“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
I think I’ve posted some of these photos before; maybe even in the very same arrangement: one next to the next; next to the next, but that’s only because after four years of living in this place, my time here has become a measurable epoch of my forty-plus years on this planet and I want to take note of it. Visiting this view each morning and every night has licensed it with a significance that I don’t yet fully understand. But I’m trying.
These photos were all taken from our back door over the past year or so. The water you see is the Hudson and the lights and the buildings belong to West Point Military Academy–which is flanked to the north (the right) by Crow’s Nest Mountain and to the south, by sixteen THOUSAND acres of land where the best and brightest eighteen year old aspiring American soldiers train for hand combat and chemical attacks. (Sixteen thousand acres just fifty miles north of New York City…think about that when you’re curious about tax implications and eminent domain.)
Our house here is creaky and old and drafty and cold and our bathroom is Pepto Bismol pink, but we get to wake up to this view every single day which, even after more than fifty months of mornings, persists as both a gift and a wonder. This view, and all of its iterations, leaves me awestruck when I think about the life that has happened–the battles with my heart that I have fought and lost and the skirmishes with my soul that I have contested and won–during the time that it took for the river to freeze and then thaw; for all those leaves to darken and fall.
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly (errrr…or regularly until Gina and I got busy and distracted by rivers and vineyards) you know I’ve been lovingly envious of my friends’ journey and the opportunities they have EVERYDAY to see the world and themselves anew. The thing is, over the past few months; during this fifth winter of watching the same sky darken before 4pm and the same river steam like a volcano as it cooled and the same mountains stand majestic and still, I’ve begun to recognize the appeal of the endurance and opportunity in the stability.
Whatever really changes but ourselves–no matter where we are?
While Gina and her family traveled around Germany and Eastern Europe during the past two weeks, our family embarked on a different kind of journey. One that kept us (mostly) sleeping in our own beds each night, but transformed all those hours between bedtime and morning seem as if we were living in a foreign land. Over the summer Ray realized that it was time for him to put away the shingle for his small, home-based event production company and head back into the world of full time work in New York City. I, having not had any luck in the finding-a-teaching-job department, took on a bit of part-time work that has me running in several directions at once.
Our sweet little house by the riverside, once buzzing with activity all day long, is now quiet during the days what with Noah at school, Ray in the city and me…at one place or another. Poor Luca is home alone a lot these days, and is making us pay for our abandonment by jumping onto our bed each night and snuggling between us (something he’s never done before/we never let him do). I suppose we’re all trying to take advantage of the scant “together time” that we have now. So far this new chapter has been a wild ride and one that I don’t see an end to for quite some time as we get used to new schedules, missed meals together and calendar snafus. It’s an adventure, to be sure, and one that will hopefully be worth it in the end.
All this is just to say that I won’t be putting up a proper blog post today. Instead, I am treating you to that gorgeous photo history of Gina and me twenty-five years ago–right around the time the Berlin Wall fell. These photos were taken when we were in college in different places. Before husbands or kids, before we knew what we now know. We weren’t yet friends but we both watched that magnificent history unfold from vastly different perspectives but what I think is a shared passion for trying to make sense of and connections with the changing worlds around us.
Lucky, too, for both of us, our shared fashion sense was already intact.
A former yoga teacher I once studied with, while attempting to guide our class of restless New Yorkers through a pranayama (breathing/meditation) exercise, likened a full breath cycle to the sequence of sunlight in a 24-hour period here on Earth. He wanted us to pay attention to the two obvious portions: the rising part (the inhale) and the setting part (the exhale), but more important, we were to notice the less obvious spaces that separated those two–the metaphorical equivalents of dawn and dusk. We were to observe the brief intervals of time when our breath seems suspended–just after an inhale and then again after an exhale–and to investigate what happens in our bodies and to our minds when we really focused on those parts. Try it now; I’ll wait.
So…? I’m sure you didn’t do it, but give it a try the next time you’re laying in bed and can’t sleep. It’s a pretty interesting practice. I remember getting nervous and even a little bit panicky at first as I waited in, and even courted, that in-between time. It was a sensation that made me breathe quicker and more urgently–not the state of mind that that yoga teacher was trying to cultivate in students who were desperate for a way to calm down.
