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  • elizabethpeterson922

The flash that was summer

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

It started with the ants, and it ended with the swallows.

The first time I remember looking at the garden and thinking, "Now it must be summer" was when I saw that the ants had emerged. This meant the ground had finally thawed. It was mid April. There they were, swarming and nesting and carrying bits of nature around in a frenzy.

The next sign was the wildflowers that sprang up all around us in the in the forest. We had not experienced spring at Bastubacka, so we didn't know about all the wildflowers. It was magical. I come from a radically different ecosystem, so I don't know about all these flowers. But I did recognize crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths.

Yellow wildflowers against a background of reeds, trees, and a quiet bay
These lovely flowers that sprang up in the rushes? Yeah, I have no idea what they are.

Oh, and my tulip boxes worked a treat against the rabbits and burrowing animals, but of course the deer ate all the plants away they second they emerged. So much for tulips.

Our garden oozed with fantasmagoric perennials planted by the previous owner, or maybe even by her grandmother. Enormous lilac bushes, small sultry lilac stalks, red poppies, roses, primroses, peonies and rhododendron sprang up all around us. It was all so beautiful and luscious -- and, as with most perennials, so fleeting. We savored every moment. If only the wondrous smell could come through in these images.

In early June we noticed that the family of swallows had returned to their nest in the eaves just outside our bedroom window.

They became an enduring fixture of the summer--along with the neighbor boy and his dog--a part of our clan. The swallows were there in the morning taking their early morning dip when I woke up to let out the dog. They joined us in the evening for drinks and dinner in the garden, swooping past our ears and then careening into their nest in some sort of exciting performance just for us.

These moments were far too few, however, because this was also the summer of making up for lost time. Like so many other people, we purchased our country home during the Covid pandemic, because city life + lockdown turned out to be more than we could take. Now, after three years of postponed parties and weddings and research visits and meeting friends and family, we spent much of 2022 doing everything we missed from 2020 to 2022. During the past six months, we have experienced many wonderful and memorable things, like finally meeting with our families and dear old friends, attending weddings and birthday parties, and much more.

But am I the only one who grew used to the slower pace of life during Covid? And now, I have to admit, in some ways I crave it. Even as we were doing all of these wonderful things during the summer months, I found my mind drifting back again and again to my rose bushes, the lilac bushes, the swallows, the berries in the forest, and wondering how things were back at Bastubacka. I wanted to get back, don my overalls and gardening gloves, and dig into the soil. I wanted to see the full moon rise over the bay and watch the swallows dip into the bay at sunset. I wanted to let our dog off her leash and watch her gallop through the forest, chasing bees.

But am I the only one who grew used to the slower pace of life during Covid? And now in some ways I crave it.

There will be many, many years for all of that. For now, I am grateful that we were able to be with so many loved ones during the past months. I am grateful that we were able to attend long-awaited weddings and parties, to meet new family members and say hello (and good-bye) to others. We met new friends and had grand adventures in France, Finland, Sweden, and the United States. We attended party after party after party ... we celebrated life.

We noticed the swallows were gone in early September. Their absence makes it much quieter at Bastubacka, and the mood is more sedate with anticipation of winter. The leaves on the trees are in now in a full splendor of color. The flowers I managed to grow and maintain over the summer are turning yellow in their stems and leaves. The ants are still there, at least for now.

I am so grateful for the summer we have had. At the same time, I have promised myself again and again that next year I will be at Bastubacka to see the first lilacs bloom, to see the apple blossoms, and to greet the swallows when they come back. What I missed this summer were days of lying around watching dragonflies land and watching the grass grow. I spent time in the garden, but it wasn't enough. I want more. I want more of the watching and waiting and doing much of nothing. Our life here is new, and it will take some time to fall into the rhythms and seasons.

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