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"I smile myself to sleep …"

The Muse and I celebrate, truly celebrate, two days each year: The First Day Of Summer and The Last Day Of Spring. The First Day of Summer arrives sometime in late May or early June on the first weekend following what seems likely to be the very last Winter frost, the day when we pull out all the pots and plant what will become our Summer garden on the deck, out of reach of the scavenging deer. The Last Day Of Spring comes the weekend before the first heavy snowfall of Winter, usually in early October, when we tear down our summer refuge. These days carry deep significance for us. The First Day Of Summer represents our active resistance to the degrading effects of seven or eight months of sequestration. The Last Day Of Spring represents our active acceptance of entering hibernation again. The First Day Of Summer lets come. The Last Day Of Spring lets go.

We exhibit great energy on these days, facing a body of physical labor greater than any we will enjoy on any other day of the year. I'll schlepp and scrub while The Muse plants or repots.
On The Last Day Of Spring, I'm emptying every blessed container and scrubbing each clean before sorting them into like piles and neatly stacking them on garage shelves. We have dozens of pots, some genuine antiques, and if left out in a cold snap, some would crumble into pieces. The plants go into a pile the deer might gnaw down. The soil, either composted or cooked to remove whatever took up residence through the season, and stored in leftover cat litter tubs.

I strung hoses down the sun-streaked hillsides to drain and warm in the last reassurance of the season. I roll two hundred and twenty-five feet of hose into a single large pot leftover from some tree we bought more than a decade ago. Every item seems to know where it's supposed to go, passing through successive stages of preparation to final sorting and stacking. I sit on a camp chair hovering like an old man over an old refrigerator drawer filled with hot soapy water, my scrub brush in one hand, removing every speck of soil from every blessed pot until the task comes close to overwhelming me. The neighbor kids play a last round of street football in the waining sunshine. Surrounded by haphazard piles of pots, I trudge between backyard and deck, garage and side yard, gathering in the remnants of a fast-fleeting season.

By mid-afternoon, I can feel the cold front moving in. The temperature drops just a smidgeon, but this time without any promise of recovering until sometime next May. Sun slips behind the mountain and I switch to coiling hose, knowing that within the hour, those hoses will become too rigid to shape. The Muse has been potting African Violets she's rooted over the Summer and setting new cuttings aside to create another crop by Spring. We move the plant shelves off the deck and up the stairs to grace the sunny corner there. She sweeps the soil from the nearly naked deck surface. I empty the yellow jacket trap and finally concede that the wise hummingbirds left more than a month ago, washing out the gooey remnants of innumerable lazy and sweet summer afternoons.

I dump the petunia containers into rows in a freshly-cleared garden below, hoping they might reseed themselves next Spring, but figuring that they'll al least compost into reusable mix after successive freezes and thaws. I can't bear to yet discard the Snap Dragons or Sweet William with the Alyssum edges. These go to shelves in the garage to reappear after this snow and ice disappear a few days from now, or so I tell myself. The purpose of this holiday, this Last Day Of Spring, must be about letting go with the prospect of, by releasing, letting new stuff eventually come into being. The routine seems entirely too repetitive to produce any novel anything, but by sunset, the deck's bare, the garage stuffed with room leftover, and I'm soaked from crotch to sole. I remove my soggy shoes and socks and trundle around barefoot for the last time 'till The First Day Of Summer, many months from now. I ache in every possible joint, every impossible muscle.

The Muse makes burritos for supper while I shower and sit. I have achieved the exquisite sort of exhaustion I only ever experience on The First Day Of Summer and The Last Day Of Spring. Supper's as perfect as it could possibly be, the great, grand letting go complete. I eat while The Muse loads a movie I will hardly start watching. I disappear downstairs to clean up the kitchen and throw my yard clothes into the drier. I'm lying in bed long before nine o'clock, perfectly—perfectly— satisfied. The fleeting season's properly stored and stacked and all's right with the world. I have no place to go and nobody to become. I smile myself to sleep while that stalking snowstorm slips in.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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