The weather is getting much hotter and this means that I retreat to gardening at night in order to keep my favorite past time enjoyable.
I learned to appreciate working at night when I was a teenager. I worked in the summers as litter getter (or in proper Paramount speak – an ecological associate) at King’s Island. I worked the late shift, which meant I worked from about 5PM – 2AM, give or take an hour or two. The park closed at 10PM and was cleared out by 11PM, which left me by myself, sweeping up after the masses in a deafening silence that only comes after a space has become accustomed to being filled with sound and then, very suddenly, is not.
Add to that the near nightmare-like landscape of an amusement park, with giant metal beasts fossilized and gilded with man made stars right next to perfectly manicured gardens and roads that no vehicles drove on and no people could be seen on. The feeling is that of “this is what purgatory must feel like”. Neither heaven nor hell but peaceful and just a little scary when you are alone there.
Plus, the relief from the days heat, made worse by endless courses on asphalt, was a blessing.
About this time, R.E.M. came out with their “Automatic for the People” and the song “Nightswimming” (play the YouTube video to hear the song). It perfectly captures the feeling that I had then, when working at night, and now, while working in my garden at night. You could just replace the word swimming with gardening (and ignore the hints towards nudity) and it describes night gardening.
I normally will go outside at around 10PM and putter. Pot something up, weed a little, admire the flowers that only look their best in the reflected glow of street and moon light — generally enjoying a warm night that is not nearly as suffocating as the hot, humid day was. Now the metal beasts are replaced by mature trees which are gilded not with man-made stars but fireflies. The gardens are not so meticulous, but wilder and as familiar to me as the feel of my husband’s arms around me.
It doesn’t feel quiet safe though. Nothing at night does or should. Even gardening has a certain flavor of doing something forbidden when it is done under a winking moon.