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Tag: savoring summer

summer’s saturation point

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there comes a moment, maybe it’s late afternoon when the whir of the cicada rises to jackhammer loud, maybe it’s standing by the bins of tomatoes at the farmer’s market cradling just the right red orb in your palm, maybe it’s sinking your toes in the sand as it cools by the minute at nightfall, but sure as can be, there comes a moment when you know — up, down, and sideways — that you’re in the thick of surround-sound super-saturated summer.

and this is the moment to make the most of it, seize it, lick the juice of it off your chin, bury your toes a little bit deeper, turn the page and keep right on reading: dinner can wait.

this is summer. summer is this.

especially the summer when every ounce of you is counting down. when you wake up knowing how many days there are. how many weeks till you pack up the wagon, and whisper the holy-garden-angel prayer*. (* the prayer that was born when little ears in the back seat behind you were certain the one to whom you were reciting allegiance, the one to whom you petitioned, was none other than “holy garden angel, protect us.”)

especially in august.

so here we are: time for your summer’s checklist.

have you sliced a perfectly ripe, perfectly juicy giant green-striped tomato? a caution-yellow one? one with a fanciful name (cherokee purple, green zebra, Mr. Stripey, montserrat?) and even more fanciful pings to your tastebuds?

have you unfurled a beach towel in your own backyard, flung yourself onto your back, and counted the stars?

have you plucked the sand from in between your toes?

have you lost an afternoon deep in the pages of a hot-burning summer’s read?

have you carried home so many bulging bags from the farmer’s market that the welts in your arm lasted till noon?

have you wished even once that this day — or this hour, or moment — would never ever come to an end?

have you fallen asleep to the nightsounds rushing in through the screens? along with the breeze that tickles your toes?

have you plunked yourself in your favorite perch — maybe a tree house, maybe a cushioned ledge by an upstairs window — and done nothing more arduous than watching the world go by?

have you grabbed a fistful of mint from the garden, rinsed it under the faucet and watched it float in a pitcher of ice, water, and sliced wheels of lemon?

have you stayed up late, and gotten up early, just because you can’t get enough of these summery hours?

have you whispered a prayer of undiluted glory-be for this moment, the blessing of being alive for one more summer?

maybe now is the time….

and here, just because, is the summeriest recipe i’ve stumbled upon in the last string of summery days….(p.s. it’s the dressing that launches this over the moon…..the summery moon, but of course…)

Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad 

Yield: 4 servings 

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)

1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/8th seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes
12 ounces good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned 

Directions: 

1 Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. If not using within an hour, store the vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator. 

2 Place the arugula, watermelon, feta, and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately. 

what’s on your summer’s checklist?

postcards from summer: a poem, a “cake,” and three very fine books

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sometimes in summer you merely want to dip your toe into the puddles. or the very cold lake. a little of this, a little of that. summer, it seems, is by definition the season for idling. no deep exertion needed. nor called for.

and so this week, with our old house bustling, and me trying to squeeze in any minutes of writing time i can muster, we bring you a little of this, a little of that: a poem, the “world’s best” no-bake upside-down cloud of sweet summeriness, and a roundup of books for the summery soul.

first, the poem, a quiet one from mary oliver, who is something of a patron saint of this old table. one that will rustle something deep inside, perhaps, and make you think thoughts you might not have thought ever before…

Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

From West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Copyright 1997 by Mary Oliver. 

oh, mary, mary…

“let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine….”

in fact, that might be all the morsel you need for this day. a morsel that’s as much a prayer as a poem, in my book. truth is, the poems i love best are the ones that work as a prayer: spiraling deep down under the hard shell of the everyday numbness, stirring, rustling, awaking the sleeping bits of the soul. the bits that long to be fed, plumped, removed from their starvation diet.

“let the immeasurable come…”

have you felt the immeasurable of late, did it touch the buckle of your spine?

and because i promised, here’s the summery treat we made at our house this week. especially since our house is filled this week from our beloved friend jani from munster, in germany. jani was here five years ago, when he was 12. and he and i sat side-by-side every morning, making our books. he will be 18 next week, and he is here, working downtown, taking the train every morning and night with dear blair. we are feting him with all things americana. he claimed this, “the best dessert in the world.”

