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Cricket summer

There’s a bittersweet short period at the very end of summer that, if I had my druthers, I’d preserve and extend past its all-too-short tenure.  Before I began teaching it was the two weeks before Labor Day, before either I or my son had to go back to school (and when I was a kid, that was when my mother went back to work and I had the fierce joy of private time mixed with occasional town trips for back-to-school shopping).  Usually by this point the harshest heat of summer has passed, and the ever-shortening days bring cooling breezes to ease the day’s high temperatures.  The bite of cool damp in the air from offshore marine flows serves as a reminder that winter is coming.  Winter is near.

But not yet.

Now, too, is the glorious high season of sweet summer fruit.  Peaches, tomatoes, apples, berries, early sweet corn (here in the Willamette Valley, where tomatoes and corn can be iffy).  Canning season.  As a child, I spent plenty of time helping process peaches, pears, beans, etc, etc, etc.  For a while I continued the tradition but as my son grew older and I developed more commitments, I stopped doing as much home food preserving.

As the nights cool, the crickets begin their chirping.  As a child, I was told by my elders that the crickets start chirping six weeks before frost.  Well, considering the first frost is sometime around the first part of October, that’s roughly true.  The cricket song, however, identifies this part of summer for me, all the way from rural childhood to urban adulthood.  Cricket summer.  The last delicious bites of August, before school begins and the days shorten even more.  Cricket summer.  Where the grass crackles dry and sharp underfoot, a slight scuff of the foot raises uncharacteristic dust, and the light changes from day to day.

Cricket summer.  The fleeting, brief moment of the change from summer to fall, before the first steady rains.

In my farm youth I’d linger outside on cricket summer nights as long as possible.  The moons of cricket summer hang huge on the horizon.  Some evenings I’d wander out to the horse pasture and ride my first Shetland, Windy, bareback, with not much more than a lead rope around his nose.  We’d thunder around in the twilight, Windy enthusiastically leaping over the small ditches and scrambling up a small pile of gravel.  He liked a good wild gallop around the pasture in the dusk.  By this point he’d gotten past the point where unloading me was a priority–the two of us running together was much more fun and I wasn’t coming off of him very much.  We’d grown up together and, for a few sweet cricket summers, we had those wild rides.

Other summers I’d wander in the pasture, followed by Windy’s successors to see if I’d pick them some blackberries.  Horses could nibble blackberries off of the bushes but of course it was much better if nimble human fingers plucked berries to feed to horses.  I’d sit down somewhere, maybe play my recorder, or just sit and listen to the crickets sing.  One night I saw a meteor wink out just above the pasture.

Well, these days I don’t have the farm.  I have other memories of cricket summers as an adult.  The cricket summer in Wallowa County, thirty-two years ago, learning the rhythms of a new microclimate.  Learning the cricket summers of Portland.  Learning the cricket summers of my in-laws’ place on the Coast.

But where ever I was, I savored the cricket song, the cool moist bite of evening air, the soft whisper of the breezes in the trees hinting of winter to come.

This year is no different.  This year, this place.  The Gravenstein apple tree still clings to a few of its apples, big and full in comparison to previous years.  The little Grimes Golden apples aren’t quite ready yet, while the Italian plum trees are almost ready to be picked.  The crickets are in full song as the thickening crescent moon sets and the light fades away.  The breeze has a soft bite of damp coolness in it.  If I sit outside long enough I’ll probably see yet another raccoon family wander through the yard to eat the fallen plums.

Cricket summer.  Would that it were longer.  On the other hand, if it were longer, would it be as sweet?

That I do not know.

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Happiness #21

Finding lots of good social studies resources cached in the classroom, and getting my mind wrapped around teaching that class!  US History, here I come!

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If I’d written half the posts I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks, there’d be a lot of them.  As it were, I’ll half-write them (usually while falling asleep/waking up) and then the topic and brilliant words flee from the brain once I’d find the time to sit down and write.  Aiiee.

Life has settled, somewhat (still lots of unwanted drama and sadness but not as close in to me–murder of an Internet friend’s spouse amongst other sad things).  I am going to be teaching a social studies class (non-Special Ed) this year which has me excited in various ways and trembling in others.  It will be a steep learning curve, for certain.  But I’m hoping it will be a good process.  I get to teach U.S. History and while it appears that the process is fairly much laid out for me, nonetheless I get to work with one of my passions.

It’s only now that I’m realizing the degree of brainburn I’ve gotten from the past few crazy years at work.  The impact has been hard on my creative brain; at this point the wild summer coupled with a heat spell has made even revision writing hard.  But going to GearCon this weekend had the hoped-for effect of stirring up ideas and concepts.  Recovering in other ways will be a challenge.  The stress of the past two years, especially the past year in particular, has left me with a trashed-out GI system.  The slightest upset in either grease or acidic foods has me yarking at the Great Throne and I’d just as soon avoid that.  Hopefully this year ahead will be uneventful and maybe I can get the GI system back into a state of calm.