I remember, too, wanting to get back to the marquee moments of breathing as quickly as possible. I felt safer there because it was what I knew. We gulp for air when we’re winded. We try to breathe easy when we’re scared. We run, we breathe. We swim, we breathe. Childbirth seems like one big practice in controlling your breath (and your body fluids). Usually we only think about taking breaths and releasing breaths when it’s the transition times that are the most compelling and, dare I say, transformative.
Once I started practicing slowing down, once I actually made a point of noticing what was going on with the parts of my breath that weren’t active or obvious, I actually began to relax and hold off my more rapacious instincts. It was almost as if, during those brief intervals when my breath was on hold, that my mind got turned off (in a good way), too. And that, for all who know me and have had the pleasure (i.e. the pain) of listening to what goes on in my mind, is the definition bliss.
I mention this now because of the change of seasons that we’re in the midst of; a change, mind you, that I’m not taking very well. I don’t like the fall. Sure, it’s pretty and it is a bit easier to sleep at night on account of the cooler temperatures, but it being fall mostly just marks the beginning of me being cold for the next five months. And wearing socks. Coming off the grouchy-pants year I’ve just had, however, I’m trying to appreciate, if not enjoy, this time of year…which is how I got to thinking about the breathing thing.
See, the calendar year is broken up into four parts, too, and right now we’re in one of those in-between times: fall.
Not that fall doesn’t have a temperament and actuality all its own. People here in the northeastern United States are very demonstrative and vocal about Autumn being their very favorite time of year. It’s high wedding season in the HudsonValley (an even more popular time to get hitched than in June) and every Saturday and Sunday brides, clutching bouquets of dried hydrangeas wrapped in burlap twine, stand with their grooms for photos all along the river’s edge. Our hiking trails are teeming with Brooklyn hipsters and other city folk. The frenzied squirrels in our yard are gathering nuts and seeds at a frenzied pace, as if their lives depend on it; which, of course, they do. What with all of that activity and its natural beauty: the crimson and cadmium leaves, the crisp air laced with the sweetness of ripened apples mixed with smoke from newly lit chimneys, it’s a lovely time of year.
For all of its unique qualities, however, fall–like that pause after the inhale–is a space between. Acquaintances never ask “How was your fall?” or lament about “What a long autumn it’s been!” It’s like fly-over country for seasonal-speak. Fall is the time between the two gaudiest and blatant seasons and is composed of a temperature gradient as inconsistent as it is variable. It’s days reflect both summer and winter: not uncommon are 75 degree late-October afternoons or frost warnings in early September. Fall is an amalgamation of what came before it and what we imagine will come next.
If fall serves as the culmination of summer (the harvest, the end of the life cycle for certain plants and insects/a dormant time for others) as well as a time when we humans prepare for the intensity of cold and snow and what will come, than isn’t it the very best time for silence and reflection, too? In the fall we put the patio furniture away, ready the flower beds for latency and put snow tires on our car (or, in Gina’s case, chains on the tires). It’s a time when we’re required to clean up from the three month fiesta of sunshine and bare feet and gird our loins in anticipation of the drop-kick into wool skivvies.
At its very essence fall is the moderation between two extremes. At its very essence it begs us to stop. To wait. To take note. To set an intention. We’ll be moving as soon as winter arrives. We’ll have no choice. We have to stay warm.
So, I’m keeping careful watch of myself this week, lest I get too nostalgic lamenting the exiting warmth and ease of summer, and too concerned about the impending trials and tribulations of winter so much so that I miss out on the quiet respite and beauty and tranquility that fall provides. By pushing this metaphor to the limit today–and I’m sorry about that–I’m hoping that I will learn to appreciate autumn for what it is. I’m hoping that I can rest in its quiet and absorb its moderation and be, if not happy, than content.
As I sit here trying to put this post together after the 2+ month hiatus Gina and I took from Living Here and There (well, not from living here and there, but recording our experiences of it), I’ve found that my wheels are requiring gallons of grease and I’m needing to bribe myself with more than a few Netflix breaks in order to get rolling again.