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best no-bake upside-down dessert in the world* (*so says jani)

1 box belgian buttery waffle crisp cookies

2 – 3 cups whipped cream

vanilla extract, a dollop

1 pint fresh raspberries

1/2 pint fresh blackberries

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

you’ll need a loaf pan, lined in plastic wrap.

stir vanilla (or almond) extract into your bowl of whipped cream (psst: i used cool whip).

this is all about layering, so begin with a few plops of whipped cream at the bottom of your loaf pan.

IMG_9495next, lay down a row of belgian buttery crisps. press gently into the bed of whipped cream.

add a layer of whipped cream, dropping in dollops, and smoothing with a spatula.

add raspberries and white chocolate chips (or dark chocolate chips, or almond slices, if that more emphatically tickles your fancy).IMG_9496

begin again with your belgian cookie brigade, then whipped cream, then more berries and white chocolate chips. repeat one or two more times, till you’ve reached the tippy-top of your loaf pan. then begin your berry art. i made a flag, or an impressionist rendition thereof…..have at it.

cover with plastic wrap, and tuck in the fridge for eight to 12 hours. theoretically you flip the stacked loaf onto a serving plate (thus, the plastic wrap lining the loaf pan), but i didn’t think about that when i went with my flag, so we served flag side up, and jani didn’t seem to mind. there were two slices left for the very next day. and jani proclaimed it even better after its long night’s nap in the fridge.

***

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and finally, as promise, the latest roundup of books for the soul. my latest assignment from the chicago tribune. this time: Islamic Jesus, Jewish holidays, and exquisite poems infused with Chassidic sensibilities.

so there you go. do as summer insists: savor these lazy days. and if so inclined, tap out your thoughts to the question above, the one about the immeasurable. or share your favorite no-bake summery sweetness. or the books whose pages you’re turning these steamy days of july….

summer’s clubhouse

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when i was little, summer commenced when martha hackney and i would take to the woods. or the cardboard box cupboard. a boggy wood stretched between our two houses, complete with babbling brook, and stepping stones, and a pond we named “green,” because it was carpeted in teeny-tiny french knots of muck. if we’d inspected with magnifying spectacle, we’d likely have noticed they were lilliputian lily pads, perches for froglets the size of half your pinkie. once in a while, we’d stretch out on a log and inspect. and try not to plop in (for that would certainly lead to tuberculosis. or worse. so we feared in our nine-year-old minds).

i can’t remember a summer in which martha and i did not devote every waking hour to the construction of one of our clubhouses. the woodsy variety. or the ones where we spent hours upon hours with scissors and glue and snippets of fabric, and leftover rolls of wallpaper, too. and boxes. boxes by the boxload. we upholstered. we carpeted. we strung make-believe lights. we made resplendent rooms for our miniature dolls. we daydreamed the day away, hands smudged with glue.

perhaps those are the roots of my summer-y inclination to tuck away in a spot that’s away from it all. under a willow tree might be ideal. but i’ve no babbling brook near this old shingled house where, more often than not, i’m the one in charge of flipping grilled cheese and stoking the fridge. so the clubhouse i call my own is the one at the end of a short winding walk, a brick walk that leads from the house through the garden to the slapping screen door. there, just inside, is a steep-ceilinged room, one with a fan that undulates the summer’s breeze. and old wicker chairs, ones i once scooped from the alley (yes, i did; rescuing the flock from unseemly demise), tucked to one side, while an old wobbly door, perched on four legs, now makes for a wobbly table.

IMG_7681we call it the summer house, for that’s what the real estate lady once called it. it’s a name with far more pizazz than really it musters. if you don’t mind a rip in your screens, if flaky paint from the chairs doesn’t bother you, if a teetering dinner plate doesn’t ruffle your feathers, well, then, we have a room for you.

