Dan and I make no secret about it: We love spending our summers in the woods of northern Michigan. Up here, the air is pure, the trees are lovely, and the days are long. Sometimes, the sky doesn’t turn dark until ten o’clock at night... and there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise above Big Bear Lake (on the rare occasions that we’re up that early).
Of course, despite such natural splendor, we feel isolated at times. We’re a long way, after all, from our friends in Los Angeles (where we spend our winters) and my family in New Orleans (where we spend the spring and fall). But, most of the time, we’re grateful for our peaceful summers – the perfect way to rejuvenate our weary spirits, in the months between our two hectic film festivals.
For the past three summers, though, there’s been one aspect of our Michigan stay that Dan and I have anticipated the most: growing our little garden, beside our little house. For Dan, there’s nothing better than cooking with fresh produce. For me, there’s nothing better than eating it right off the vine.
True, Dan has the green thumb in the family – and he’s much better than I am at tending the herbs and vegetables. But, despite my shortcomings, I enjoy sifting the dirt with my hands, situating the small plants in May, watering them throughout June and July, and observing the zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and other delectables in August and September.
Every year, we’ve tried something new. The first summer, it was bok choy. Last year, it was green beans. This time, it was eggplant. And while the summer of 2009 has been particularly cool – especially at night – and caused the unfortunate shriveling of more than one plant, some of the herbs and produce are indeed thriving. During a recent rainstorm, the aromas of mint and cilantro were overpowering, and we’ve already plucked two amazing specimen of zucchini.
Perhaps, the rest of the plants will rally soon. By the end of August, I hope that the teeny bell peppers will have expanded, the green tomatoes will have ripened, and the elusive eggplant will have appeared – if only so that Dan won’t feel so dejected about this season’s efforts. But, no matter what happens, it’s still fun watering the plants on a warm summer’s day and looking up to see our curious kitty, Ruby, watching from the bedroom window.
Or is it a fluttering butterfly that’s captured her awareness? Sometimes, it’s hard to say with her.
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