End of August, and the air begins to infuse that twinge of change that signals its slide into the darker, then colder months; like summer’s dropped ice cream cone melting backwards, in slow motion. And it’s about this time of the year when the call to faraway places becomes louder proportionately to the decline of summer’s sunny embrace.
I don’t tend to travel in the summertime. Instead, I become a tourist in my backyard. The morning barefoot walks on the beach, pockets full of seaglass, shells and beach treasure; a phone full of photos of wondrous scenes from low tide. While I squirrel away my time off, my friends and colleagues come and go, tales of beaches and family reunions and Disney crowds and Cape Cod traffic. Facebook fills with accounts of baseball games and road trips and tan lines and Coronas and roller coasters.
New England weather is finicky at best. And, at its best, the time to be in and around Boston is June through September. Sparkling sun, farmer’s markets, inviting forested trails, a city at half-population without its students, outdoor concerts and of course the beaches… The New England region boasts the highest per-capita ice cream consumption in the country, go figure! This summer’s weather has been spectacular at a cost: as I write, nearly 17% of Massachusetts is in extreme drought (73% severe!). Grass is brown, crops are failing, sputtering, dying. There are no local peaches this year due to a late freeze (where, exactly, is climate change not occurring?).
It’s also about this time of year that I begin to reflect on the summer that’s been, formulate some intentions for the coming dark season and maybe also foment some wishes for the coming year, as my birthday marks the end of summertime, which seems a day as good as any other to begin a new chapter or season of this life.
In these warming months, I’ve seen my dearest friend’s daughter graduate from high school. She, at the age we were when we met, going off to begin her next iteration of self. We went to a bookstore on her graduation weekend and picked out all the books I was reading at her age plus some more about this incredible journey of discovery she’s about to begin (Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Alchemist, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Metamorphosis, to name a few). I find it surreal to be a grown-up sometimes.
I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets and walked miles upon miles on a stretch of beach of which my dog knows each and every rock and crag. I’ve dunked in the icy water, ankles screaming with their own ice cream headaches. I’ve spent meditative minutes that feel like hours on an empty beach in the early morning, listening to the sounds of soft waves on rock; seagulls and water birds providing the multi-part harmony. I’ve fallen asleep with the sun on my face, waking to a restless canine eager to go back in the ocean mingled with the fuzzy remnants of dreams of faraway places.
I ran a race, logged my fastest time in the 3 years I’ve done this one…my personal marathon at a 3.5 silly miles. I played bubble soccer, which is as hysterical as it sounds. I danced barefoot at a concert on Boston Common. I went to a going-away party for a friend moving back to Germany. I played Pokemon Go (briefly, then got bored). I saw Rodin’s masterworks. I held a forearm plank for 3:19 (ow, for the record). I ate watermelon for dinner. Ditto, ice cream.
There’s a shell of a castle up on the Hudson River. I wanted to go down there to explore, and in the process had a lovely weekend with a friend of the newer ilk, but one with whom I’ve felt an immediate camaraderie since we met on our trip to India. We walked in the woods by her home, ate local food and learnt some of New York’s history in the process.
Life on the farm…and some first world irony
And, above all, my greatest treat of summer is going to The Farm. I am a member of an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, which means that each year I pay a membership fee at the beginning of the season so that I have a place to go once a week to pick (and pick out) my allotment of fruits and veggies that I could otherwise buy at Whole Foods. Je suppose I’m something of a walking stereotype: I leave my spacious flat, remembering to bring with me the empty (free-range) egg cartons and my reusable bags. I get into my Prius and drive to the idyllic farm, relishing my weekly respite amongst the sheep, pigs, chickens, greenhouses and carefully-planted fields.
So this happened…Early on in the season, I received an email: “we regret to inform you that the sheep escaped overnight and have eaten all the peas.”
Gah! The snap peas each year are like prized candy. The time spent picking from the pea vines is like meditation in motion. I rue the karmic (Ovine?) irony. And I laugh a little bit because I wonder what the scene must have been in farm animal-land (Did they conspire? Did someone forget to lock a gate? Did they practice James Bond-like maneuvers? Baaaaand. James Baaaaand.)
I’m grateful that the strawberry windfall in June enabled short-term memory loss of the sheep caper. And in August, the sungold cherry tomatoes make up in jam for what the blueberries promised but couldn’t deliver this year.
And so it occurred to me this week, even as Halloween decorations begin to stealthily appear in the CVS, encroaching upon the Back-to-School paraphernalia (I shudder at the thought that Christmas décor will mysteriously begin to dot shelves once the school supplies recede), that I’ve yet to have lobster this summer.