IMG_7682this week, in a week that might be labeled “intensive care” (for the task of the week was intensively caring for one un-done heart), it’s the place to which i skittered away. i carried my load of summer reading. i settled my bum in the old wicker seats. and before i could turn a single page, i was wholly absorbed in the magic of that odd little place. a mama wren flitted in and out of the birdhouse (she was tending her thimble-sized brood, delivering wren-sized delectables on a quarter-hourly basis). a cardinal paid me no mind, heralding the dawn, and later, the twilight.

a place to escape is a critical place. a place that, perhaps, no other season so offers. but summer, after all, demands it. promises it. it’s the one time of year when you can stretch out your legs, cross your ankles, and know you’re doing your duty: you’re summering. however you define it.

for me, summering is a verb with pages to turn. it’s sipping slowly from tall sweaty vessels of lemony water. it’s slapping away mosquitoes, and keeping watch for the firefly. it’s taking time out and not feeling guilty. it’s feeling like friday afternoon stretches for days. it’s relishing: a balsa wood baskets of berries; fat spears of asparagus charred from the grill; a book i don’t want to end; daybreak with a hot mug of coffee; mama wren enchanting with her motherly duties; nightfall with a flute of prosecco.

it’s the one time of year that begs us to savor the succulence. to consider the high art of nonchalance and lull without purpose. it’s the deep down knowing that if you’re turning a page, staring into the distance, or keeping watch on a wren, you are more than doing your job. you’re inhaling the whole of the blessing, the one that now is upon us: welcome to summer.

how do you define summering? and what’s your tucked-away spot?

summer starts here lemonade

dizzy…in summer’s high tide

anemone bee

it’s a hum and a buzz you might mistake for a gnat — a gnat with a megaphone maybe. there i was, minding my morning’s business, not too far from nodding anemones, and the buzz dazzled past me, caught my attention. i looked up, and saw that i stood amid a whirling flock of zaftig bees. velvet-bellied bees. bees doing what bees do best, bees doing what i too am inclined to do this time of year: wriggling their whole fat selves into the depths of late summer’s bloom, gulping down thirstily, mightily, drunkenly. the bees in my garden are dizzy with late summer’s bloom.

so am i.

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maybe it’s the urgency of catching up. i lost a week or two there in a fog. maybe it’s that summer’s been shaved by two weeks, here in the land where high school can’t wait. all i know is i can’t quite sate my late-summer’s hunger pang.

i stood there watching that bee. watching her rub up her belly, sink down low, into the golden rods of anemone pollen. i too wished i could make like a bee and slather myself in every last speck of summer’s late bloom. there’s an unbridled zest i saw in that bee, a zest that felt familiar. the unbridled part is the part that i longed for. and that’s what i love about being outside. about paying attention to the world in my garden. the bee skittered from one pollen-painted pin cushion to another, and then onto another. her flight path zigged and zagged and bumped into leaves. she didn’t seem to mind, not one little bit, that she was basically flying in circles, delectable circles. circles that filled her belly with the one niblet she lived for: the gold dust of summer’s unquenchable thirst.

for anyone gathering notes, the wide-bellied bee offered instruction: hesitate not, she seemed to insist. the hour is now. the pollen is swelled. the high tide of summer won’t wait. you’d be wise to roll in it now, to lather yourself in every last succulent drop.

point taken.

to study a bee, to chart the shift of a shadow, to tiptoe into the midnight in search of a shooting star, these are the lessons that unfold under heaven’s dome. this is the ancient and timeless curriculum of paying attention. this is poetry lived.

this is the quietly whispered prayer that fills me every time.

and this is my mid-august to-do list (inspired by my velvet-robed instructor):

  • pluck heirloom tomato. sprinkle with kosher salt. sink teeth in. catch drizzle with tongue.
  • ditto peach (minus the salt).
  • snip a morning’s round of black-eyed susans, or whatever the late-summer’s garden is inclined to share today.
  • take a seat in the midnight theatre, with one last showing of perseid’s meteor shower on the playbill tonight.
  • savor the twilight hour, as nightfall tiptoes in sooner by the day, reminding us that sunlight fades, and so too, summer. allow the periwinkle light to peak your knowing that the soft edge of day — of each and every day — is a gift to behold, especially as it wanes.
  • drink in the afternoon buzz of the world’s loudest bug, the Magicicada (mistakenly referred to as “locusts”), a herd with a walloping vibrato that tips the scales at 110 decibels, or about as deafening as a mad-dashing chain saw. oddly, perhaps, the cicada tympani happens to be my favorite song of latter-day summer.
  • curl up, all alone, in an old wicker chair, and, for as long as the day allows, deep-breathe the last of summer’s sweet pause (school — high school, no less — starts bright and early next wednesday; and for the soon-to-be teacher in this old house, it’s monday at 8 bells, when he’s due to glide into the classroom. so long to summer, indeed).