I’m disoriented here at the keyboard and navigating around WordPress seems like wandering through a familiar but patently foreign land. It turns out that not all learned skills are as easy to return to as that bicycle and this particular practice, for me anyway, requires recalibrating and re-tinkering and time. As for sharing my thoughts (and my writing) with an audience of greater than one again…well, let’s just say I’m going to be here editing for awhile tonight.
That said, I’ve missed the company of my friend and the peek into her world over There, that this blog provides. That I got to enjoy a birthday lunch in SoHo with the actual, not virtual, Gina–as well as share a few meals and chats with her and the kids around my kitchen table–was a certain gift. Now, however, so many weeks later, our time together seems like a dream and I’m ready for some tangible, printable contact again.
Before we get started on what’s going on now though, here’s a little recap of what’s been going on Here, on this side of the ocean, for the past many weeks.
* * * * *
August is my favorite month. Mostly because it was my favorite time of year growing up (my birthday falls during its first week) and while I don’t celebrate my birthday as whole-heartedly as I did when I was younger, Ray and Noah and I managed to do it up small this year and go on a birthday hike and out to dinner and eat cake. We also were able to see friends and family for various meals and cocktails during the beginning part of the month and soak up the still-strong sun and warm nights.
The Hudson Valley is bursting with green in August and though sometimes the nights get chilly, the bounty of the harvest and the still-later-than-wintertime sunsets create an internal heat that keeps me from lamenting the coming fall (too much). In August even the river is balmy–the water temperature can reach upwards of 70 degrees–so Luca spends lots of time swimming and Noah and I spend lots of time chasing him around trying to dry him off.
Of course the cherry on top of my birthday week was Gina and the kids visiting us for a few days. To have them in our house again was so much fun and made me so very grateful for things like airplanes and trains and fossil fuel. The boys took up again like not a minute had passed since they were cavorting around Bologna last fall and, though Gina, Michele and I had to work hard to keep the yarns of our many conversations from becoming one giant, verbal knot of crazy, we managed to swim and hike and lunch and shop and drink a few gallons of wine. It was, to be trite, a divine time.
Even though leave-taking is becoming one of the brightest, no-longer-worrisome stitches in our relationship, saying goodbye to our friends is never easy and this time it especially sucked because our time together was so short-lived. (Here’s counting the days to Christmas in Philly!) Lucky for us, however, we saved our vacation until the end of the summer so we had something to look forward to once the Bouvarez clan had taken flight.
Cape Cod, Massachusettes here we come!
Cape Cod is a tiny spit of land that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean just south of Boston. My parents spend a good part of the year there and I’ve been visiting the place for most of my life, so in many ways driving over that bridge feels like coming home.
Our time at the Cape is slow and easy. What with the long days at the beach, long bike rides along the rail trail, trips to Provincetown (one of my favorite places on earth), yummy seafood dinners and plenty of sand and salty air, the Unwinding and Relaxing are sure things. This year, in addition to my parents being with us, all three of my brothers and my sister-in law were there. Noah had a blast swimming and playing with his cousins, and I had the chance to catch up with my beloved family members–all of whom I don’t get to see often enough because they live all over the world–which made this year’s trip extra special. The lot of us crammed into the tiny kitchen of our Cape Cod cottage and talked and laughed and ate and were very, very loud. Just like when we were kids.
The minute we get to the Cape house we drag everything out of the car, put on our bathing suits and head TO THE BEACH!
Each year Ray and Noah and I take a day to ourselves and head to Provincetown–a village on the very tip of Cape Cod–and each year, after we’ve had some lunch and a beer or two at Governor Bradford’s and walked the length of Commercial Street, stopping into our favorite shops and bakery, we seek out the real estate listings and try to formulate a plan to move there someday. It truly is one of the most magical places I know–artists and writers roam the beaches for inspiration, tiny piping plovers–an endangered bird that conservation groups rope off miles of shoreline for–roam the dunes for food and mates, and human beings of every color and stripe dress in sequins and glitter and bows and dance in the streets, whooping and hollering and being wholly and fully themselves. There’s a nude beach, a festival week that rivals Mardi Gras and more natural beauty than seems fair for one tiny town.
