Summer Gratitude

Bash Bish falls, right in my backyard. Well, so to speak.

Bash Bish falls, right in my backyard. Well, so to speak.

Summer when I was a child was a joy because I got to spend lots of time with my dad, stepmother, and sisters. As a mom, it meant time with my children – lazy hours of just being, digging, singing, or eating sun warmed garden veggies. As a teacher it was time to regroup, plan, and write. But even so, summer has never been my favorite season. Or even my second or third favorite.

But year after year, I wonder how I forget all there is to love about the summer. Here is my list of at least some of the things for which I am very grateful as the summer of 2014 winds to a close.

  • A chance to live under the same roof with my daughter for maybe the last time. Laughing with legs crossed and eyes streaming, watching the same stupid movies over again and not minding, playing a never ending game of gin rummy, walking to Bash Bish, finding any excuse to eat out, parallel play on our computers, cooking together, and all the rest.
  • Sisterhood in the tropics with the 9 St. Martin Chicklets, sweating and drinking and throwing Tarot in soft air, braless.

    The sisterhood here represented by our cocktails.

    The sisterhood here represented by our cocktails.

  • Road trip to Virginia all on my own with a big fat book on CD and as many stops at Starbucks as I wanted.
  • Sorting books with Sandy McAdams at Daedalus Bookstore in Charlottesville, smearing book dust across a damp brow as I folded the cardboard lids closed (apparently not everyone can do that) and marking KEEP or GIVE AWAY in thick black Sharpie. It’s all about companionship with an old friend, and, well… books.

    Best bookstore in the country -- 100,000+ books. Daedalus in Charlottesville. An institution. Not an inch of wasted space.

    Best bookstore in the country — 100,000+ books. Daedalus in Charlottesville. An institution. Not an inch of wasted space.

  • Sitting under a vineyard’s pergola drinking a glass of wine with my friend Anne, falling into the familiarity of sisterhood with a string of days that did not make demands stretching out behind and ahead of us.

    Genuine Virginia grapes at a genuine Virginia vineyard/winery.

    Genuine Virginia grapes at a genuine Virginia vineyard/winery.

  • A family weekend with my lovely son in Vermont. All four of us with 36 whole hours together. Time as a family was once commonplace and precious. Now it is rare and precious. We shopped for shoes. We drank iced coffee. We hung around and talked. I sat for hours with everyone as they fished lazily for bass and catfish in a huge “pond.” I counted far more blessings than fish that day.

    First catch of the afternoon.

    First catch of the afternoon.

  • Middle Bass Island and hours of cards with a sister, a daughter, a niece, and cousins of several generations. We sat on big blankets looking out at the vastness of Lake Erie. Everyone’s legs and heads were bare. Trees overhead dappled us with August light and we sat until evening.

    Lake Erie at sunset from the grove on Middle Bass Island.

    Lake Erie at sunset from the grove on Middle Bass Island.

  • Restaurants with outdoor seating, like The Greens, in my humble town.

    Dinner on the porch at The Greens. The place to be at sunset.

    Dinner on the porch at The Greens. The place to be at sunset.

  • Minor league baseball. This summer it was the Hudson Renegades playing at home against the Burlington Vermont Lake Monsters. Evening game. Falling light. Perfect.
    Hudson Valley Renegades vs. Burlington Lake Monsters
  • One or two hot days when a beer – really cold – tasted so good.
    IMG_2738
  • Cincinnati — new home of my sister — and time spent with family I miss.

    3 generations.

    3 generations.

  • Early mornings in my plastic Adirondack chair in the middle of the yard, shaded by a giant pine, cat on lap, book in hand, coffee nearby. I think I posted a few too many photos of this situation on Facebook, but it was always just perfect.
    cat morning
  • As ever – endless lines of laundry hung to dry in the sun and breeze. This is maybe the main thing that keeps me living in the country.
    photo (2)
  •  The freedom to go to work at 10, leave for lunch, or work on Saturday but not on Monday.
  • Great music in small bars.

    The Nolan sisters rocking out.

    The Nolan sisters rocking out.

  • Late night TV marathons on Netflix with no thought of the consequences.
  • Fresh corn. Fresh greens. Fresh tomatoes. Fresh mint. And as much basil as I could ever want.
    photo 1

Summer always has its own rules, its own schedule, and its own vault where indiscretions and late night confessions can live out their lives.  I am grateful for those days when the air and my skin don’t notice each other. It’s like being in a giant womb called the universe, only I get to have teeth, and my eyes open.