how will you savor your last hours of summer?

and a p.s. for the star gazers among us: i was among those staring into the heavens last night, wishing upon a star that i’d get a glimpse of one of perseid’s meteoric chalk streaks across the night slate. alas, it was not to be. clouds muddied my night watch. august 12 is the height of the late-summer show, when our dot on the globe spins into the whirling nightlights. there’s one last chance tonight, as the curtain falls, to catch the last gasp of the august light show.

p.s.s. correction above: i’d mistakenly launched into typing “he” and “him” in writing of my busy bumblebee, without circling back to check why i’d done that. i was wrong, and i’ve corrected my ways. apologies to the worker bumblebees who are decidedly hard-toiling she’s. 

that moment when…(and this summer more than ever…)

summer feets

all week i’ve been feeling it. that moment that best can be likened to the glorious fraction of time when you’ve been out in tippity teetering heels all night, when your toes have been practically yelping in protest and the bones in your feets have been threatening to cut you off at the ankles, when every ounce of you wanted to wriggle out of this unnatural state of constraint, but you had to make like a grownup and prance around in footwear that does its best to topple you, and sometimes makes you chew on your cheek besides. but then, finally, the night and the torture come to an end, and there in the dark, and practically running, you round the bend, you lurch toward the door and you begin the release for which you’ve been throbbing: you scrape the toe of one pointy shoe against the penned-in heel of the other, and you kick the darn foot-clamps clear across the kitchen.

you stand there, for a minute or two, just drinking in the feel of your bones falling back to their pre-ordained order. you listen to the flow of the blood trickling back to the tips of your squeezed-colorless tootsies.

you savor the long-awaited rush of relief. the busting-out-of-whatever-bound-you.

which, pretty much, is how it feels around here. more so than in a very long time. because summer in this old house has arrived with a groundswell of holy hallelujah. boy one is finished with college. boy one is hanging around. boy two just finished with grade school. ergo, this is a summer that comes with a full ladle of finish. and, perhaps, an extra-deep dollop of purest enchantment.

this is, more than any summer that i can recall, one of those moments when the hours make like salvador dali had at them. they warp into stretched-out proportions. they expand, not contract. they breathe. and sometimes, like sunday afternoon when my firstborn and i plopped into old wicker chairs and stayed there for the better part of three hours, they stand perfectly utterly still.

i am, in this seasonal opening act, indulging in time. i am whirling, deep down inside, in the rarest of joy, the feeling that somehow i’ve cupped my hands, sunk them deep in a font of holiest waters, and come up spilling; splattering drop after delectable drop.

i’m not worrying, for heaven’s sake, about what’s for dinner, i’m not looking at clocks. (though i am watching ice boxes magically empty, and i am setting world records for laundry.) i’m feeling the lumpety-thump of my heart when the sound of the footsteps comes down the stairs at times when i’m usually alone and the house is usually silent. like a kid on christmas morning, i’m peeking through cracks in the door at two sleeping boys with no need for hurry.

maybe i love it all the more because i know it won’t last. and not only because i’ve been around the block enough times to know that, soon enough, the days will be so hot and so sticky we’ll all be wishing for igloos. and popsicles will seem a sensible breakfast.

maybe it’s all the sweeter because i never imagined we’d all have one more summer together. i hadn’t pictured four cereal bowls plopped on the table, each one blanketed in warm-from-the-field farmer berries. i hadn’t imagined the windows rolled down in the old station wagon, and me and my boys blaring the radio, wending our way to no particular anywhere. i hadn’t considered boy upon boy curled up on the couch, arms and shoulders entwined, words of brotherly wisdom being imparted in whispers.

