This summer has not been the summer of trains. They left the valley a year or two ago, companies favoring different routes that, as well as I can remember, avoided the Siskiyou Pass. So consequently, we don't hear the regular blast of freight horns like we used to.
I loved those horns. I don't know why. It is almost like they heralded myriad, untold stories at the regular — daily, weekly, hourly — intervals with their powerful tones. During my son's middle-school years, I crossed through the train yards every day on my way to work after dropping him and my daughter off at their morning ride to school, mesmerized by the activity around the tracks. One summer day, my son and I drove over there to take pictures of the trains that fascinated me.
There we were, stark in the midmorning sun and heat of summer, armed with a couple of digital cameras. We began looking around for I-don't-know-what. I didn't know what would constitute a good shot. All I knew was that these trains had showed up on a few occasions in my poetry, my journals and my dreams. They should be photographed.
We got some shots. My son, the better ones. The rails, a vagrant, the lights of a yard engine moving cars, rusted debris.
Time marched on. My obsession with trains waned.
This summer, then, to return to my original thought, was the summer of roses. We planted 13 plants, mostly in our front yard. They have been exhilarating. They breathed life into my wife and me this summer as if we had harvested trimmings from the Garden of Eden.
For years, we have been obsessed with roses in other places — Sacramento's Capital Park, Portland's Rose Gardens, Eugene's Owen Rose Garden and hosts of smaller spots in between — but we finally decided to revitalize our front yard and prepare it for some roses of our own. We often photographed flowers in the places we visited, and I wondered (and worried a little) whether they might not become mundane and pedestrian if I saw them every time I walked out my front door.
They have not.
We thrill to tend them every evening. We are drawn to them, admiring the crenellated beauty in each bud, flower, plant. Sometimes, we go out just to look at them. Sometimes just to photograph them.
One evening, after working in the yard, the light of day failing, my wife drew my attention to a few flowers. I could barely see their details for the light, but I hated to pull myself away and go inside. They might not look just like that again.
Our yard might not either. Summer is gone. Such is the cycle that is driven by the seasons. A few months from now, when the roses have lost their leaves and luster, I'm sure I'll look back through the pictures, smile and remember some of the thrill of these little miracles that seemed akin to the Tree of Life — or at least one of the bushes that may have been hanging out near it.
Unlike the trains, they'll be back next year. I can't wait.