This is the time of year when days are long and warm at our house. The kids stay out after school and we cook and eat late, using any excuse to soak up the rays shining from the west into our yard, onto the deck, through the kitchen windows, until the sun finally sets long after bedtime.
There are always things to do outside, away from home, before evening falls: playgrounds and ice cream, celebrations, final games of the season. As yet another long year of learning finishes up, my husband and I, along with most other American parents, do our best to exhaust our young children with these playdates and parties so that they will go to sleep before dark. So much so that the circles under their eyes turn the color of eggplant, in anticipation of summer greenery that will never bear fruit in our yard.
In our part of San Francisco the coastal climate prevents hot weather. This glorious, golden bright time is fleeting: once July begins the temperature is a steady 55°. Fog rolls in, the sun disappears for weeks at a time and customary summer plants that bring forth the bounty of tomatoes and peppers in other gardens mildew and die in ours. So we take advantage of all this warmth in the spring. Later, in summer, we flee the city in search of better weather.
Today my garden is filled with growing food: snap peas, snow peas, arugula, lettuce, radishes, chard. And flowers - so many flowers - marigold, foxglove, borage, dahlia, zinnia, lemon blossoms, strawberry and lime. And *right now*, this very day, this very minute, the raspberries are beginning to ripen. So I steal out, away from the children in the kitchen, to harvest peas and herbs for dinner, or with some other excuse.
The back of our yard is in shadow, dark and quiet. I can hear the evening birds chirp, someone else's children playing basketball, the cars on the busy street down the hill. And sometimes, when I'm very lucky, the woman one house over and across the fence plays her violin. Gently flowing over our urban barriers it calls us together. "We are all sophisticated!...yet very hip," the strings sing.
Spring growth is thick down here, in the shady section at the end of the lawn. Behind the passion flowers, adjacent to my daughter's pumpkin plants, hidden in green foliage and under an errant kiwi vine seeking something to climb, the raspberries hang like jewels, ready.
"Mah-uhm! Mom!? Daddy wants to know if you are really making that soup for dinner?! He says it's late and to get a pizza! Mah-uhm!" My daughter clatters out, down the stairs and onto the grass. "Are there some raspberries? Are they ripe yet? Can I eat them? Can I?"
I shake my head, side to side. "Not yet...I don't see any." Scratching my nose to hide an unstoppable grin, "sometimes the birds just eat them".
The trees rustle in the wind, a cat jumps over the fence, eyes me, scurries away and we head back inside to make soup.