And then September arrived with all of its natter and noise. It’s a month laced with beginnings and endings–as I suppose any month is–but September’s changes seem stern and definitive and cruel. School started for Noah. I got a job. Ray is interviewing again.
The gazebo is empty now. This past Sunday we wiped down the patio furniture and took away the candles and hauled everything into the shed where it sits, packed away for the long, cold season to come.
I’m trying to stay positive despite this morning that came upon us with no warning about a week ago…
As I was hiking with the dog the other day, , however, I (sternly) reminded myself to honor all of the beauty that autumn brings. The hills are on fire right now, bursting into a hundred shades of orange and red and gold. The sunsets are still stupefying. October will bring Halloween and Noah’s birthday and longer, darker, more restful nights.
And besides, homework isn’t so bad…
and neither is reading your favorite book about your favorite holiday to your friend…
nor September sunsets that look like this…
The other day there were four bald eagles circling over the river behind of our house. Google will tell you that the meaning in this sighting is that illumination awaits.
What We’re Eating and Drinking: Calamari with Spicy Tomato Sauce & Moccagatta Dolcetto D’Alba
Noah’s been on vacation with his dad and stepmom all week, so Ray and I have had several quiet nights in a row by the river. His absence has also enabled to eat foods from a more sophisticated palate–not that Noah doesn’t eat sophisticated things, but he’s wary of some food combinations that we love: calamari & pasta being one of them. (He actually likes fried calamari (I mean who doesn’t?), but he insists that his red sauce stay uncontaminated by creatures that swim in the sea.) Adams had fresh, CLEANED calamari on sale this week so I decided I’d try my hand at making one of my favorite dishes to order when eating at a restaurant–sauteéd calamari with spicy tomato sauce. It was pretty good–especially because of the in-season tomatoes I chopped up for the sauce and because I paired it with fresh pasta I found at the market and a delicious, slightly chilled red wine that Ray purchased for the occasion. Noah gets home after dinner…we can’t wait to see him!
What We’re Talking About: Time Flies, as do YOU
I put this photo on Facebook this week and it garnered more “likes” than anything I’ve ever posted–which isn’t saying much because I don’t post very often but, still. It’s a pretty funny juxtaposition. This past week marks the two year anniversary of us adopting Luca–and it’s been wild reminiscing about all the fun we’ve had with him and thinking about how much life and time (let alone growth) has happened during all those days. We adopted Luca just after our first trip to Italy to see you guys–in Lucca–that summer you spent traveling and trying to figure out the if and when and where of a possible move overseas. Now you’ve BEEN LIVING THERE for over a year. I mean I know I’m being Ms. Obvious right now, but still. I remember that day in the pet store like it happened yesterday. The good news is, that as I write this post, you are in the air, flying towards me at a great and earnest speed. I’m looking so very VERY forward to spending time with you all over these next few weeks!
The weather’s warm and the coals are hot and we’ve been grilling like crazy here at the riverside. Do you remember how Michele made grilled pineapple for dessert on your last night here in the States last summer? Well, a few weeks ago I got to thinking about that night and remembered how delicious the spread was, despite our heavy hearts. After rummaging through the fridge for a minute (I didn’t even have to go to Foodtown!) I had collected a bowlful of summer fruits and was ready to give the grilling of them a try myself. A quick Google search told me that all I needed was firm fruit, hot coals and a little dab of butter and I’d be in business and it was really that easy. Since that night we’ve been grilling peaches at least once a week, and instead of serving them as dessert (though they are divine topped with some ice cream or crème fraîche), we usually pair them with lean pork or a skirt steak as a succulent side dish. The sweetness of the fruit complements the savoriness of the meat and the smoky, grilled flavor ties it all together. I’m no foodie, but YUM! I think I’m onto something. In other news, Ray has tired of my rosé binge so tonight I got him his favorite Pinot Grigio–one from northern Italy to sip as we watch the river and enjoy these glorious summer nights.
