I am old enough to remember the summer of 1958, when a rockabilly singer named Eddie Cochran released a song called “Summertime Blues.” It includes these lyrics: “Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do, but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues!”
Those words seem prophetic in the summer of 2018, as I find myself afflicted with a terrible case of summertime blues brought on by endless, depressing, depraved national and international developments coupled with an overload of cable news and social media. Parents torn apart from their kids; boys trapped in caves; small town journalists mowed down at their desks; politicians telling whoppers even they’d never have the gall to spin back in 1958; little kids stabbed and killed by a crazed guy at a birthday party. And all that was just the last couple of weeks.
Indeed, it seemed as if Eddie Cochran was absolutely right – there ain’t no cure for this madness. I felt like finding a Linus blanket and curling up in the fetal position. But then my epiphany occurred: the macro world around me may be rotten to the core but my micro world here on the Rock is as delicious as ever. It’s all about where you focus your attention.
I turned off cable news and Facebook, grabbed my cultivator and spade, and headed for my garden. It’s amazing what you see when you take the time to really look. The blossom on a zucchini plant is a natural wonder, delicate and beautiful; some chefs use them to decorate the plates of their tasty creations. As a cauliflower grows, it develops large, tough leaves to surround and protect the little head from pests and too much sunlight. What great parenting, I thought. Potato plants are energetic and spread wildly, eager to shade and guard the baby spuds being born in the soil below. More great parenting at work.
With a recent burst of sun and warmth, the tomato plants doubled in size, awash in tiny yellow blossoms. I watched as bees went from blossom to blossom in their age-old act of pollination that will result in more fruit for me in a couple months. Some good and generous things still keep happening.
I noticed how perfectly formed the tiny pears on my ancient Bartlett tree are. The little Gravenstein apples in the tree next to it are still small, but they have developed an early-summer red sheen that almost looks as if they’re smiling. Ripe pears and apples will be a sweet treat in about a month. But right now they are little works of art that have made my yard into a gallery.
I grabbed the hose and gave all those thirsty creations a drink of water. I wasn’t intending to turn them into characters in a Disney movie, but nonetheless I could feel how pleased and thankful they were. I smiled back at them.
In the afternoon, I sat in a chair in the yard and soaked it all in. The world may have gone nuts, but life in my corner of the Rock is still doing what it knows how to do so well. Sure, there are some weeds and some bad soil. But they’re just distractions to be dealt with and discarded.
That evening, I did some reading – Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” about how naïve Americans can be still has lessons for today – and then I flipped on the TV. For a change, I skipped the cable news channels and watched the Smithsonian Channel’s aerial tour of Ireland. That night I slept like a baby.