August 20: There at the pond, by trick of angle and obstruction, I see more of the old bayberry’s reflection than I do of the shrub itself. In that reflection, I see myself: weathered, bright and sturdy. Also soft, moving and whole.
August 21: A solitary leaf crunches beneath my feet and I catch wisps of wood smoke; a slowing part of me turns to autumn. And then I read this delightful sentence in the food-and-flowers suffused musings of Kiwis and Thistles, a New Zealand blogger: “As we reach the middle of August, there are clear signs of spring out there.” Yes. This reminds me that autumn is lovely — and that I still have lots more summer to savor.
August 22: In an old newspaper, I stumbled upon an illustrated, beautifully written appreciation of six Titian paintings assembled — for the first time in centuries — at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This called to mind another time I stumbled into surprising beauty. You can read it here.
August 23: Huddled in practically every tee shirt we had brought along, my sister and I once spent a pleasant summer afternoon in San Francisco. Near Ghirardelli Square, we spied a street vendor offering various delectables. My eyes were drawn to the highlights painted in cursive along the cart’s front. This was my first visit to San Francisco, and I decided to go for it. Pointing to the big-print menu, I said “I’ll take the coffee lemonade, please.” The vendor rolled his eyes. “Lady, it’s coffee or lemonade, not both.”
Thirty-five years later, I walked with my friend Wendy to a local coffee shop. Again impelled by weather (this time hot and humid), I approached the barista seeking relief. And there, third offering from the bottom, I saw “Lemon Espresso Soda.” No way. Five minutes later we sat in the shade, heat and humidity cascading off of us, and I sipped an icy and improbable memory.
August 24: Life Lesson #182: If you’re sautéing spinach to put on top of cheese pizza with jalapeños, and you decide to add a shake of crushed red pepper, and the crushed red pepper descends onto the spinach like an avalanche, make fresh spinach. You are not wasting spinach; you are saving your mouth, nostrils, about a pint of milk and four bites of Retirement Cake. (Although maybe the “cure” was worth the burn.)
August 25: Jeremiah welcomed friends from out of town, and they kindly included me in their adventures. We walked through the woods to our local bookstore (Jeremiah hand-sold a few books even though he wasn’t working that day). We gaped at the heavy storm clouds usurping the sun. And then we enjoyed a few rain-free moments under a silken canopy while we awaited take-out from our favorite Japanese restaurant. At home, we scattered our tempura, tonkatsu, sushi and donburi across the kitchen counter and dug in, standing, until Jeremiah cued our movie: Tampopo (1985), a wonderful Japanese “ramen Western” that celebrates — in the course of a great Food Quest and a half-dozen vignettes — unique gifts in the hands of improbable friends. I see now that it was the perfect ending for our day.
August 26: I rarely walk as the afternoon wanes, but today I did. I saw a man on a park bench gazing up at the trees — guys playing basketball and kids cooling off in the stream — three trash bags masquerading as enormous pumpkins and compost bins pretending to be mushrooms — and the probing eye of a buck wondering why I’d wandered into his dinner. And over the song of the creek I heard the reedy prayer of a lone bagpipe offering a benediction to the night.
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