The summer I gave up on


For the first time in my life I am happy to see summer come to an end. By nature, I am a creature of the tropics. I love blue skies and sunshine, the sound of coconuts falling from the trees. I pile on the sweaters when the mercury drops below 75.

This has been a summer of promise … and little else. I stopped watering my flowerbed around July first. The zinnias and cosmos that had been struggling withered and died. The marigolds never even tried.

Even though I watered twice a day, half the vegetable garden was gone before Independence Day. The green beans held on for a couple more weeks. Then an army of tiny beetles marched in and ate them down to skeletal remains in less than 48 hours.

The few tomatoes that managed to emerge looked like geodes. I was tempted to crack one open and look for fossils. So far none have been edible. Ditto the peppers. A couple of tentative squash plants poked their heads out and sat stunned in the heat.

The thermometer hit 107 and my lawn became a dust bowl reminiscent of Oklahoma farmland in the ‘30s. My lawnmower sat idle for two months. Perennials disappeared, shrubs died, mature trees turned brown. The entire landscape will have changed by next year.

The air conditioner labored nonstop for weeks on end. Being outside was like a visit to the Sahara. I swear I saw a camel caravan plodding down the road. The heat shimmered like broken glass.

Then it rained. Too little, too late, of course. But I’ve mowed the lawn twice in the past week. And it needs it again.

And that flowerbed I gave up on. Zinnias are coming up. They may even bloom before frost. And, oh yeah, the grass seed I spread last spring. It’s sprouting.

Ward Degler lives in Zionsville with his wife and dog. He is author of “The Dark Ages of My Youth … and Times More Recent.” You can contact him at


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