Reflecting on the Summer of the Spanakopita

Credit: Tasha Nathanson


Where I live, tucked up in the skirt hem of the coastal mountains, it was so dark mid-July this year that even as I sat down to write at “high” noon in my window-filled living room, I had to turn on a light to see. It seemed we had descended back into November, where we lingered, never having fully entered into July, just as we missed June and seemingly all the other months that normally reach out with tendrils of warmth, light, and promise.  The plants in the garden glumly hunkered down, either refusing to grow (the cucumbers) or producing large leaves to grasp what energy they could but begetting aught else (the tomatoes). 

The Season that Tarried Too Long
Summer did not seem likely to grace us at all this year, though it came – at last – late and all the more welcome in August.  Still, despite the glorious August and the brighter than normal September and October, we got less than our usual allotment of sun during our longest days. The August reprieve allowed that the tomatoes finally came, though mine (at least) were tough and overall garden production was down. 
Here in the northern parallels of the continent, the wait for our next shot at the luminescent blessings of the season will extend until the earth swings once again towards the sun, our resources that much more depleted for missing them this year. Just as bears must bulk up with berries before their long winter’s sleep, I contend that we northerners must suck the bright juice from the sky when it is offered that we might weather the long dark days ahead. 

Herbs and Greens, Heroes in the Cool and Damp
Closer observation – dare I say wandering and pondering – revealed that parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme grew steadily nonetheless.  So did rhubarb, peas, radishes, and all manner of greens. All these are plants that dislike strong, direct sun. For instance, I grow sorrel, mustard, kale, good king Henry, and lettuce – all of which flourished. One daughter made numerous short forays out front each day to pluck mint leaves for a cup of tea, another cup of tea, as she cheered herself through the damp gray days. 
I’ll Never Be Your Beast of Borage (with apologies to the Rolling Stones)
Last year’s borage returned this year in such greater profusion that it made me think of Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice (or the classic Disney film version, Fantasia) in which a would-be wizard (or a certain well-known mouse) is beleaguered by an infinitely increasing army of demented magical brooms.  The borage was, at least, a cheery apparition, rather than a frightening one. Under the dark backdrop of gloomy July skies, they almost seemed to glow, as in an old Dutch painting.
Lessons Learned
And so, if it is our duty to make lemonade when presented with lemons, I suppose this was the summer of the spanakopita, with borage flowers. I await as yet the lessons this winter will bring.