GRAYS RIVER, WASH. — They say summer days are longer, but somehow they move by more quickly. After all, it was only spring a few days ago, it seems. Now the hay has been cut, tedded, raked, and baled. Most is off the field and filling up the barn for winter.
August is the best month, I think. A moment of suspended joy before everything changes - and so much changes every year.
These are the word pictures of a summer in Grays River.
There's "Come and Get It Day" - the day Amy's dad, Hank, lets the cows into the hayfield in front of our house. We gather for this annual rite of summer in the field of short clover. It takes a while once you open the gate for the cows to notice. First one head perks up, then a few more. The older cows have told the calves about this day all summer, and now the rumors and the waiting are finally over as a brown-and-white matron gives a call to the others: "It's time!" Like dancing hippos from "Fantasia," they all start thundering across the field - barrel bellies sway one way while tails swish the other. A couple even kick up their heels in excitement as they rush into the field and immediately bury their heads in the sweet new grass.
We all stand there in the evening sun, just looking at the happy herd, finally feasting in cow nirvana. We comment on the new calves or kick through sand and debris left by winter's floods. Winter seems like a foreign thing, so long ago.
We were married in August, 12 summers ago. Amy and I still drive through the covered bridge and think of that day. We point to the two trees by the river where we were married. Before the house, before the jobs and kids, everything was new. These days we sit on the lawn next to her garden, which is beautiful this time of year. Each year it gets a little bit better. I look forward to the next 50 years of watching it grow.
One summer Amy and I took a picnic up Fossil Creek on a warm Saturday afternoon. The dogs ran like crazy this way and that on the logging road while Amy found us a path down to the river. On an island of smooth stream stones we had cool drinks and ate pastrami sandwiches by the waterfall. The dogs smiled as I fed them Fritos. Amy hopped from stone to stone while the dogs tried to follow her, getting wet in the clear water.
Few days are perfect, but there are some moments that definitely qualify.
Then, of course, there's the Wahkiakum County Fair. We go every year. One year, Amy and I took a quick tour around before hanging out in the barn with her brother, John. He took us to lunch at the grange and I got to lead his prize-winning bull calf, Raymond, in the parade of champions. The dust of the arena reminded me of the hot days I spent each year at the Klickitat County Fair, eating too many grange hamburgers, taking my turn at barn duty, and having way too much fun.
Years have turned to mere moments. John's in college now. The dogs are gone, and we have two beautiful daughters who fill our lives. Lindsay - who is 3 - waters flowers in the garden with a watering can, wearing her mother's garden gloves, rubber boots, and not much else. Baby Grace just sits in the shade on the swing and stares out at the world with big blue eyes.
The air is thick and sweet with the smell of new-mown hay. In the evenings, the valley is bathed in an orange glow that seems to come from everywhere at once - a soothing warmth that radiates from every living thing.
This season is deceptive - the days move more quickly than you know.
Enjoy the glow of the evenings and the hot days of cloudless skies. Breathe in the refreshing breeze that feels so good against your cotton clothes. Bathe your lungs in summer and hold these moments in you through the long dark of winter to come.
• Ed Hunt is former editor of the Tidepool.org news service.