for now, it’s one fleeting drink-it-all-in suspension of time.

we’re back to the place, and the moment, when the letting loose rubs you all over. like a terry cloth towel before it’s worn thin. it’s that magical interlude when the season is new, when we’re just on the cusp, and everything is raw and deep and our pores are wide open and we’re guzzling it down. right in here, in this opening act of summer’s production, the season of so few cares, we’re hard at work simply savoring.

and this particular summer it comes with a brand of relish that i’ll never ever forget.

this just might be the summer whose frames i’ll play and replay till the last gasp i breathe on this earth.

well, goodness gracious, i got a wee bit sidetracked — make that a lot sidetracked — here this morning when my ferocious jungle cat (he who seems to be showing off in recent days, proving to any and all that he might be old but he ain’t over yet) carried into the house — into the very middle of the family room’s old persian rug, mind you — a still-wriggling, but-not-for-long critter, clutched in the sharp-toothed grip of said hunter cat. i let out a yelp, as is my usual inclination, and hip-hopped in circles till i got the duo to skitter back through the rip of the old screen door. it set me to quaking for a few minutes there, and then i needed to settle back in to the rhythms above. and, oh goodness, the wonders of summer took on whole new dimensions. 

and in further keeping with this slow-time summer, i’ve just spent the last hour plopped on the post-college kid’s new navajo rug, chatting about his early morning adventures procuring yet another job. normally i fidget till i hit the friday-morning-publish button, but not today. today i know that all’s in due time. and if it unfolds slowly, it’s all the more glorious….

finally, before i go, a most blessed birthday i wish for my beloved friend cecilia and her forever love, gary, who serendipitously and marvelously share the same birthday. this is a big one for ceci, a day of more than usual import. i send love and prayers in double dose.

so before i sign off: what do you savor most at the start of this laid-back season……

welcome to summer

summer starts here

summer starts here lemonade

across town, the bell will clang one last time. little hearts will cartwheel inside ribcages that hold it all in — too tight — for most of the year. school buses will rumble down the cobbled streets, well before lunchtime. at every corner, kids will bound off, as if a new lease on life.

it’s that rarest of mornings when the exhale is deep and long and the launch pad for unbroken weeks — or at least a few hours — of hassle-free summer.

for the curly-haired wonder in this old house, it means the stacks of seventh-grade homework will finally dwindle. it means no more 6:30 alarms. no more school buses to be missed. it means, any minute now, the front door will burst open and in will tromp a herd of not-so-little feets. big plans have been hatched for stacks of syrupy pancakes at the diner down the lane, where the screen door slaps and the flat-top sizzles, egg after egg after egg scrambled or fried or flipped over easy.

even for the mama, it’s joy undiluted. that moment when summer begins remains enshrined, tucked high on a shelf, safe in a plexiglass cube. it’s the closest thing to carefree i can conjure. all these years later, i remember rushing into my own growing-up kitchen, end-of-year report card in hand. i remember the certain sparkle in the air. i remember my mama, putting down the day’s errands and chores, just long enough to pile us all in the wagon, and take us out for a drive. out for lunch at a formica-topped counter. not unlike the one my own little fellow will wander off to today.

there aren’t so many carefree moments left anymore. so this one, this one that’s caught in the crosshairs of all the counting down, it’s one worth deep-breathing. it’s a moment to savor. it’s a place to begin the fine art of slowing time. sucking each droplet of wonder and joy out of this one sweet morning that spills into afternoon’s adagio. and might even last till tomorrow.

slowing time, the essence of summer.

here’s a short list of ways i might dip my toe in that most essential seasonal wonder:

take off my shoes. tickle my toes in the grass.

sign up for summer reading at the library. or, pick one fat book that’s long overdue on my i-need-to-read-this list and pledge to turn page after page till i get to the end.

keep close watch on the old rambling roses, on the brink of bloom any hour now.

tuck myself in the old screen porch, and drink in the soundtrack of summer — the baby birds out for their first fledgling flights, the wren who calls out her glories from high in the pines, the roar of the lawn mowers that never go quiet.

pile a saucer with juiciest berries. pop into mouth, one sweet succulent shlurp at a time.

