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Tag: summer

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?


summer reading:

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

INGREDIENTS
5 ears of corn
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 lime
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 

PREPARATION
Step 1
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. 

Step 2
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.

when summer comes easy: things i wish i’d known

i was watching butter melt into a bath of milk and sugar and cinnamon when it dawned on me: there is something about this summer that there’s never been before. and it’s not just that the kid i love so much is leaving in less than 60 days, though that’s the thing that’s somehow at the root of it all.

watching butter pool across milk, apparently, is a stirring prompt for early-morning philosophizing, for checking one’s soul, and seizing a revelation or two. what i realized, as i whipped up blueberry bread pudding on a wednesday, no less, whipped it up simply because the kid i love loves bread pudding, loves it best in summer when the season’s rotund little berries the color of night are tossed in with abandon, is that somehow this summer’s defining watch word is easy, as in stripped of all the junk — my junk — that usually gets in the way.

easy as in not worrying. not worrying about the clock, or deadlines, or whether he’s home at the stroke of midnight or half an hour later. easy as in surrendering to the whims of the day, plopping onto the couch, finding his hand at the end of my fingers, wrapping mine around his, and then simply sitting there for enough innings to figure out who’s playing who, and who might be ahead, all the while weaving in the sorts of questions and curiosities that come in the lulls of lazy baseball.

i am, for this one short sweet summer, devoting my days and my nights to simply, softly, loving my kid. savoring every single thing about him. i am relishing as if there’s no tomorrow, because in some ways there isn’t. there really isn’t. except for the way tomorrow affords us the joy — the possibility — of trying all over again. each day another chance to love in the ways we hope and dream and know we can love.

i am, this short sweet summer, sinking deep and certainly into one and only one thing: mothering with all my heart. mothering without getting in my own worrisome way. (and truth truly be told, i’m mothering with all my heart because somewhere along the line it’s the one place in my life where i found my deepest wholest holiness, and i am not wanting to let that go…)

makes me think i sure wish i’d known to be this sort of mother at the other end of this equation, when i was just starting out, a quarter-century-plus ago. i remember how, back in the daze of a newborn living, breathing, squalling, hungry-like-clockwork baby, i armed myself with charts — breastfeeding charts and safety pins moved from bra strap to bra strap, my highly-evolved method for tracking which breast for how long, at what intervals — seeking solace in sharp-angled grids and penciled-in numbers. i steeled myself against the uncertainties and vicissitudes of toddlerhood by worrying about whether we were five minutes late to dump ourselves into the station wagon for the short drive to nursery school — as if someone at the schoolhouse door was doling out demerits — for the mothers who failed to make it on time. the soundtrack of my life was worry upon worry upon worry. no wonder firstborns wind up so crazily cross-wired.

i wish, some time before this very last summer of my very last kid (i know there are only two, and the way i phrase it it sounds like there’ve been a good half dozen), in these countdown weeks before he hauls off to college, i wish i’d realized how lovely it is to be, well, carefree. or as close as i’ll ever come, anyway. (someone once told me i was calm like a swan and after thinking, oh, honey, you sure don’t know me, i shot back, “yea, smooth on the surface, but paddling like heck underneath.”)

truth is, the credit for this newfound way of lazy-being goes to the kid himself. he’s intent on one thing this summer: savoring each and every hour of each and every day. savoring it even when he’s flipping burgers and shaking the baskets of fries for long hours at the short-order grill where he picks up a paycheck. savoring the nights with his toes buried in sand, the moon overhead, and the blankets around him filled with his gaggle of friends. savoring the long drives and deep conversations, the kinds best unspooled from behind the wheel, when two or three pile into the old sedan and clock miles up and down the leafy winding road that hugs the shoreline here in chicago. plopping himself on the bench where i sit at the kitchen table, stretching out his long-and-getting-longer legs, and idly clicking his phone while shooting me the occasional question. his mantra: gotta make the most of this. gotta love this summer.

and so i take my cues from the master. delighted to be tutored in the fine points of taking it slow. in savoring. in tossing aside the occasional heart-jabbing worry.

i am finding the succulence of summer. the succulence of mothering at its juiciest essence. i am letting the soft breeze blow across my bare toes. tossing out the to-do lists and time clocks. and making bread pudding on any old wednesday.

i am learning to summer — to mother — on the very last page of the chapter that ends just before one of us shoves off to college. if only i’d known all along.

how did you learn to savor — be it a season, or simply an hour? or is it something you’re still trying to learn? who have been your most unforgettable teachers, and what are the lessons they’ve taught?

p.s. because i didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle, i posted yesterday (a rare thursday post) my latest chicago tribune review of a book for the soul, in this case, the glorious christine valters paintner’s dreaming of stones: poems, a glorious volume of which i wrote (in part): “Paintner is fluent in the lush language of earth and sky as well as the otherworldly, the mysterious beyond. Born and raised in New York City, she is old-soul Celtic, through and through. Her poems rise out of the monastic practice of dwelling in silence, and hers, often, is a churchless god. A god who can’t — and won’t — be confined. A god who belongs to any and all.”