It is the height of summer. Days begin with an edge of cool but quickly heat up. “Too hot,” I say as I cross the yard to the garden. Too hot by 9:30 am to weed. Too hot to hoe. Too hot to pick beans.
It is green bean season. We’ll harvest green beans every-other-day for weeks to come. We’ll harvest bowls-upon-bowls of beans until freezer-space is threatened ahead of the corn, yellow squash, peppers, spaghetti sauce and eggplant. We’ll then push green beans on neighbors and co-workers, praising the health benefits of green vegetables, offering them free in boxes and grocery bags, delivering them by the truckload, by the trunk load. I once overheard a man declare to a friend that he was done with green beans. “I’m done with them!” he cried. “I pick and I pick, and they just keep coming! What am I supposed to do with so many beans! I’m gonna rip out the plants. I’m gonna tear them out of the ground. I’m never going to plant them again! Too many beans…it’s the same every year!”
When we’re overrun by beans this year — as we are every year — we, too, will feel the hysteria rising in our throats. Our dreams will be guilt-ridden. “How do we turn a blind-eye to such plenitude?” we’ll ask ourselves. “How do we disregard such a gift from nature? When the frozen winds of January blow, when our minds find their only salvation in the promise of spring, when visions of garden produce give us the strength to endure the endless weeks and months of winter…how will we reconcile ourselves with the memory of this, our callous disregard?”
Dreams notwithstanding, we will turn a blind-eye to the green beans, overwhelmed by a surge of ripening cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and winter squash. Indeed it will be the beginning of November before I’m finished with the last of the produce. On that night, I will put away my freezer bags, shelve my canner and box-up my dehydrator, glad to be done. I will collapse on the couch, my callous disregard for green beans long forgotten. Or I’ll retreat to my study and lose myself in a book. Come December, when the snow has begun to fall, I will take down my snowshoes and head out to the shrubline to wander once again among the drifts.
But for now, it is the time of beans — and bike rides, when I can fit them in. It’s the time for stories not found in books but in real life — like Sandhill cranes trilling on a Sunday evening, falcons diving in hot pursuit of dragonflies, hawks taking flight from telephone poles, mallard ducklings spying in wheat fields and deer pausing as I photograph coneflowers and sunflowers at day’s end. It is the height of summer. Too hot. What more can I say?