Thank you, summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer vs. Autumn – an Irrefutable Argument in Favor of the Latter

So what is it about the summer that I just don’t love as much as the season that comes next—despite a beach vacation, garden vegetables, music festivals, more time with family and all the glories of the hot season? And don’t get me wrong. I’m big on all the clichés of summer. I love the smell of cut grass. I mean, who doesn’t? And fresh herbs outside my window? I could bathe in basil and wear marjoram perfume and never tire. The long days of light are magical, especially when I eat dinner at nine and still have time to go for a walk before the sky is all-the-way black. But there is something about the fall that gets me every time.

Let’s start with the practical issues. Like sweat vs. a cold nose. Give me a cold nose over pointless perspiration any time. (Pointless means you don’t exercise one iota and you are sopping wet.) I’ve never loved the sticky season. But as I’ve matured my body no longer can cool itself off. My internal thermostats behave randomly and hormonally, capricious and difficult in the extreme.

If the autumn weather proves nippy, however, the clever application of a cozy sweater, a throw blanket or a fleece robe and fuzzy slippers does the trick. Snap.  Additional warming items include: cats draped across various body parts, a fire in the firepit, hot tea with honey and warm milk, flannel lined jeans, the company of a man who smolders at a high temperature. And so forth.

More practical concerns. Body image. Though fairly comfortable with my physical self in many ways, I am not a big fan of flaunting certain aspects of my imperfection.  So I sort of HATE skimpy, low cut, sleeveless shirts that expose soft upper arms and the non-perfect neck.

The clothes of autumn are glorious. The layers of autumn include camisoles and gauzy shirts and flowing sweaters and silky scarves. In fact, a gorgeous pashmina strategically draped around the previously-mentioned neck does wonders for my sense of style and self-worth.

Take a hike in the summer and pray for death halfway to the summit. Take a hike in the fall and stand like a goddess at the top, pleasantly warm from exertion, glowing with health (not streaming with ghastly sweat), and the freshly picked apples are still cool in your pack. Sit reading a book in the summer and you either have to go into the air conditioning (which sucks) or you can’t turn the pages because they are damp with humidity, or you start to blister. Sit outside with a good book on a fall day, blanket over your lap, fleece zipped up tidily, and you can enjoy the sun for all it has to offer, instead of taking out a restraining order on it.

But to hell with all these profoundly practical reasons to love autumn. I am sure you are convinced already. But the real beauty of this season is its power to embody both endings and beginnings with grace. The rebirthing that takes place in the springtime is exquisite indeed. But it is the poignancy of autumn— things dying off while so much feels brand new. Even the flowers that bloom or simply linger deep into the season, like the cheerful mum or the effusive hydrangea, are eloquent reminders that goodbye must happen. The cooling of the air is the cooling that precedes every death. From abundant garden to heavy harvest to blackened stalks in mere weeks. The blanket of fallen leaves tries to warm the embittered soil of the final days, only to succumb at last to winds, rakes, bonfires and compost heaps.

During all this, the children return to school. People of all ages return to classrooms in elementary schools, high schools, colleges across the country and progress another year, another grade, which is about growth, anticipation, and blossoming. As the windows darken earlier and earlier in the day, minds re-engage.

I realize I am not objective, having been a teacher for so long. But I think a lot of folks would admit that they sense a reawakening with the start of school and the commencement of autumn. Lounging, poolside beer drinkers become coffee sipping multi-taskers, hanging their professional jackets on the backs of their professional desk chairs in offices across the nation. Sluggish baristas or grocery baggers become intellectually dynamic college juniors discussing the structure of philosophical argument, co-authoring physics papers with their professors or writing erudite rants about social anthropology’s latest theories. Tiny children in tiny sweatshirts explore the edges of playgrounds across the nation, searching for a stick in the shape of the letter Y, or maybe L. They are truly thrilled to be a step closer to the Promised Land called reading.

All this happens – eyes opening a little wider – as the Earth shuts its eyes for the impending winter. It is glorious!

A demonstration of 3 of the warming techniques mentioned--blanket, cozy slipper and cats.

A demonstration of 3 of the warming techniques mentioned–blanket, cozy slipper and cats.