Inspiration & Imagination: Kudzu, Lightening Bugs, and Farm Stands

elaina avalos, inspiration and imagination, beaufort nc, new bern nc,

It’s summer in the south. I know. Not news, right? Growing up in Southern California, you’d think a hot, humid, and rainy summer would not be one of my favorite things. But it so is.

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The summers of my childhood were filled with beach trips, camping along the 5 freeway at San Onofre or with my grandparents in San Clemente. Summers in SoCal are beach days on the right side (extremely important) of the Huntington Beach pier, professional surfers & volleyball players, surfers changing into or out of their wet suits on the side of the road. SoCal summers are KROQ and the Santa Ana winds, wildfires, and the cool marine layer that rolls in off the ocean that makes you pull out a sweatshirt, as the temperature dips.

Summer in Southern California is exactly what it should be and precisely what you’d expect.

elaina avalos, chasing hope, chasing dreams,

And yet, I didn’t know what I was missing until I moved to the coast of North Carolina. The humidity may be soul-sucking gross at times, but there’s something very . . . healing in the scorch of the sun and the wet air.

A few years ago, I house sat for a couple I’ve known since 2001. This is the second time I’ve made their home, my home, for a few months. After a year lease ended – they were getting ready to take a long trip. The timing was perfect. They live on my favorite river.

Abby the Wonder Dog & I would sit for hours on the back deck – even on the hottest, most humid evenings, watching the river. When I really needed to soak in sun and heat, we’d sit on the stairway at the top of their berm.

elaina avalos, neuse river, chasing hope, chasing dreams,

 

My trusty buddy right beside me – soaking it all in, too.

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There’s something so cleansing about the humidity as it seeps in. Don’t believe me? Try it some evening. Sit quietly, as it settles in around you. Somehow, I feel the day drain off and clarity seep in.

As the summer wears on, the green grows even deeper than it was in spring – as if this was even possible. Nature somehow defies what is already the glorious beauty of green to be even better – deeper – as the kudzu spreads through the jungle of trees.

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The spanish moss, set against the green is breathtaking. The tobacco, corn, and soy bean fields are constant reminders – as I drive between home and the store, or home and work – of how different life is now – from the concrete jungle of my youth.

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Growing up, I dreamed of seeing lightening bugs (aka fireflies for the rest of the country) but didn’t see a single one until I was an adult. How is that possible? How is it possible for you to live a full life without the pop of white light, that brightens the humid evenings? You can’t, I tell you.

Farmer’s markets are more popular today than ever. And though new farmer’s markets have popped up here in recent years, the farm stand is tried & true. They’re a joy and a favorite weekend stop. I have my favorites. I’d go every day if I could.

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My favorite purchase every year – for the brief time I can get them – is green tomatoes. I learned to make fried green tomatoes about four years ago – in a kitchen overlooking the Neuse. It’s probably one of my all time favorite dishes (just behind homemade enchiladas and tamales).

green tomato, chasing hope, chasing dreams, elaina avalos

 

The truth is, June and July are the best kind of summer. The days are long and there is so much to soak in. By August, I’m ready for the routine of autumn to settle in. The beauty of the long days wears at you a little.

You begin to long for open windows and cool days. If you’re anything like me, you start wishing it was football season before July has fully let go of you. Growing up with a perpetual summer, I don’t know if you fully appreciate the true beauty of the seasons as they change.

Though August erodes my patience as it grows hotter, I’m convinced I’d never appreciate fall in the way I do, without the scorcher of August. Isn’t that just like life, though? As I think about the beauty of summer as it barrels toward fall, I am certain that each season has a beauty of its own.

It may not be roasted peanuts from a farm stand in Cedar Point, beauty – but it’s beauty just the same. I’m grateful for both seasons of my life – SoCal’s palm tree, surfer, Huntington Beach beauty – and the perfect beauty of a tobacco field against the deep blue Carolina sky.

 

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