unfurl a beach towel across the grass that is my make-believe beach. slather on sunscreen — mostly because it smells the way summer is meant to smell — and bake there till i can’t stand the heat. that oughta last 10 minutes or less.

consider long tall glasses of glistening waters, aswim with plucked-from-the-garden mint and slices of lemon.

pile the grill with farmer’s market bounty.

ferry dinner out to the summer porch. light candles as the sun goes down. sit there, watching, till the firefly show begins. be sure to invite the neighbors, the ones who turn the simplest joys into most cherished hours.

weigh the virtues of sleeping outside. remember the neighborhood skunk. reconsider.

once, just once, head to the beach with a thermos of coffee, a fat sunday paper, and the promise to practice relaxing.

do not promise to slip into a bathing suit and promenade at the village pool.

when summer rains slide into the forecast, prepare to make the best of it: inhale the raindrops’ pit-a-pat from inside the screened porch, or better yet, slip on rubber galoshes and plop around the puddles, making like you’re seven again.

eat so many fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes you’re bound to sprout a canker sore or two. negligible price for summer’s juiciest trophy.

what will you scribble onto your summertime wonder list? and what’s on your summer reading list?

welcome to summer

summer dinner, and the waiting is easy

like so many of the very sweetest moments, we bumbled straight into it. didn’t set out to clear the deck, haul in the props. just simply decided: big boys are rolling in the door round nine o’clock, we’re not sitting down to eat till they get here.

no matter that that starlit hour is more like bedtime on a schoolnight. this is summer. clocks be dashed. we’re keeping our time, summer time, not greenwich time or CST time or CSDT time, or all those alphabetical configurations that amount, truly, to playing games with clockhands.

come to think of it, it was the little one himself who put his foot down. who declared: i’m not eating till everyone’s here. i want family dinner.

and so it’s been for a string of nights now. we set the table out back, the door table, the wobbly table, the one with paint that flakes (a little chip o’ ancient white with your salad, oh well, another source of…mineral??).

we stoke the citronella candle buckets, the ones that bar the biters, or at least keep their bites outside, on the far side of the screen.

we zip around the yard with felco no. 2s in hand, clipping here and there, a rose, a stem of yarrow, delicate feverfew–the wee little daisy that bobs its head and does away with headaches should you steep it in a cup. we stuff stems in an old glass jar, light candles. put out plates and forks and knives.

uncork the prosecco, this summer’s delight, the sparkly wine that not only fizzles, it foams, a thick white froth of effervescence, summer uncorked. (it started as a curiosity, “research” for a story, now it is downright essential, the liquid testament to the season’s looser side.)

the two-hour dawdle before dinner is just what summer orders: time found, time to sit and savor. time to putz around the kitchen, the garden, the summer porch. what’s not to savor there?

it is, in its own sweet way, an act of defiance. it’s saying: we won’t let the odd-timed activities of our lives steal away the one deep-rooted truth of our existence, family dinner. that holy sacred hour when we sit before a table set with care, look down at plates piled high, join hands and say out loud our thanks for all that brought us to this circle.

as the drape of summer’s eve descends beyond the screens, as darkness falls, and candlepower keeps us awash in flickered light, we tell the day’s stories. we inquire. we listen. we laugh. we gasp at whatever was the drama of the day, the afternoon, the evening.

it is all part of this summer’s deep understanding that while we might not live in times–or be of single-digit years–when rolling out of bed and building adventure was the first and only order of business (after lapping up bowls of cereal ‘n’ milk and the few scant berries you’re allotted when you grow up amid a flock of seven berry-grabbers), we can–and will–claim for ourselves whatever wisps of summer come our way.

it is planting a stake firmly in the day, proclaiming it unlike the schoolyear, unlike the days and weeks when bedtime matters, when we conform to grid of hours and litanies of assignments, big and small.

it’s as if we can’t be bound by indoors, and kitchen tables. we are as hungry for the summer porch as we are for the corn, the cantaloupe, the herbed everything that stirs our appetites and fills our plates.

