Roses and apples make midsummer appearance

Blossom from Ralph Cummins rose garden. Blossom from Ralph Cummins rose garden.

The good things that grow from the earth’s soil start taking on a midsummer appearance along about this time of the year. Somewhere between the June solstice and the September equinox growing things start looking their age. Some plants, vegetables, flowers and fruits of the earth have passed their “teenage years” and mellowed into young or full adulthood. Their colorful skins start bulging and withering as they approach full maturity. Some plants take on a pot-bellied appearance, some look svelte and emaciated (“skinny as a bean pole”), while others finish up looking rotund and stocky.

In the time zone that embraces the greatest heat of an approaching August the influence of the sun’s rays has been felt by all living things. The sun, mixed with the milder wind blowing from the north, starts taking its toll on the thin skins of growing things. Humankind included.

Most forms of plant life begin giving off subtle hints when old age starts creeping in. They signal the time for their harvesting and demise through an extraordinary design that nature controls. When the time arrives for them to be disconnected from the umbilical cord that has given them life and sustained them during their season of growth, they go willingly to their harvests.

My brother Ralph loved growing roses and I have such wonderful memories of walking among the varieties he had cultivated and admiring their beauty and fragrance. Whenever I’m near a rose bush I love to study the perfection of each blossom and marvel at the perfect confusion of the layered shapes. But during such visits my thoughts would inevitably be interrupted by the knowledge of their inevitable fate, for at the edges of many petals one could observe the first hints of fading and withering that would inevitably happen in the brief lifetime of each delicate blossom.
By comparison, the apples on our family trees would take the entire summer to mature. By this time of the summer the apples would have taken on a transitional look of midsummer growth in their early stages of ripening. They would not beckon harvesting for many weeks to come.

Roses and apples share a common kinship in references found in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah used this beautiful illustration: “The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing.” The apple tree is spoken of in Solomon’s Song, chapter 2, verse 3: “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”

In the middle of summer all growing things reflect the elaborate and enduring extremes of life. In their dazzling garments of many colors they reflect all things that are approachable and delightful in life. Like us, their time has limits in this well-formulated puzzle of existence.