Gina: Do you have any Modena Balsamic left!? That’s delicious on grilled peaches or pineapples or anything grilled, even steak! If not, I’m bringing you some next month. The rest sounds lovely too, especially the riverside part.
What We’re Talking About: Noah’s First Trip Alone
OK, so he wasn’t actually ALONE, but this past week Noah went on a trip without me or his father for the first time! I know that Zo’s been doing this kind of thing with your parents and Francois forever, but for Noah and all of the back-and-forth that he deals with on a weekly basis, this was kind of a big deal for him. The trip was a quick one–just two nights with his grandparents (Al’s folks)–to Gettysburgh, PA (only about 4 hours away) to check out the Civil War Museum and do some genealogy research about Noah’s Irish-immigrant family. Noah had a blast and was not the least bit nervous about the time away. I kept myself busy here so mostly the two days flew by and, when it wasn’t, I reminded myself of what a great experience he was having. Noah’s so lucky to have four loving grandparents in great health who enjoy spending time with him…what a gift. And what a perfect quick summer getaway.
Gina: Fantastic! I bet he enjoyed every detail of the Civil War Museum and listened intently to every bit of information that tour guide had to share. Zoel would have loved it too. He has a trip coming up with his grandmother to DC next month, which reminds me that we have to start getting ready for our transoceanic voyage!
We’re sticking pretty close to home this summer but this past weekend we ventured out into the world for a few days–driving all the way to New London, New Hampshire–a little town in the central part of the state where my brother and his family live. It was one of those impromptu trips that you decide to take on a Tuesday night at 10pm after a phone conversation with a family member or a friend reminds you how much you miss spending time with someone. Despite Skype calls and text messages and Facebook posts, which allow me to see the faces of my family members who are scattered all over the globe, nothing can compare with the sweet nectar of face-to-face time, the sharing of a meal and just quietly sitting next to a loved one over morning coffee.
All sentiment aside, this particular brother (I have two others) also happens to be husband to my fantastically fun sister-in-law and father to my niece and three nephews (one of whom is Noah’s exact age and close ally) who provide tons of energy and an instant party, just by gathering in one room. All that camaraderie, our shared history and our eagerness to be together–combined with with the picturesque lake that they live on (and the plethora of kayaks, Sunfish boats, water skis and hiking trails that abound) added a perfect variation to our hitherto, extremely quiet summer.
New England (a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) has a unique cultural and aesthetic flavor, distinct within in its borders and markedly different from the border state of New York, where we live. New England’s heritage and culture was shaped by waves of immigration and its earliest Puritan settlers came from eastern England, contributing to the distinctive accents, foods, customs, and social structures found there. It’s also ridiculously pretty and clean.
We’ve visited New London on many other occasions, but almost all of the trips have been during the winter months–the region is known for its skiing and snowsports much more so than its boating and sunbathing–and we thought it might be nice to see the mountains swathed in green instead of buried under ribbons of white snow. We also decided to avoid highways on the drive north and, instead, took old, winding roadways that meandered through small villages and towns and along miles of land that remains untouched by urban sprawl. It was so different than the undeveloped land where we live–which either needs to be incorporated and protected as part of a land preserve or is for sale to the highest bidder.
Along the way we enjoyed a delicious lunch at an organic deli in Vermont, we stopped for gas and snacks at a quirky little station in the middle of a field in rural upstate New York and when we arrived in New Hampshire, wine and pizza waiting for us–along with a weekend filled with swimming, s’mores and succulent fun.