I’m also finding it hard to pull myself into a state of high energy.  I don’t know if it’s the late summer doldrums, fatigue finally catching up with me, or just a lack of structure.  I do know that I have a lot to do and some changes to make.  All good ones, but it’s a time of challenge.

And with that, I’ll be about my day.  A good day to all, and may your challenges all be productive.

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Happiness #20

Buying a corset at GearCon and rocking a new style.

(Yes, I’m being consumerist in this one!  No, I don’t feel guilty.  I was supporting a small designer who commissions their own fabrics.  Plus it’s nice on my sore back.)

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Happiness # 19

Dancing with poi at the GearCon Mad Science ball and not whacking myself too horribly or looking too clumsy in the process.  Still not ready yet for fire poi, but getting there!

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Happiness # 16

Talking with a friend about steampunk costumes for this weekend’s GearCon and planning my outfits for the weekend…then coming home and realizing that the vintage pocket watch in my drawer will make a perfect accessory….

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Happiness #15

The coolness of an overcast morning during a mid-August hot spell.

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Happiness # 14

Big, crunchy, Gravenstein apples.  Apple crisp, sausage and apples, applesauce, apple pie, apple cake….now if I only knew someone with a cider press….

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Happiness catchup and a pleasant weekend–music festivals

So as my last post suggested, I was looking forward to a pleasant weekend camping in the woods.  This was our last music campout in the woods, a pleasant and small gathering in the valley where I grew up, listening to reggae music.  As always, I find it mildly ironic that this sort of gathering is happening there.

This weekend it was all about friends–old friends and new friends.  We camped near someone we knew from the old political days thirty years ago; while she didn’t clearly remember us (hey, thirty years without contact can be a while) it was still pleasant (we weren’t close).  Plus hey, there was a lot of female and crone energy in our site, which was extremely pleasant.

Normally I try to take some of my stone bead jewelry to this gathering and do low-level barter for fun stuff.  This year, I didn’t do it because…well, lots of crazy life stuff this summer, as my posts made clear.  I didn’t think it was that popular.  Ironically, this year people came looking for it.  Lesson to me–always bring the stones.  Oh well, it is what it is and I will figure it out eventually.

DH and I went out all three nights to watch meteors.  Despite facing southwest instead of northeast (better vision in that direction anyway), we saw lots of meteors, including some spectacular big ones every night.  We provided amusement to folks wandering between their camps and the music because they’d ask what was going on and we’d tell them about the meteors.

I spent a lot of time talking to people about neurodiversity, education, and lots of professional stuff.  Lots of people at this festival in the field in varying ways, so we talked a lot of shop and agonized over how horrible the current state of affairs is for people of all ages at the margins.  I read a couple of very good books, and sketched out some new site additions focusing on neuroscience and neurodiverse teaching options.

Ended up buying a new set of poi (now up to four) and I think I like this new lightweight set of lighted poi.  It has the most programming options available for the lights, though they still switch on without warning (I think they’re going to live in a bag for traveling).  I danced with the new poi and had a lot of fun with them, plus they can be shortened up enough to spin indoors.

But overall, it was just plain nice to hang out in the woods, listen to good music, and enjoy a relaxed, mellow camping vibe.  Unlike all the other big events we’ve done this summer, neither one of us got sick or injured.  No one died just before we left to come to this event.  No big drama of unexpected weather (Um, does that give an indication of just how crazy things have been?  Let’s see.  Red Rocks–weather and nasty irritable bowel flare.  Country Faire–Lori’s death.  Horning’s–DH went into the hospital.  Illinois–my bad fall.  Bam, bam, bam.  Four weeks in a row of craziness).

Nothing like that this go-round.  Just a plain mellow, relaxing time with no drama.  A lovely quiet time of high summer, hot in the sun but comfortable in the trees.

And now home to a massive batch of windfall Gravensteins (they all decided to fall off the tree, half are sunburned so now I need to do sort and salvage).  Then I need to dig garlic.  Two weeks left before I go back to work.  Yikes.  Where did the summer go?

I did not work on the novel or any writing this weekend–it was all about thinking and planning for work and the school year ahead.  But at least I finally feel like I am back on track and ready to go.  Finally.

And a clear sign that I am ready to go back to being productive–the return of the organized to-do lists.  That being said, ’tis time for me to get to it.

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Happiness challenge 9

Getting ready to go camp in the woods and listen to music for a few days!  That makes me very happy.  And, also, it’s not going to be hot.  Next-to-the-last big event of the summer (there’s Gearcon next weekend).  Back soon.

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