This week’s exciting news for the week is the first of the summer carrots (woo hoooooooo!) and the start of the Lambert cherry season. These old fashioned cherries (dark red, very sweet, big) are the bulk of the trees in the small cherry orchard on my parents’ property (next door to ours). We’ll pick plenty of these as long as they are in good shape — the season length usually depends on weather, so we’ll enjoy them while they last. (Next up will by the first of our plums!)
Also, we have the first of our fresh bulbing onions this week. There’s nothing like the smell in the house when we cook with good onions. Yum!
And, of course, all those humble green vegetables are still in amazing, plentiful shape: kale, chard, parsley, fava beans … and, in case we weren’t certain that summer has arrived, the zucchini are ON. Today’s midweek picking yielded eight bins. Wowza! Summer!