What We’re Eating and Drinking: Corn on the Cob & Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray
As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, summer is my most favorite time of the year and that’s partly because so many delicious foods are available at the markets now. One summertime treat I cannot get enough of (because it’s really only available for a few weeks each year) is corn-on-the-cob. Do they eat corn this way in Italy? Growing up my father and my grandmother (his Solvak mother, not my mother’s Italian one) used to plant a giant garden in our backyard–which is a really big field and had space to grow all kinds of things. They would plant every kind of vegetable imaginable: tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, peas, beets, radishes, lettuce and…corn. Rows and rows of sweet corn. I remember running through that corn field with my brother and hacking at the plants-that towered over our heads with stick-swords. I also remember carefully walking through the rows with my father, listening intently as he taught me which ears were ready to pick and which ones needed a few more hot days on the stalk. We’d gather a dozen ears, shucking them as we walked, and then cook them up in the pot of boiling water my mother had ready on the stove. To this day, I remember it as the most delicious corn I’ve ever tasted. In upstate New York (where I grew up) corn isn’t ready until mid-August, but down here in the more-temperate Hudson Valley we can get local corn now, in mud-July. It’s best served piping hot and smothered with butter & salt which, I know, negates some of the healthy vegetable qualities of the food, but…yum! It’s summer after all!
Gina: Beautiful! I have yet to see a single piece of fresh corn at the food markets here. Maybe it’s later in the summer? Or maybe they’re not so into corn in these parts. Come to think of it, I haven’t had fresh corn on the cob since last year! In addition to the butter and salt, we like it with olive oil, parmigiano and peperoncino! Enjoy.
What We’re Talking About: Getting Wet & Muddy at Camp
Noah’s is finishing up his second week of summer camps and it’s been an exciting, albeit dirty, muddy and wet time. He’s spent his days running around the fields of Bowdoin Park, a 300 acre swath of riverside grass and tress near Noah’s old school, in a camp that teaches survival skills, animal tracking techniques and Native American folklore. Last week Noah spent long afternoons sailing up and down the river. He’s in that boat in the left photo above! He and the other kids launched boats from Dockside, right in front of our house, so if I watched the river carefully I could get a peek of them floating by. So many mornings he wished Zo was joining him on the escapades, too, but we’ve been so glad to partake in your adventures from afar. Happy weekend!
Gina: I’m sure Zoel would have enjoyed every second of this camp with Noah. Hell, I think I would have enjoyed this camp with Noah! We’re relishing a few low key days here after our last trip, and as I was saying on Wednesday, I think I could do with a few more weeks of the same. Kids too…
Today is July 15th so technically it’s well past midsummer here in the Hudson Valley. When the term is used correctly, midsummer denotes the celebrations and festivals that mark the summer solstice and the longest day of the year–an occurrence that falls at the end of June. Today–three weeks after the longest day of 2014–the earth has already begun to tilt its northern hemisphere away from the sun, incrementally adding minutes to our nights and steadily marching us towards winter and darkness. Midsummer, at this point, really is just a dream.
But forget science and poetics for a minute. I’m taking license with the term and using it to describe the fact that today feels to me, psychologically anyway, like the middle of summer; the safest, best part of the year. It’s equidistant from the end of the chilly spring and the arrival of the chilly autumn. We’re living inside the few weeks of the year when it is completely and truly Summer.
Here at the riverside we’ve fallen into a slow and soothing routine–no school for Noah means long, relaxing mornings in our pajamas when we make waffles and Nescafé and walk the dog together before heading out to camp or on the day’s errands. Some days we’ll have a fancy lunch outside and coax Ray out of his office to join us for a little while. Afterwards we’ll water the herb garden, check the tide and maybe go on an afternoon paddle. Longer, brighter evenings mean late dinners in the gazebo, sunset swims with Luca and candlelit games of chess accompanied by pizza and wine. Even though Ray’s work is busy and I’m still (frantically) looking for a job, the pace of our days is unhurried, and I find myself bursting with contentment, especially on nights when it looks like we’re doing nothing at all.
There’s magic in the air right now–and not only because of the canopy of blinking fireflies covering the yard and all that birdsong at dusk. Sitting outside at 9pm, barefoot and wearing a sundress, IS the very definition of summer to me. It’s that simple. The humidity pressing against my skin is healing and the cool flagstone underneath my feet is comforting and the gentle purple twilight creeping in over the river melts away all of the stress from the day’s job search and softens the worry about paying next week’s bills. Peace descends with nighttime in the summer. And surrender. During winter, night falls like an ax, violent and deadly–uprooting all of my anxiety and leaving it exposed and writhing at my (sock covered) feet.
