Lazy Grasshopper Days

July 18, 2010

A long weekend with many family events precluded any real time spent in the garden, but there were a few things of interest…

Saturday, I got up to a dramatically changed backyard as our neighbors had pulled down their whole fence before 8 am. Because the dogs chains are long enough to go into their yard sans fence, I put on my pink cotton muumuu and headed outside to make sure Griffey didn’t take a chunk out of somebody’s calf.

My pink cotton muumuu started as a joke. When we were in Florida, I used my mom’s because I had forgotten a robe. Well, I loved it. Big and airy and all covered up, zippered so it wasn’t gaping open all the time. It was a laugh in Florida and then when my parents came home, my mom headed to Wal-Mart (shudder) and bought me one. Eliza laughed and laughed and then was very afraid because I was really glad to have it. I use it in the morning and to curl up at night and watch movies. It is still a joke, but a very useful one.

My neighbor and I talked across the yard about the fence, about our kids, about their growth and her impending empty nest as her youngest just graduated from high school and will attend school out of state. They lost a son two years ago and she said she feels that now, they have reached the new normal for their family. Sometimes, talking to people who’ve lost children, I feel obscene – and so fortunate. The Black Hole could easily have swallowed Dominic entirely and while the fight was long, ugly, slow and painful, he was pulled back from the abyss. He now survives, more and more whole each day. While our family has been damaged in many ways, we will be able to heal, and we are always able to hold him, laugh with him and watch him grow. Through all the horror, we are blessed.

A new fence would go up by the end of day Saturday, although we were not around to watch its progress. Saturday night, I walked out onto the patio to see how nice and tidy, new and clean, it would look. Both my eyes with the fence and my nose with the fragrance were delighted. The scent of all the flowers, especially the lilies and the gaillardia, hung heavy in the hot, wet, still air. The fence is still the stockade type (sigh) but now it is straight, undamaged and attractive.

Today, I noticed the monarch butterflies have begun feeding from the milkweed and the liatris. They seem to float on the breeze, seemingly rudderless.  Then they surprise you with a sharp turn or a quick dive, apparently in complete control all along. Friday, I bought windchimes at the grocery store, noticing them while looking for bug spray. A pink one with butterflies and ribbons (which really captures the mood and feeling of a butterfly) and a blue one with steel birds now hang on each side of the ridiculous, waste-of-time tomato planter.

This evening, I noticed that the heat had wilted many things but I was in a very lazy mood, probably brought on by that heat.I attached the house hose to the garden soaker hose and turned it on, watering the veggie garden and perking everyone up. I put my sprinkler attachment on the hose in the back garden and doused the impatiens, the lilies and the hibiscus.

A big brown grasshopper leapt out of the impatiens and came to rest on the sedum as I watered. Droplets trickled from his antenna and his legs; he was much annoyed.

As a child, in late July, the south side of our house would be covered, just covered in grasshoppers. Every day, every year. My brother Rich, neighbor Dawn and I used to sit there with huge glass jars that smelt of salt and vinegar we’d salvage from Grandma’s basement. (Dawn was a guilty secret from the nuns, as she didn’t attend Catholic school, but we so liked to play with her -same age as me and right next door! Such temptation! We had no choice but to be led right into it.) We’d fill those jars with twigs and grass and punch holes in the lids with a nail, always hoping to shape the opportune size of opening; just enough for air, but small enough so the grasshoppers (and later in the evening, the lightning bugs) couldn’t escape.

Then we’d wait until the bricks were bathed in sun, hot and dry. That’s when the grasshoppers would come, to bask in the heat. They were so easy to catch then. Drugged with sunshine, they moved slowly if at all as we cupped hands around them and dropped them into the jars. The goal was always to find and catch the biggest one. We’d wrinkle our noses about the “tobacco juice”, brown and sticky and next to impossible to wash from our fingers. Every morning, no matter how small we’d made the holes, the bugs were gone.

As to the stockade type of fence, I am undecided. On the one hand, they are unfriendly and confining, sealing you into your yard and away from your neighbors. On the other hand, they give you privacy and allow you to run around in that pink muumuu without repercussion.

Now that I think about it, Grandma and Grandpa always seemed to have a vast supply of huge glass jars on hand. They must have eaten alot of pickles.

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