A few weeks back, I was invited to lounge on a large porch under the shade of mature trees and drink tea with my friend Diane and her daughter Elizabeth. I can’t believe I missed taking a photo of THE PORCH, which is just too awesome for words, but I did snap just about everything else!
I met Diane and Elizabeth while I was working at Iowa State’s Reiman Gardens. Besides our common love of gardens, mother and daughter have a passion for reading, Diane is an author, Elizabeth is an artist with a masters in library science, and both love to travel. Now picture the large dining room table covered with table cloth, cloth napkins, an awesome dessert (made with blueberries picked from The Berry Patch Farm in Nevada) out on the front porch, iced tea and lemonade and a lazy afternoon to get caught up on so many of the things we love, and you have a perfect picture of summer!
Over the years, Diane has shared her own experience with me of doing a masters in mid life. She helped me believe I could do it too and several times sent me just the e-mail I needed to stay motivated. Our summer afternoon visit was a celebration of success and being women engaged in things we love. I talked about a current read by Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. In Full Circles, Overlapping Lives: Culture and Generation in Transition, MCB introduces her experience of teaching at Spelman college as a white professor at a black college by emphasizing that we don’t need to go beyond our own doors to find the anthropological “stranger”. Even those we live closest to are never fully known, and we should spend our days celebrating that, looking at spouse or child with renewed awe as we realize there are worlds inside each one that we will never fully know. Diane surprised me with the fact that she not only knows Spelman, but has a friend there! She put me onto her own current read, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Later, at Borders, when I read the first page, I was hooked by the language of French author Muriel Barbery ( who must surely be a closet sociologist!) and the brilliance of translator Alison Anderson who faithfully bridged Barbery’s love of language into the English. Alas, I probably should have bought the book at Borders then and there and who knows, maybe they wouldn’t be going out of business! But I promised myself the reward of Hedgehog when I finally made it through my oral exam and found it at Ames Public library last week.
After our dessert on the porch, we wandered through the old, elegant house that exists nicely in the shade without air conditioning (at least the day I was there!) and into the garden to see Elizabeth’s latest passions. This is the creative soul who painted appliance boxes to look like the insides of flowers so children could see the world like Georgia O’Keeffe, decorated Reiman’s Gourmet Garnish Garden with quirky kitchen tools and brought the Lorax into being for the children’s Dr. Seuss Doodling Garden! What are you doing to make The Summer of 2011 memorable? Elizabeth is trying her hand at bee keeping and raising 4 chickens!
Diane and other members of the family have done a lot of work on their backyard garden. I LOVE every little detail of a garden and I hope I listened politely while trying not to take “too many” pictures and act totally distracted by potatoes growing in bags, garden cloth covered paths and amazing varieties of tomatoes. Really, I guess I should warn people, “don’t expect me to carry on a cogent conversation when I am in the garden, because every insect and flower is calling to me!”
I like to call this last picture The Princess and the Swan! Elizabeth rescued this willow sculpture after Reiman’s summer display and gave it a home in her backyard.
My memories of Summer Twenty Eleven, as my friend Lani calls it, will definitely include my summer afternoon with Diane and Elizabeth!