August gardens

Not normally one for gardens, I have a growing love for my parents' backyard this summer. Over the past few years my mom has developed a green thumb, and on any given summer day she is out back picking her fresh tomatoes and strawberries, pulling leaves of basil and sprigs of rosemary to add to her dinner, watering the pink and red flowers that dot the horizon in their hanging pots. On weekends my dad mows the lawn and fixes the windowboxes out front; if I'm home visiting, he'll wash and clean my car for me, without asking. (A nice surprise if you can get it.) The dogs lounge, then roll around in the freshly-cut grass, stretching out their backs and shaking off the clippings. Sometimes it feels like an episode of The Wonder Years, old-timey and idyllic, without all the bad men's shorts.

But back to the garden. Here in the foreground are real live pumpkin patches, two kinds, and one trails back in a curve to my favorite plant of all, the butterfly bush. This whole section of the backyard was an unexpected garden -- the bay winds blew some stray seeds there, and nature did its thing. It is dangerously close to overtaking the lower deck (you can see a swath of the deck in the bottom right; yes, it's red, or "country red" as my parents like to say.). I cannot wait for fall to see how many pumpkins appear, though I'll mourn the missing butterflies.

And here is the strawberry plant -- in full and close up. My niece tends to steal all of the ripe ones (we can all take a lesson from her, I think -- seize what you want before it's gone) but she left a few behind, and I popped one in my mouth, sweet as candy and redder than the petals that bloom beside it.

Gardening is a lot of work; I am not always patient. When it hasn't rained for days one must step in; as quickly as new leaves and petals and fruits come forth, other ones die and must be picked. Then there are the spiders that build forts over some of the plants, especially at night; there is always a risk of getting caught in a sticky silver web when you try to coax guests outside for some midnight margaritas on the deck. There are bees.

But I think it is all worth it. Especially the midnight margaritas.