The Flood of July

The little ones ran through the back yard last night with sparklers in their hands, screeching with delight and anxiety.  It’s a rare for their parents to allow them to hold anything on fire.  Monty the Saint Bernard stood among them, panting, somehow seeming in charge of the situation.

The teenaged girl had long since absented herself, heading to the waterfront with 50,000 of her closest friends to scream at the teen heart throbs on the Battery Park bandshell.  (“Jake Miller looked at me!  He looked Right At Me!”)

On The Farm, the adults sat on the porch, the big back porch, chosen deliberately in the face of this summer’s incessant rains.  While the southwest dies in flames and heat, we drown and drown and drown.  Our clothes stuck to our skin; our skin stuck to our chairs in the humid evening.

The table was heaped with a last-minute (weather finally permitting) neighborhood cookout – grilled zucchini and peppers and onions, sausage, pasta salad, zucchini, cole slaw, chicken wings, zucchini, roasted potatoes, steak, broccoli and zucchini.

It’s been a good year for zucchini, both in the garden and the farm shares.  Strawberries came on like gangbusters but the rains and the cover they gave slugs turned the crop to mush.  Raspberries, blackberries, currants and the just-ripening blueberries are all high enough off the ground to avoid the same dismal fate.  The apples, peaches and plums have been culled of half their unripe fruit, lest limbs break from the weight and to avoid brown rot where they touch each other.  We have an intimacy with our food in the Champlain Valley and these sodden days intrude on the romance.  Gardeners mutter “new normal” as an epithet.

As the sky grew dim and fireworks imminent (Burlington celebrates on the eve of the Fourth), I thought I’d outfox the crowds by sneaking into the Superfund site to watch the display.  Anticipating insects, I put on long pants, long-sleeved shirt and barn boots.  Not good enough.  I waded through muck to get to my spot but as soon as it was gained, mosquitoes launched an unremitting attack on my face and I fell back, so instead of watching, I listened to the fireworks from the back porch while following the Orioles-White Sox game on my phone.  (O’s won, 4-2.)

Our Fourth celebration began in the neighbor’s cherry tree outside our bedroom window, attacked by birds when the sky grows light in the east, pretty damned early these weeks after solstice.  Although the story’s fictitious, I know why George Washington would tell the truth about cutting down his father’s cherry tree.  It was those stinking birds waking him up.

My bees put up honey faster than I can extract it from the frames.  The early harvest tastes of dandelions with an order of buckwheat on the side (which a neighbor plants for them).  I posted a blog on bees at work that turned enormously popular, especially after it was retweeted by Samuel L. Jackson.  Seems bees are the whales of the 21st century.

Steam heat rose from the pavement this morning, a body memory of how much of my youth’s summers were spent on asphalt.  The daily deluge arrived at 3.  The teenaged girl reported water rising on what is usually the dry side of the basement.  Curbs are scoured and driveways undermined by water rushing downhill.

Egyptians celebrated the fourth by ousting their first democratically-elected president.  Here’s hoping the fourth of July remains a holiday for them and a shared birthday for us all; that the citizens of Tahrir Square can somehow, in this benighted century, keep making it up as they go along.

Right now, Egypt’s body politic looks far more self-correcting than our own.  Now we learn the post office, which is supposed to be on the verge of collapse due to its 75-year pre-payment of pension funds (pensions for postal workers not yet born), somehow manages to scan every piece of mail and has been doing so for years.

Which is mere bitter sauce for the overcooked shoe leather of a police state, as revealed by Edward Snowden, that’s being force-fed to us this Fourth of July as if we too were at Guantanamo.  (“Hey Egypt!  We wait until after dark during Ramadan!  How cool is that?”)

Happy 237, America.  You look every day of it.

© Mark Floegel, 2013

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