the last days of summer

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Nectarines
acrylic on canvas; 10×10

I painted this two years ago. Each year, around this time, I come back to this painting and remember how life felt when I painted it.

It was the end of August. I had to hurry to finish the painting because the nectarines, my models, were beginning to rot in the bowl. Each time we passed the bowl on our dining room table we could smell their sweet scent.

About a month prior to painting this, we had returned to the States with our son from China. Life was raw and unfamiliar for all of us, trying to settle into one another and find our new normal. I remember sitting down during late afternoons to work on my painting, the angles of the August sun beating through the dining room window, my son upstairs napping in his crib.

For me, this painting captures the tension of August–the tension between the end of summer and the start of a new season. It reflects the sweetness of life and the impending rot of death. In this life, we cannot taste one without the other.

One of my favorite poems is “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. I don’t think anyone has said it better. Here’s an excerpt:

“O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.”

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3 thoughts on “the last days of summer

  1. “It reflects the sweetness of life and the impending rot of death. In this life, we cannot taste one without the other.” Libby, this is beautiful. I have been thinking of you lately because I have been exploring MFA programs. I am looking, specifically, at the University of Houston. It is very competitive and I, a worrisome person, am concerned about my chances. If you have any suggestions for looking for/applying to MFA programs please send a message along to me!

  2. Hey Reagan! Are you looking for an in-residence or online program? One cool option for MFA programs are the low-residency programs. Most of the work is done online and then you meet up for in-person workshops every so often. I think Queens University in Charlotte, NC has a respectable MFA low-residency program. I know that’s pretty close to you, right? There are also some great writers who teach at UNC Wilmington’s program. Not sure how far you’d be willing to travel for that! The online aspect of the low-residency programs is nice because creative writing lends itself so well to the online format. Let me know what you find. You’d do so great in an MFA program and I don’t think you’d have any trouble being accepted.

  3. Haha! Did you pick those two options because of where I live or are you close to here?

    I would LOVE a residency program, but I am not sure I can with work. I have some top-tier programs I would like to apply to: University of Houston being one of them. But, I will need to consider online programs as well. I have already looked into Queens and I graduated from UNC-W with my BA (maybe you knew that? 🙂 They do have a good program but I have outgrown those beach bum days.. Hope you are doing well!

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