to get to our particular summer porch, there is a walk involved. it’s not attached to the house, but rather on the far end of the garden. and we’ve noticed, time and time again, that the simple act of moving through space, tiptoeing along the brick walk, even in the darkness that follows every dinner, is to whisper to the knowing place, the one that’s deep inside our soul: we are leaving behind the cares and worries of the house. we are dispatching to the screened-in place where there is only breeze and candlelight, where chairs are old, are weathered, are storied. where crumbs don’t matter, and wet spots from where the wine bottle perspires or the glass tips over, they’re not worries either.

there’ve been nights when i am cleaning the kitchen at half past ten.

and i don’t mind.

because what’s preceded that, a long summer’s eve waiting for the rumble of the car down the alley, into the garage, the slam of a car door, the grown-up bass-voice of a manchild who’s been rowing on a river, and his father who waits for him at the river’s edge at dusk in a murky corner of the city, the joy of knowing we are one now, all together and on the cusp of sitting down to share an hour of our day, it is the holiest slice of time i know right now.

it’s summer dinner, and the waiting is so easy.

how are you mixing up your year-round life, to mark this chapter we call summer? what stakes have you pounded in the turf, claiming this as time you’ll savor summerstyle, slow and sloppy, sweet and oh-so-succulent?

the weightlessness of summer

it comes without notice, like butterfly wings that waft before your face, your cheeks, the bump that ends your nose.

you catch the barest shift of breeze, a fluttering of light, you look up, you realize: something sacred just passed by. it came from who-knows-where, but along the way, it surely graced me.

and so it is with summer, with those wisps and darts of weightless wing. with the moments when the heaviness of all-year-long is suspended, when breeze blows through the screen, garden leaves flutter, light practically sparkles, and you feel your shoulders drop their heavy load.

it comes when dinner isn’t rushed, and isn’t quite at dinner time. but rather wends its way to the table at, oh, minutes shy of nine. and when the table is not the inside one, but rather the old slab of door with wobbly legs, the one that stands and beckons from the summer porch, the room with screens, the room lit part by candlelight and moon, and part by fireflies, blinking by.

it isn’t always here, that weightlessness that marks the essence of summerness. there are days and hours when the rush is still the same, when the thick soup of humidity slows you to a crawl, but still you’re dashing here and there, with no hope of long tall drinks of lemonade, or feet propped up on summer-splattered canvas outside pillows.

but that, i think, is what makes for the deliciousness of summer when it comes, when you catch it, when you’re standing at the sink and you don’t mind that it’s late, because the stars are out, and you intend to amble back outside, to sit and stare into the heavens, to not worry about bedtime, or the ticking of the clock at all.

amid a week of hustle and bustle, and birthdays and gosh-darn tornadoes, summer found me, caught me unawares, wrapped me in its gentle fold, beckoned me, like a crooked finger curling inward, “come, come, savor what my season offers…”

and so, i did as told.

i sliced a fat tomato, pinched a stem of basil from my kitchen windowbox. i sunk my teeth into a peach, let the juice drip down and splatter in the sink.

i opened windows, welcomed in the cool night air. i pulled my summer nightgown from the drawer, didn’t mind that it had holes, was torn just beneath the part where lace meets buttons. i love that old lacy thing, have held it back together with broad white satin ribbons, stitched and re-stitched it, but will not throw it out. nothing says summer’s eve quite like that old white cotton gown, now more ventilated than ever in its 20-some years.

i’ve a sweaty pitcher of pure clear water in the fridge. it’s rich with lemons by the slice and sprigs of mint, both leaving the barest essence of orchard and garden in my glass, and in my every gulp.

all over the house i’ve tucked old milk pitchers and creamers and itty-bitty glass bottles with pickings from the garden. it’s my friday act of benediction, renewing the vows of beauty from the climbing rose, the catmint, and just this week, the yarrow and hydrangea now in bloom.

but that’s just stage-set.

where summer settles best is in the soul. in the part of you that remembers not to worry for the moment. to soothe the long ragged edges. to breathe.

to savor all that summer allows: loose bedtimes, lack of homework, a world erupting full of scent and color. windows open. breakfast, lunch and dinner out of doors. farm bounty that begs no heat, no flame, just a shake of kosher salt and a hungry mouth is all.

