Heartland

During the wheat harvest of 1977, when Betty was thirty-two and Arnie forty-five, Betty drove every evening from her full-time job as a subpoena officer at the Sedgwick County courthouse in downtown Wichita to Arnie’s farm. She took over the house, cooking for Arnie and his field help, driving tubs of fried chicken, paper plates, and jugs of iced tea to fields where yellow dust followed red combines. She learned the blowing dirt of the country summer, when teeth turn gritty in the wind and shower water turns brown between shoulders and toes. She rode the combine with Arnie, a rite of passage for any would-be farmer’s wife, and woke up the next morning with clogged sinuses. She sweated through the harvest nights of midsummer, when fans blow hot air through hot bedrooms and sleep is possible only because of how hard you worked.

~ Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth


More on this book:

Forecast: 94° F. (Feels like…Hot)


Wiebke Rauers, a freelance illustrator from Berlin working on character designs, children’s books, and magazines. Find her on Facebook here.

This August Day

This August day, reader, is a rose window glowing with heat.

I make you a gift of it, it is yours.

One o’clock. I am going back to the village for lunch. Strong with the silence of the pines and the chestnut trees.

I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer.

~ Violette LeDuc, La Bâtarde


Notes: Quote: Nemophilies. Photo: Franiuk (via Your Eyes Blaze Out). Inspired by: High today – 91° F. Lisbon: 111.2° F

Now has come, an easy time

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by, and a willow listens
gracefully.

I hear all this, every summer…
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.

And I know where it is.

~ William Stafford, from “Why I Am Happy” in Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford by Kim Stafford 


Notes: Poem – Thank you Hammock Papers. Photo: Elena Morelli

Before Air-Conditioning*

Later on, in the Depression thirties, the summers seemed even hotter. Out West, it was the time of the red sun and the dust storms, when whole desiccated farms blew away and sent the Okies, whom Steinbeck immortalized, out on their desperate treks toward the Pacific. My father had a small coat factory on Thirty-ninth Street then, with about a dozen men working sewing machines. Just to watch them handling thick woollen winter coats in that heat was, for me, a torture. The cutters were on piecework, paid by the number of seams they finished, so their lunch break was short—fifteen or twenty minutes. They brought their own food: bunches of radishes, a tomato perhaps, cucumbers, and a jar of thick sour cream, which went into a bowl they kept under the machines. A small loaf of pumpernickel also materialized, which they tore apart and used as a spoon to scoop up the cream and vegetables.

~ Arthur Miller, Before Air-Conditioning (The New Yorker, June 22, 1998)


Notes:

  • *Inspired by temperature now in Dallas, TX: 103° F and Rising!
  • Photo: Radishes by El Oso Botas. “Madrid-based, Guatemala-born and raised, photographer, food stylist, chef and digital content creator. I’ve had a keen interest in art, colours, and shapes since I was a child.” More photographs here.

Lie back daughter, let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand.

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls…
You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea…
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

Philip Booth, from “First Lesson” in  Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999


Notes: Photo by mary-annm. Poem via 3 Quarks Daily

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon,” Henry James wrote late in his life, repeating the phrase with evident relish, as if to squeeze the full pleasure out of it, “to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” It’s easy to see his point, to follow him into the meadowland that those two words conjure effortlessly. Surely “summer afternoon” suggests a lovely aimlessness, with time as a friendly spirit guide, not a haunting, hectoring ghost. Lemonade, ice beading the glass, comes to mind, and a fat 19th-century novel that you’ll never actually finish but can drift into, and then let fall open on the grass, as you get lost (you’re in a hammock under a big shade tree) in a drift of clouds passing overhead, shaping and reshaping themselves. That’s “summer afternoon” for you. It gathers you up, paradoxically, when you give up hunting for it. Keep it simple: Walk the dog, let her sniff to her intelligent nose’s deep content—no rushing her along to get the job done. Pausing, gazing, staring idly—this is the odd discipline of leisure. Let it find you on a park bench, with a bag of stale bread for the ducks in the pond…A nap occurs somewhere in the midst of this summer afternoon, the kind where you don’t really fall asleep but glide around in your mind, surprised by a memory, a moment, a regret, maybe your mother’s hands, her rings swiveling, your father and his deep frown, or that bully in second grade you kicked in the groin, glad to hear him howl and stop teasing you. Now you’re smiling. Your mind floats among these drifting bits that suddenly seem intensely worthy of attention, valuable. Just pause over these lost details, the collection you didn’t even know you’d amassed.Maybe that’s the way to practice for the launch of a successful vacation—not with a plan for two weeks freighted with expectation but with a single afternoon at full and indulgent ease. Call it a summer afternoon, not quite vacation time. It leads you past the fretful workweek into this sweet shimmering season you’ve been waiting for all year long.

~ Patricia Hampl, from “All of Summer In a Single Afternoon” (wsj.com, June 21, 2018)


Photo by Ali de Niese titled Lemonade (“I have a great love and admiration for the paintings of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. I love the combination of yellow and blue with a touch of white which is used in some of his paintings (e.g. Girl With A Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid). I’ve tried to create my own version of a yellow and blue still life, ‘after but nowhere near Vermeer’, if you like.”

And how good it feels, the heat of the sun between the shoulder blades


Photo: Delano Hotel, South Beach. Post title: Mary Oliver

In it is summer, and midday, and immortality

“He was an art student, and he spent the day at the lake drawing a study of sky and clouds. Nothing else. The grown-ups had little to say after looking at his creation. But I liked the clouds, they were of the cumulus variety, my favorite, eternal wanderers, clean celestial mountains. They’d hung above Lake Hepojarvi for a while that day, and then left. The cardboard painting was placed on top of the sideboard; it soon fell into the crack between the sideboard and the wall. But then—a few years later—I found it; bending some wire into a poker, I pulled it out, along with a thick layer of dust, dead flies of years past, and a green leg from a plastic toy hippo. I took the cardboard picture and thus appropriated a singular day of eternity. In it is summer, and midday, and immortality. Certainly immortality.”

~ Tatyana Tolstaya, from “The Invisible Maiden” in “Aetherial Worlds: Stories” (Knopf, March 20, 2018)

 


Photo by William Eggleston via Time Lightbox

Saturday Afternoon


A man and a child resting in the rays of the sun on Friday in Kiev, Ukraine. (Sergei Supinsky, wsj.com April 6, 2018)
%d bloggers like this: