July is the month we say goodbye to some regular writers who have aged out or are moving on to other projects. We’re extra thankful for Jenna today—she’s been writing with us since August 2017.
Summer in the valley means cherries, and apricots, and plums, and rain storms every afternoon. Summer in the valley is thick air and bright sun and dinner parties. Summer in the valley is light until ten at night, and people sharing life on the sidewalks until much later. Summer in the valley is very hot to moderately chilly, depending on the day, or the hour, or the town you find yourself in.
I got a stitch cut out of my toe yesterday in our town’s emergency room. This is one small contained space featuring a secretarial desk and shelves of paperwork, two black hospital beds, various medical equipment, and a hallway off to the right that seemed to be a sort of waiting room. This was my sixth time in this room in eleven days, an unfortunate string of visits kicked off by my stepping into a rusty metal rod left on the grass near my apartment block.
When the nurse pulled the stitch up to cut it, I winced and closed my eyes. “Do not move,” she told me sternly, “It doesn’t hurt.” “Actually it does,” I told her, a bit defiantly. She cut it out and said, “Done.” There was a sort of apathy to her movements that I found fascinating. And a little terrifying, especially when she held that razor sharp, flat bladed knife to my little toes. It was like she was smoking a cigarette, or gossiping on the phone, and just happened to be tending to my foot at the same time. She wasn’t doing either of these things of course, but that’s sort of the impression I got. I ran/limped from the mouth of that tall, asymmetrical white building to catch the local maxi taxi home.
Summer in this place is a little bit magical, a little bit gritty, a little bit like watching skin heal skin, or like finding raspberries growing in places you didn’t expect.
My team just got back from Austria, nine of them who traveled away from our Romanian mountains, through the flatness of Hungary, and into another set of alpine peaks and ridges. They told me stories over dinner last night, and we laughed full-bodied laughs, and I thought about the week I spent once in that country. The buses and trains and boats, the thick coat and the felted hat I pulled over my ears. They told me about riding a gondola up to the mountains, and I remember when I rode one too, and just like them I almost missed the last one, although unlike me they were not trying to get to their lodging for the night.
They told me it was hot in Austria, and I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. It’s July—of course it’s hot. But the Austria in my mind and memory is January’s Austria. I haven’t met any other kind. That snowy, wind-cold Austria is the one I loved when I was traveling alone and free and easy and feeling everything. How different my life is now, and yet how very much the same. It’s a world away, and yet it’s always with me. I can find the same kind of spirit and adventure in July’s Romania as I did in January’s Austria, but I can afford to set some roots here. I think I’ve found a way to travel while staying at home, and that’s kind of the dream for someone like me.
I fell in love with this valley three years ago, in the summer. I made a home here this year, in the fall, the winter, the spring. And now the summer. This valley summer is the garden at sunset. It’s remembering, and celebrating the little things like walking without pain, which is actually a pretty big thing. It’s collecting flowers in mountain fields and hardly believing I’ve almost been here an entire year. It’s the talkative kids at work. It’s the blossoming trees and the children on brakeless bikes too big for them.
Everything making me think about God.
Everything making me feel like home.
Jenna Griffin loves foreign music, old cookbooks, public transportation, and sunsets in new places. After graduating with degrees in writing and French, she is spending her first post-grad year as an English teaching assistant in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.