Laughter is easy during summer, too. Even when storms move at us across the river and threaten a perfect evening. We always stay outside until we hear the first rumble of thunder and then Ray and Noah and I quickly blow out the tea lights and gather the dishes and the chess board and run inside, trying (and not trying) to dodge the fat drops of warm rain. We race around the house closing the windows and comforting the dog (who hates storms) and eventually end up on the couch together, damp and laughing and out of breath. These are moments when lightening seems like a blessing. Or an answered prayer.
But each passing day, as lovely and mirthful as the cumulative moments of them might be, is just bringing us closer and closer to the inevitable season(s) that come next. Three of them. Three of them that are mostly made up of days and nights that are dark and gloomy and cold.
This reality came charging at me the other day when I went outside to water the garden and noticed that one of our tomatoes had turned red. Ripened tomatoes on the vine, along with the early corn you can now find at farmers’ markets around here, are a sure sign that summer’s song is coming to its inevitable end. After all, the ripening of said fruit is the final stage in the life cycle of this plant; and of this season. All that’s left is the thing falling to the ground and decomposing or, you know, me cutting it up and eating with a nice fat wedge of mozzarella and a sprinkle of salt.
It takes a pretty cynical soul to lament the arrival of a garden’s bounty, but the folks who know me best won’t be surprised by my perspective. Maybe I’m extra sensitive to summer’s mellowing because of the very long, very snowy winter that we endured this past year and I just don’t want to be cold again. Maybe in my older age (I’ll officially hit the ‘mid forties’ next month) I’m simply more aware of the passage of time.
My suspicion, though, is that my melancholy is the result of something else; specifically my inability to recognize and feel gratitude. Yep. Gratitude. I mean, sure, I say “thank you” when it’s socially appropriate–I’m not a exactly a heathen–but the thanks I give is, at best, intellectually driven. I can be obsessively polite and self-denying to a fault, but the “thank yous” I offer seem lifeless and gaunt and, at times, insincere. Like my appreciation (or, rather, my lack of) for that tomato and the soil and all that sunshine and rain. My suspicion is that I’m mistaking sadness for gratitude. It’s midsummer after all, and not time to lament. We’re heading to New Hampshire to see my brother and his family this coming weekend and Gina will be here, sitting at my kitchen table, very soon. In a few weeks we’ll get to party in Philly with my favorite adopted family and then, just a day later, we’ll party at the Cape with my real one.
The thing is, it is summer NOW and it’s high time I realized that before it’s not anymore. Thank goodness I have half a season left work it out.
This summer is turning out to be a ‘stay-at-home’ time for our family here on the western edge of the Atlantic. It’s not that we’re trying to be sedentary, but life’s predicaments, as they sometimes do, have dictated a season of job searches (for me and Ray) and local day camps (for Noah) and we’re trying to make the best of it. Honestly, it’s been a pleasure to stay home, as we’ve never really spent an entire summer here, watching the leaves get greener and the endless parade of storms pass through the valley. Other years we’ve traveled during summertime; looking out and over there for inspiration and delight.
Lingering at the edge of the river is not only proving to be beautiful and serene, but is offering us plenty of opportunities to observe difference and the reshaping of the world that is happening all around us, all the time. Sure, this physical staying in the same place requires discipline and a keen eye when it comes to noticing the world–it’s easy to stop seeing the sunset over the river each night or our resident cardinal’s daily breakfast routine. Attention to what is happening around you is a necessary element of remaining open-minded and not developing tunnel vision about one’s life. It is vital to immerse oneself in difference and to discern variations in the natural world, a practice that is automatic when traveling but less so when you’re staying in one place.
When you’re staying in one place some transformations, typically those that take weeks or months to happen–think springtime or tomatoes ripening on the vine–can be missed or noticed only after a change is so pronounced (the snow is GONE, the tomato is RED) it’s impossible not to see it. In those instances we miss the melting, the subtle shades of pink and that’s a shame. Sometimes, though, changes are abrupt and forceful and are good to notice for just that reason. Here are a few photos taken from roughly the same location over the last week or so. Variation, indeed.