Strawberry plants throw out arms, long skinny things that carry a brave little cluster of leaves, sent out to try somewhere new, to another, nearby location, where it can then send down roots, producing a child plant. These arms are called runners and they ultimately spread the original plant far and wide, dropping parts of it into new soil, widening its circumference, helping it settle in. When we first moved into our house, I noticed wild strawberry plants in every nook and cranny, growing out from beneath the shed, between stones, down by the back fence. They didn’t produce much fruit, but they grew quickly, bushily, their parent plant untraceable.
We have been strawberry plants this summer. Our third in the village, we finally started throwing out some runners. Much of our time here has been spent getting the house and garden just so, getting both children eingewöhnt into Kindergarten, finding local doctors and shops, moving ourselves out of an old and into a new zone. Us adults tended to the friendships we already had, hosting family and friends when they visited, not necessarily focussing on making new friends. But this summer, was different. This summer we signed die Lüdde into a swimming course with the local Freibad, volunteered to water the kindergarten’s vegetable garden during Sommerferien. With two kids in Kindergarten now, we had three Sommerfests (one per group and the big, general festival). We became members of the local tennis club and between us, get over there several times a week. New faces, new acquaintances. It feels like, this summer, we have really started to find ourselves as inhabitants of a microcosm. Less on the fringe, more comfortable with widening our circumference.
It has been a good summer. It felt like the kids grew as I watched them, as if time is pulling their limbs and stretching their brains and I am powerless to slow it down. As autumn approaches – and I can feel it now, the golden afternoons, the cool mornings, they’re kicking in – the nesting starts. Spring cleaning and autumn nesting – one in preparation to go outside, the other to hunker down. Their little jumpers from last autumn are far too small, and der Lüdde needs new sneakers.
Sometimes, the afternoons smell smoky. Sometimes the nostalgia of a summer gone threatens to submerge me, pull me along under the surface. I never get like this in spring, never feel this strange, lovely sadness. And I never feel like autumn marks a new year, as it does for the northern hemisphere: a new school year, the beginning of a new cycle at the end of the long, warm holidays. For me autumn is the year winding to a close, shedding its skin.
The strawberry plants are resting now, and soon so will be. But what a summer.