did i mention the juicy drippy peach?

welcome summer, blessed summer, the season when, at best, we shed our worries and our cares. and we wrap ourselves in the weightless folds of these sacred slo-mo hours.

this week was big: my beloved “little sister” laura had a baby. on father’s day, bravo! my firstborn turned 17. bravo! my beloved mother-in-law came home from the hospital. bravo! and for so-called work i had to tromp through old historic gardens, lovely gardens, gardens in the rain. and gardens in the pure june sunlight. tis the week of summer solstice, mister sunshine at his utter highest. my hope for all of you is that somehow this week, and the one ahead, you find a moment to pull up a chair to the very best that summer offers, and you let it drip straight down your chin….

permeable nights

i’ve been known in the dead of winter, to get up out of bed, unsnap the old lock, and shove with all of my might. some nights, i can’t breathe without my house breathing, too.

i don’t mind when the bristles of snow blow in. don’t mind the wisp of the wintry wind. i shiver, and pull my sheets extra tight. but the mix in the air, once the windows are cracked, is, at last, like a dough worth sinking your fist in, worth the trouble of filling my lungs.

i get by on the wisps and the bristles all winter. come spring, the sills shudder some nights. others, they let out a sigh, when the warm currents finally come out from the coves where they hide.

but summer. oh, summer is the season of high permeability. the outside comes in, in great gulping doses. and the inside comes rushing alive, there in the dark, with but a moon, or a flickering street lamp, draping my bedclothes in filigree shadows.

not a night goes by, i don’t crack open those tall panes of glass, and the chance to take in a breath the way breathing was surely intended.

long as there’s no forecast of rain, nor a rumble off in the distance, why, i swing ‘em wide as i can.

then, i lie there and take it all in.

windows in summer make it worth going to bed.

takes me back, if i let it, to the nights of my childhood. back when, there in my tight little bed, i knew the rustle of oak, from the stirring of cottonwood. back when the swiss lace at my windows blew rough against one of my toes, or my cheeks if i put my face to the screen, to inhale the smell of the rain, or to take in the typewriting clack of my papa.

now, in the house where i am the mama, it is the great exhale at the end of the day, the bath without cranking the faucet. just pure air, rushing in, rushing over, soothing and cleansing and settling. the night’s lullabye played out in pure, breathable air.

there’s the tickle of wind off the lake, cooled and sodden some nights. a veritable fog rolling into the bedchamber. other nights, the air barely moves. sticks to your skin. makes it chancy, this keeping the windows ajar. and the unanimous vote is slipping away. you and the air are facing a standstill, one to one, comes the ballot from the far side of the bed, and suddenly, you and the windows are losing.

ah, but there’s the nightsound. the 10:04 train whistling by. the horns and the siren, reminding that all is not still. and down below, out at the curb, the last of the voices trailing from laughter to whisper to well past the corner.

some nights, there are cat fights. and not only once, the spine-chilling warble of a nest of innocents being attacked. primal and raw, and not drowned out by the drone of the daytime.

it all comes in the night. uncensored. unfiltered. the world as it is.

the deeper we get into june the more blinking i see out the screens. the fireflies are powering up, sending signals, making lovenotes, right out my window.

i long for the nightsong of a house with a sizable rippled body of water. no pond nearby, so that means no peepers. and no bullfrogs either, adding their basso profundo, to what stirs in the chorus outside.

i could lie there all night, feeling the dance of the sheet on my toes, hearing the last of the bugs rubbing their wings, and the jostling of leaves settling to sleep.

and best of all, the slow pit-a-pat of a rain trickling down, maybe pounding. a crackle and flash in the night.

then, only then, do i bother to pull in the windows, draw down the sashes.

i try not to fall into sleep, not till the rain goes away. i can’t wait to get back to the windows, to make the most of that sweet summer’s promise: the permeable nights that ooze life into darkness, the balm of the nighttide washing in through the hours of fluttering quiet.

do you believe in throwing windows wide open? if you’re a city sleeper, what’s the nightshow at your house? if you’re out in the country, what flows by your sills? are there limits to your open-window policy? heat? humidity? thunder and lighting? or do you welcome it all?