As another summer launches, trees ringing with birdsong and meadows bright with wildflowers, everything seems to be happening at once, and I get a panicky feeling (completely unreasonable, I know) that there will be nothing left for July and August. Yesterday I began a list of what’s blooming now, a list which is surely not comprehensive (how many did I miss?), and here it is, not in alphabetical order or arranged by families or color but just as I took down the names:
St. Johnswort, bladder campion, daisies, coreopsis, cow vetch, clover (red, white, yellow), buttercups, goatsbeard, daisy fleabane, birdsfoot trefoil, leafy spurge, wood lily, soapwort, spiderwort, milkweed, hawkweed (orange and yellow), cinquefoil, sedum, sweetpea, beach pea, mustard, roses (all kinds, including wild shrub forms), vervain, harebells, all kinds of grasses, catalpa (tree) and highbush cranberry (shrub). The flowers! How many I have left out! And all too soon they will be gone for another year!
This happens to me every May, every June, every July and August. The flowers in bloom at any given time are my favorite flowers, and it’s hard for me even to remember what will come next until its time arrives, so I worry that the fields will become bare. I do know that we have coneflowers to look forward to, and Queen Anne’s lace, and asters—but then my mind goes blank, returning me to the present beautiful moment. Not a bad place to be on June 22.
Another not-bad place to be is within a hundred pages of the end of A Suitable Boy, though I have mixed feelings about finishing the novel at all. The friend who loaned it to me (urging me, when my eyes widened in dismay at its size and weight, to read “just the first hundred pages) said that one of her relatives had “lived in the story for a whole summer.” There again! As it is with the roses, soon I must leave Lata and Maan and Rasheed and Haresh and Mrs. Rupa Mehra, the Nawab Sahib of Baitar, baby Uma and all the other characters and move on to the next book of the summer and my life. There is no hurry, yet neither is there any slowing of the process. I turn pages quickly, impatient to learn what will happen next in India in the early 1950s. Oh, but the characters! How many I have not mentioned!
Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor was dead, and felt nothing, this ash of hers and sandalwood and common wood could be left to the doms at the cremation ghat to sift for the few pieces of jewellery which had melted with her body and were theirs by right. Fat, ligament, muscle, blood, hair, affection, pity, despair, anxiety, illness: all were no more. She had dispersed. She was the garden at Prem Nivas (soon to be entered into the annual Flower Show), she was Veena's love of music, Pran's asthma, Maan's generosity, the survival of some refugees four years ago, the neem leaves that would preserve quilts stored in the great zinc trunks of Prem Nivas, the moulting feather of some pond-heron, a small unrung brass bell, the memory of decency in an indecent time, the temperament of Bhaskar's great-grandchildren. Indeed, for all the Minister of Revenue's impatience with her, she [his wife] was his regret. And it was right that she should continue to be so, for he should have treated her better while she lived, the poor, ignorant, grieving fool.
-Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy