Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer haze


Sometimes it catches me off guard. I'll be driving along, minding my own business, and I'll see something, a glimpse, something ordinary, and a feeling lifts through the present day distractions and sets me in a place I only vaguely recall.

This morning it was a row of tent caterpillar webs hanging off the trees on a country road. The maple leaves inside their filmy nests were brown, the branches dead, the black baby pillars eating trees already hit by summer drought. I thought, maybe tonight I'll get out with our tree trimmer and cut down the webs, give the trees a fighting chance, but then that feeling came out of nowhere and I forgot about the trimmer and the caterpillars and tried to pin down where that feeling was coming from.

I get the same feeling when I see sandy shoulders on winding back roads, the sand rich with iron the colour of bricks and hardy sumac growing wild in the febrile soil just beyond the sand.

I get it when I'm traveling secondary highways on the hottest summer days, when glass-like mirages shimmer in the heat coming off paling asphalt.

The feeling is a memory of 50 summers come and gone, hazy recollections of road trips with my parents in their land yacht Chevys, of overheated radiators, of picnics starring Tupperware containers filled with egg salad sandwiches, and stops at long extinct gas stations to buy glass bottles of Orange Crush from refrigerated water coolers, the bottles dripping with water as the caps were snapped open. 

One day we stopped at a gas station where a black bear was held captive in a galvanized pen. My father in his vacation-only plaid short-sleeved dress shirt and white shorts held a bottle of Pepsi steady while the bear grasped it in his front paws and guzzled it down thirstily.

It was mid-summer. Mirages danced in the road ahead and tent caterpillar webs hung from trees.

23 comments:

  1. Great post Cathy-perfectly captures those little moments that come back to us in ebbs and flows.

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  2. Wow, that bear memory does sound quite remarkable! I have memories of the NH birch trees. We rented a place there for many years.

    Catherine Stine’s Idea City

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  3. That poor bear - I hope he was on his way to being released somewhere. You've got a good dad! :)

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  4. Such a beautifully written post. You've captured the fleeting essence of summer in such a perfect way.

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  5. I remember a bear. Our folks took us to see him many times. He chewed bubblegum. It was at the long gone gas station at the north end of Burk's Falls right at the bridge, where we passed on our way to Restoule or Mikisew. Poor bear was there for many years.

    Beautiful post Cath, wonderful descriptions.

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  6. Yes, that's a childhood summer. But children don't know they are experiencing childhood; it's an adult reflection.

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  7. We used to take trips just like that.
    Brave of your father to hand the bear a soda! Good think he wasn't a Coke-only bear.

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  8. I love this post. It conjures so many perfect memories of imperfect family trips. Sometimes I miss childhood.

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  9. Wonderful recollections of life experiences.

    We Bears thank your dad for his kindness to one of our family.

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  10. Absolutely love your memories, Cathy, wish my memory was as good some days. Don't you wish you had a photo of your Dad & that Bear? Had a couple of feedback about your "model blooper" link I shared on my post the other day ... I am still laughing about that one.

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  11. At a particular moment all dimensions in time (I almost typed dementia lol) come together and everything that was is. You had one of those moments (not the dementia).

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  12. Isn't it interesting what kinds of things spark our memories.

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  13. I've had a lot of flashbacks since moving back here too. It's amazing how fast those memories can be triggered. And 'ew' on the tent caterpillars *shudder*

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  14. Orange Crush in refrigerator water coolers - brought back my memories.
    thanks
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  15. So, it seems, you're a poet, too. Not that I'm surprised. Glad I broke down on my resolve to stay off line a while (trying to reinvent myself here--it's terribly hard), rewarded as I was by this lovely, dreamy post.

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  16. Memories can be triggered by the smallest things can't they? And these are the memories to cherish. Thank you - another beautiful post.

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  17. The scent of rose petals always takes me back to summers long gone. We had hundreds of different rosebushes in our garden (we 'road-tested' them for a national rose growing company my aunt worked for!) - as kids we used to pull the petals off the over-blown ones and put them in jars with water, attempting to make our own 'scent'!

    I also remember the thrill of popping fat, pink fuschia buds - much to my grandmother's dismay.

    And chasing each other with 'stickweed', tiptoeing up behind an unsuspecting victim to leave the sticky burrs on the back of their clothes!

    The summers were warmer then, the days were longer and we'd always find adventures (and the friends to go with them). Well, that's how it seems - can YOU recall many rainy days in the holidays when you were a child?

    Sadly, too many kids these days will not have the freedom and character-building we had in our own youth!

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  18. Beautiful post very evocative!

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  19. We didn't have mnay road trips but I still feel the special summer magic of hot sun and a quiet yard. There was always a peculiar stillness that came over the neighborhood in the early afternoon during school vacation. As if we were all holding our collective breath, waiting for...what? Maybe the ice cream truck's mangling of some childish tune.

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  20. Pretty non-fiction literature, Cathy. The mirages have begun to follow me as I grow sleep-deprived.

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  21. Perfect description. I was right back there, driving up old Route 17, Motown on the AM radio... Well done Kathy. Really well done.

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  22. That was beautiful, Cathy. That's it exactly, though I could never have described it so eloquently! Wow. There are so many dejavu moments in summer and a certain peace transcends on those long country roads.

    That was brave and kind of your dad! Bet the bear burped after that. :)

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  23. That was fantastic, Cathy. I was totally there.

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