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Kathy Bradley- Beholding the signs of summer here in the deep south
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    July in Georgia is not a pleasant month. Heat that chokes, insects that madden and the unavoidable sensation of time passing as the garden begins to fade can leave even the most sanguine of us short-tempered and longing for the respite of shorter days and drier air.
    It is a truth of some wide acceptance that July’s only saving grace is tomatoes, home-grown and thick-sliced and dusted with a heavy shower of salt, fanned out on the plate beside fresh corn and fried okra or slathered with mayonnaise and slapped between two slices of white bread.
    It is a truth of some wide acceptance but it is not tomatoes that refresh my heat-withered spirits, not the juvenile pleasure of juice dripping off my chin, not the eye-closing satisfaction of the warm taste of summer spreading through my mouth.
    The sensation that pulls me back from the abyss of believing that I will never be cool again is the sight of a peanut field.
    Unlike the corn stalks that stretch up into the sky, demanding their personal space while blocking the horizon, peanut vines grow close to the ground and spread into each others’ arms, meshing their tender leaves and spindly stems into communal productivity.
    Daddy, like the good farmer he is, rotates the location of his peanut fields, but every year, somewhere within sight from Sandhill’s front porch, I can watch a field go from a graph of shallow gray ditches to a connect-the-dots game board of green pinpricks and, as the sunshine and water — God willing — come down in the right proportions, the dots get connected into endless straight lines that roll out like unspooled ribbon.
    The spring before the summer that Sandhill was built, just before planting time, Daddy asked me, “You gonna build that house or not? It’s time to plant peanuts.” And when I couldn’t give him a ground-breaking date, he plowed right across the three acres that had been marked with bright pink flags.
    By July 2, the day the contractor and his helpers arrived to dig the footings, there were tiny little nuts, what Mama calls poppers, dangling from the vines they displaced. For the four months it took to build the house, the peanuts kept growing in what would be the front yard and the carpenters, the painters, the roofers all had the pleasure of pulling up a hill every now and then.
    It’s been 17 years since that summer. Lots of things, of course, have changed. There’s a deck hanging off the back of Sandhill. There are shrubs and trees planted where the peanut vines were. The two tow-headed children who climbed all over the lumber stacked in the yard and picked up errant nails are grown. The dog who moved in with me is buried in the side yard.
    And I’ve changed, too. But not just in the obvious, age-related ways. I’ve learned that farmers aren’t the only ones who need to rotate their crops, that planting time can’t be delayed, that the hottest, gnattiest moments will be survived.
    In just a few weeks the multi-stepped process of harvest will begin; the plows first, then the pickers and trailers lumbering like the mechanical monsters in a science fiction movie. The sounds of their engines will fill the air as long as there is light and in a matter of days the fields will be flat and gray. I will have gotten my wish for shorter days and drier, cooler air.
    For now, though, I sit on the front porch in a rocking chair in need of a fresh paint job, knees pulled up to my chest and bare feet hanging over the edge of the seat and stare across the way at the mounded green lines, drawn toward the far edge of the field, the place where all the lines converge.
    And I don’t even notice the sweat or the bugs.
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