The things of the summer song are all caught up in the views from under the tree in the front yard on a July Sunday afternoon. Rocking chairs and table chairs and makeshift benches all brought out in the yard to join up with the official kind of chairs that most people used as their outdoor furniture. The gray hues of the distance disappear and fade into the surroundings that make the Sunday afternoon complete.
Underneath the giant maple tree that turns bright red in the fall, we sit there in the summer and look out around. Shade covers our faces – thank goodness – ‘cause it’s hot. The afternoon ease of temp hasn’t quite gotten there yet, and the mighty grip of heat of midday was still holding fast around our necks and heads, weighing us down as we attempted to play an uneven, lopsided game of two-hand touch football out in Mamaw’s side yard, earlier.
Sitting on the grass again, back under the big tree in the front yard, we catch our breath and take in everything around us. Over to the left is a good-sized garden that she has planted and harvested from for years. Along the edge of the vegetable garden is a row of day lilies that form a border to keep us grandkids out and to give it an outline, some texture – if you will.
That’s one thing that I noticed over the years: she always did things with a bit of outline and texture. That was her version of flair. Never over the top, but enough that it showed she was not content with living with blandness and plain all of the time. She planted flowers, tended fruit trees, and planted flowering bushes all around her house so that it was not only colorful, but that it was beautiful, as well. She had a knack for arranging those amazing things right outside her window in such a way that they were nice to look at. As a result, we all enjoyed them with her.
At the corner of the garden where the yard passed in front of the house and over to the woodshed, there stood the mighty bell. It was rusted now, but it still worked. …and we would still get switched with a hickory if we dared ring it without dire need or cause.
Why? Because it was more than just an old bell. It was the summoning bell: the bell that called farmhands and children to lunch; the bell that called for everyone to “come a’runnin’” (to drop everything they were doing and get to the house as fast as possible); the bell that connected house and home to fields and pastures. For decades, it was the sole form of long distance communication that could reach from one part of our farm to the other. The mighty bell.
Now, though, it stood perched and somewhat slumped over at the top of a fading, aging cedar pole. The reddish brown rust sat there on the bell in contrast and arrogance against the meaning of the bell itself. Yet in some ways, it seemed to belong as a natural part of the aging process and the passing along of time in conjunction with the seasons it had stood through.
Though I couldn’t see it happening or even understand how it was occurring at the time, the rust was oxidizing the metal of the bell and converting it from young to old. Years were passing inside of the very composition of the bell, and I didn’t even know it. That bell seemed to speak to me in some sort of non-understandable ways. Yet, I do understand because I can still see it as perfectly now as I did back then.
The mount – the cedar pole – was as much a part of the sounding device as the rusted bell was. Both worked together to do their job. The pole had to be cedar because only that type would last through the years and stand the test of time.
Ropes that were connected to the bell and hung down alongside the peeling, hairy cedar bark came and went. They never lasted more than a year or so before they broke or snapped. That was to be expected after the first few times it happened. But not the bell. Not the pole.
They would continue to stand there and look back at me as I took in the summer song.