Monday, June 17, 2013

And the Livin' Is Easy

In general, I am not a summer gal.  By this I mean that I detest heat, am indifferent to ice cream, and long ago gave up my preferred warm-weather activity, which involved slathering Johnson’s Baby Oil on myself and lying in the sun.

To me, summer has always been a time of lassitude and boredom.  I liked school and always noticed that late June was accompanied by a profound sense of missing something.  I felt incomplete, at a loss.  I yearned for routine, which is embarrassing, because most people crave excitement and distraction.  But there it is.
Of course, I’ve been out of school for a long time, but even now I am bedeviled by that sense of absence. So I’ve decided, in my plodding, methodical, routinized way, to make a list of all the things that make summer pleasurable for me:

         Fog:  I live near a coastline and, somewhat paradoxically, our summers are replete with foggy days.  Fog enables me to exercise without passing out, wear chunky knits, and make soup.

         Road trips:  Robert and I like to get in the car and drive on unfamiliar roads without knowing where we will end up.  Even though I have lived in California for all but seven years of my life, I still find lots of unexplored terrain, complete with back-road diners, dive bars, and Mexican-restaurants-qua-biker-hangouts.

         Kids: Until about a month ago, at least one of my adult children was in school.  Summer meant seeing them, and occasionally housing them.  The housing part is over, but I still get to see them now and again.  Summer weather makes it easier for me to navigate a perilous highway for a quick lunch or dinner, during which time I harangue them about various life choices and leave them thrilled to be living on the other side of a mountain range from me.

         Lettuce: We have a vegetable garden in summer.   Just reading this last sentence is astounding to me, as I have always loathed all aspects of gardening and preferred to buy whatever I wanted to eat at the store.  Living where we do, though, has compelled in me a change of heart.  I marvel at our small patch of lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, squash, and potatoes, nurtured from seedling-hood, now healthily leafy (except the squash, which I think might be dead).  Vegetables from the garden taste better than anything you can buy.  The smell of a tomato just-plucked from its vine is evidence of divinity.

        Books: I seem to read more in the summer, possibly a vestigial response to the absence of school.  Right now I’m reading Philip Roth’s THE HUMAN STAIN, which I always avoided because the title sounded icky.  What a mistake.  The best kind of writing.  Nothing beats a long summer evening with a good  book, except, perhaps, a long winter evening with a good book, but only because the latter includes a fire in the fireplace and tea.

        Food: In summer, I make lemonade (with Meyer lemons growing outside the kitchen door).  I make fried chicken (which I know is bad for me, but so what, it’s only for a few months, so don’t start).  I make tarts with nectarines and peaches.  I make Italian rice salad a la Marcella Hazan.   Not big on grilling, but I will say that a Polish dog eaten while cheering on the A’s makes me inordinately happy.

        Fourth of July: Our town hosts a hilarious parade.  I make fried chicken and lemonade.  At night, fireworks on the beach.  ‘Nuff said.

        Trips: None currently planned.  Also, we mostly travel in the spring and fall.  But I seem to start thinking about travel during the summer.  Currently on my mind: a trip to Philadelphia and other points east next May.

That’s it for the time being.  Enough to remind me that there is much to be happy about even when it’s stinking hot and the tourists clog up the beach and all the movies suck.

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