My life runs on an academic calendar. I teach; my partner teaches, and our kids are teenagers—one in high school, and one starting college. The wheel of our year rolls around the semester system.
In some ways it feels more natural to me—seasons correspond to semesters and breaks. It starts in the fall, with the welcome reprieve from Southern California summer. But SoCal summer is where we are now. It’s hot. I’m wilting. If I leave the house, I come back annoyed and sluggish. But one must leave the house, right?
You’d be amazed how many days this summer my kids have not left the house.
But we grown-ups have been homebodies too. On an academic schedule, you bustle from fall to spring, and leave some things for summer, when you have more time. Planning classes. House repairs. Yard work. Vacuuming.
So summer is when we anti-hibernate and focus on our home. It’s too hot to leave anyway.
Our happy house sits near the top of a hill in a little suburban track, and we own the hillside beneath our back yard. This year we had four sets of squirrel babies on that hillside. The number of bird species I have counted from the patio reached thirty (the last was a road runner! I’m not even kidding—it flew right in my back yard). The skunks continue to visit in the evenings, hopefully taking care of the June Bug larvae, so our tiny lawn doesn’t die.
And we’re gardening—butterfly-friendly flowers in the back, and veggies in the front, where the squirrels won’t eat them. The big goal for outside is to xeriscape the front yard. I’m optimistic.
We’re slowly getting greener and greener, and I’m loving it. This is our first summer with solar panels, so our outlandish air-conditioning habit doesn’t feel so awful. The front lawn has been forfeit since the last drought, but since we’re only capable of sustained effort in the summer, it’s taken several years for us to make it around to that project. This is our year. It will be a tasteful mix of wood chips, stones, and native California plants, right up to the vegetable garden. One cannot live on succulents alone.
My husband has been doing most of the outside work, and I’ve been coordinating the annual purge of extra stuff we accumulate over the year. All year long little piles form like anthills, and in the summer, the donations begin. If I do my job well, by the time school starts in the fall there will be room for new school clothes, and all the things we lost last year will be found, unearthed from beneath stacked books and camping gear that never quite made it back to the garage.
The purge has gone well inside, and outside the garden is bursting with life, even in the heat. As a native Nevadan, I still marvel at how EVERYTHING grows in California. About nine things grow in Nevada, and the top three are sage brush. But here, sunflowers and pomegranate trees and ginger all happily grow about their business with minimal effort, really. I continue to marvel, even after sixteen years. (I should own that I have a very high capacity for marveling, but still—it’s amazing.)
We have a few more weeks of summer and still a long list of household and work-related tasks, but we’ll get as much as we can done before the march back to our various campuses. And while we can, we’ll enjoy the sunflowers.