The View from Mattie’s Pillow

Spring? Here in the Interior we leap from winter to summer with a brief period of bleak brown and gray—-the soggy earth and the quickly melting snow—-in between. In the past three days the leaves have gone from tiny newly furled lemon-lime leaflets to shiny dark-green leaves. The woods are full of their flashing, the twittering of birds–not the electronic kind, but electric with the urgency and joy of mating.

After two weeks of Master Gardener class, I’m now ready to put the garden in, and, like every year, I feel three weeks behind, though we’re still a week and a half away from our traditional planting date, June 1. In the greenhouse, the tomato plants are growing sturdy stems and richly green leaves. The peppers are coming along, as are the broccoli, kale, eggplants. It’s yummy to write this, but they are all still tiny green leaves with a long way and much potential for misfortune to come before the yummy time actually comes.

I’m still starting seeds in the greenhouse—-lettuce, beans, things I could plant outside–but I’m trying to cheat the season and the potential for a late frost by planting them under the protection of the fiberglass roof. I also have flower sets I bought from a local grower, so the greenhouse is sweet with the smell of petunias and heliotrope.

This is an energetic time of year, fueled by the intensity of long sunlight. Thinking back to the dreamy slow winter days when I started this blog, it’s clear how the seasons in the Interior affect the psyche. In the winter, I’m introspective, writing in a near dream state, engaged with the senses in an inward way. Now, on the verge of summer, I’m so active—-gardening, riding, dancing—-that I fall asleep exhausted and wake a bit stiff (why I’m sitting and writing right now), then head out to do more digging, raking, brushing, saddling, riding, etc.

Last night, driving home near midnight, I was struck by the silvery light everywhere. I nearly wrote, “in the sky” but, like the light that radiates off the snow in winter, summer evening light seems to come out of the land itself, not from the sky. We are in the best time of year, two full months of these “white nights” when light lingers after the sun has slipped briefly behind the hills. It’s a long twilight that lasts for hours before slowly brightening into morning and sunlight again. On Solstice, the sun will dip below the horizon for three hours, but the light stays strong enough that we have our Midnight Sun baseball game every year from 10pm to whenever with no artificial lights, even when clouds complicate matters. Some years, when it’s a well-matched game going into extra innings, we sit in the stands watching as the sun lifts back up from the hills again, around 2am. We’re tired the next day—-if it’s a work day, everyone drags through it—-but happy to have seen something wonderful.

This time of year, I wouldn’t trade Alaska for any other state I’ve ever lived in—-and they all have their good qualities. But now, in all this sun we feel purged of the discontent that built up like a sludge in our hearts through the winter. The blood thins a bit in the warmth and runs more quickly. The skin absorbs and processes vitamin D—-they say it contributes to contentment. We grow our gardens and eat everything fresh we can get our hands on.

Jeter the dog sleeps by the open door to the deck in his newly shaved summer coat. The warblers call to each other. There’s a flute on the radio—-maybe Mozart—-and a slight breeze plays across the keys of the computer. All’s well here.

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