summer’s fever pitch
i feel it, as if a whoosh about to come, when suddenly i’ll be sitting wrapped in a sweater looking out at the glistening autumnal goldenness, asking myself “where did the summer go?”
maybe we all feel it. maybe that’s why there’s a fever pitch in the air. squeezing in those few things you would not let pass by in these summery months: the sitting outdoors with a breeze in your hair, as you order your food and let someone else do the cooking; the staying up late, under the stars, talking the night away with the college kid who, once he’s gone, might go weeks without finding time for a phone call; throwing a towel on the sand, baring your arms and your legs, sensing the splash and the roar of the waves just inches away, and hours later, perhaps when sliding into your jammies, unplucking the last stubborn grains of sand from in between your toes. because summer is all of those things.
summer is for savoring because summer, like any season when we’re keeping close watch, is fleeting. evanescent, a fancy name for flashing by.
we all have our own definitions for the season of indolence, the season when sloth is not only allowed but welcomed. what makes it special in my book are the moments i dare to break rules, do what otherwise might count as overindulgence (oh, my catholic childhood––just post-baltimore catechism––does continue to hold me in its clutches).
i remember as vividly as anything the summer’s night when my mom and i sat in the dark of the kitchen, our backs pressed against the fridge, with an aluminum pan of chilled fudge (the kind you made from a box) and two spoons and we giggled like schoolgirls trying out truancy.
sometimes what makes summer summer is simply its sense of abandon, the que-sera season, i’ve called it.
i remember chasing through the yard with a glass jar and a lid poked by a nail, in quixotic pursuit of the flickering lights of the firefly. (speaking of fireflies, how’s this glorious expression thereof: “To behold the skywriters tracing poesy in summer’s vapors, to decipher their sticky sweet nothings, their blinking reminders that we are meant to shine in our short time.”) i remember running barefoot, something i’ve not done in a long, long swath of years.
nowadays––now that trays of fudge are no longer, and chasing through grass in the dark would count as orthopedic risk––summer is finally getting to sink into a book once the work of the week is turned in. summer is piling high whatever i find in the fridge, and calling it “salad for dinner.” summer is waking as soon as the birds start to sing, so i can sneak into the day ahead of the blistering heat.
mostly nowadays, summer is holding on tight to the hours i’ve got before the boy i so love packs up and goes. back to college, one last time…
how do you define summer? and what are the summery moments you’ll never forget?
these are the books i’m diving into once i turn in my latest round of pages scoured and scrubbed of all typos and bloops. my stack inspires me….
The Living Mountain, by Nan Shepherd, introduced by Robert Macfarlane, afterword by Jeanette Winterson: a masterpiece of nature writing, first published in 1977, describing Shepherd’s journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of her native Scotland.
The Beginning and the End, and Other Poems, by Robinson Jeffers
The Selected Poetries of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt: The bard of the California coastline, a giant of modern letters who somehow has gotten a bit overshadowed, but whose capturings of words crash against me like the Pacific surf.
Early Mornings, by Kim Stafford: A biography of the great poet William Stafford, a pacifist who called himself “one of the quiet of the land,” written by his son, a poetic force all his own.
The Odyssey, by Homer: Because it’s about time.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition: Because it’s every page-proofer’s best friend. Or it should be.
i also just started karen armstrong’s The Case for God, and oh dear gracious, it’s blowing my mind. i’ve borrowed it from the digital library, but i already think i might need to grab a page-turning copy cuz just a few chapters in, this is already a book screaming for marginalia…
a snippet of summer poetry:
‘Can we learn wisdom watching insects now,
or just the art of quiet observation?’
from ‘Summer of the Ladybirds’ by Vivian Smith
summer cooking, er, non-cooking:
i’m trying this for tonight, perfect in a week when there’s not much cooking time in between hours and hours of page proofing
Corn Salad With Tomatoes, Basil and Cilantro
By Genevieve Ko
5 ears of corn
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Salt
1⁄4 teaspoon minced seeded fresh habanero or other very hot chile (optional)
(*i’m adding a pinch of ground ancho chile peppers; maybe more than a pinch)
1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Microwave the corn in their husks on high for 3 minutes. Shuck the corn — the silks will come off easily. (If you want to boil or steam the corn on the stovetop, you can shuck the corn first then cook just until brighter in color, 2 to 3 minutes.) Cut the kernels off the cobs, transfer them to a large bowl and add the tomatoes.
Finely grate the zest of the lime directly over the corn mixture, then squeeze the juice from the lime all over. Add the oil, a generous pinch of salt and the chile, if using. Mix well, then tear the herbs over the salad and gently fold them in. Season to taste with salt and serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 day.
until i wrap up this little old book in the works (final deadline, end of august), i’m continuing on in the spirit of the gazette, that old-fashioned compendium of things worth tucking under your belt for the day (not that any of my scribblings above so qualify).
and while we’re at it, and in case you’ve ever wondered where in the world the word comes from: gazette is “a loanword from the French language, which is, in turn, a 16th-century permutation of the Italian gazzetta, which is the name of a particular Venetian coin. Gazzetta became an epithet for newspaper during the early and middle 16th century, when the first Venetian newspapers cost one gazzetta.”
and, with that, may yours be a summery week. however you define it.