Olivia Newport Sunflower

The first sunflower of the season greets visitors in my driveway.

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, it seemed like we waited an unfair length of time this year to truly get past that last blast of winter. Some of my flowers paid the price. We had the promises of spring, the onslaught of more winter, rinse and repeat for several cycles. Some, like the larkspur that always start creeping out of the earth with the first warm day in February, just carried on as if spring actually happened while others stalled. My poor irises. We just won’t talk about them and will hope for better things next year.

But I am READY! Hammocks hung, Adirondack chairs out. A second umbrella added this year. The Virginia creeper and day lilies are taking over the back patio in that wonderful way they do. The first sunflower bloom in a most delightfully surprising location.

Naturally I haven’t had as much time to laze around the patio as I dream of, and sometimes the rain means a wet hammock is a little less welcoming than desirable. But it’s there, and I get out there a bit each day. I’ve been digging out my overabundance of plants to share with a friend who would love to have more than mud and weeds in her yard. And that makes me happy.

The other fun piece in my life is trying to apply myself to learning some proper Portuguese, my father’s language. We kids learned some corrupted bits here and there that allowed us to respond to parental requests to close the door or pass the bread. And we were really good at telling each other to shut up in Portuguese. But one of my wonderful cousins in Rio de Janeiro, who is a language teacher, has taken pity on the American cousins and organized a class by Zoom. And she gives homework!

I’ve written a few other times about having chronic migraine disease, which first strangled me five years ago. Honestly, this is the first summer since then that I’ve felt remotely like myself and able to enjoy the season that I look forward to so much, rather than crawling away from its brightness, exhausted, behind closed curtains.

As I write, the Pacific Northwest is enduring hideous heat. The headlines are full of suffering. A friend just lost his wife after a few months of illness. My husband lost a friend unexpectedly. The past year and a half has brought so much loss in so many ways to so many people, and we’ll all be feeling it for a long time.

Wherever you are, whether reveling in summer or cursing the heat, whether celebrating joys or cradling sorrow, may you know that you are not alone, that others are companions on the way with you. And may we bear one another up.