AT HOME, CURRENTLY READING: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, BY ANTHONY DOERR
This evening, at some odd but precise moment in time, while many of us go about our regular weekday programing, summer will end with a quick tick-tock of the seasonal clock, and with just the sort of make-believe magic that comes from clicking together two ruby slippers, autumn will arrive to color our world.
Fall will inherit fine leftovers to build upon, with the ornamental gardens already lovely and the tomato plants still going strong. Gardens aside and elsewhere in my life, summer leaves behind the reality of a main bathroom that finished prettier than envisioned along with lush memories of a family vacation far better than good planning alone can make.
While I could go on about the good happenings that have transpired since spring, with a brief mention of the few sad events that still rob me of sleep, suffice it to say that for reasons unknown, the season feels a little unfinished to me. Alll day long I’ve wrestled with questions: Did I use my time wisely this summer… or would I make different choices knowing what I now know? Did I make enough hay while the sun was shining?
Of no matter and with no second chances for do-overs, the final minutes of summer count down, leaving me to wonder which freshly minted summer memory will ultimately rise to the top to define my summer. What will easily come to mind about this summer…oh, say… six short years from now… when I’m a Beatle-ish sixty-four?
I pose this question at the risk of knowing how odd this summer has been in ways that have little to do with our milder-than-normal weather. It’s been so unlike the eight summers that have preceded it. Each of those were held together — or shall I say defined and refined — by some overarching theme or activity, making them easy to classify, catalog and recall.
Eight years ago, during the Summer of 2006, I had just moved back from Texas, so the big undertaking was getting us settled into our new home. Seven years ago, it was the restoration of our historic home’s long-ignored garage. Six years ago, the landscaping of my smallish backyard. Five years ago, and well-documented in this blog, was one I refer to as “The Summer of Daddy.” Four years ago I helped remodel and refresh my sister’s house. Then, relocating twenty blocks north, I spent the summer three years ago digging gargantuan garden beds surrounding our fifties ranch house. Two years ago I painted the exterior of our house. And this year… this summer, I’ve no major project to show and tell about.
With a lull in big summer undertakings, I’ve whiled days away a little here and a little there. When I wasn’t managing bathroom contractors… or living the good life in Rome and Greece… or entertaining grandchildren or reading books or watching films or performing the daily tasks of everyday life, I devoted myself to the garden. Unless I cheat and count the new fountain garden that my husband helped me add, I made no major changes, but instead spent hours and hours tweaking this and fine-tuning that. First on one activity, that I’ll call weeding. Then picking up another, say, edging, and working awhile… before moving onto another, like triming or deadheading. I’d go out for a few minutes in early morning, telling myself I’ll limit myself to completing one small task. And before I knew it, it was time for lunch. Some days, I came inside well after lunch.
At three years of age, I liken my garden to a growing toddler. Though it already hints at the beauty it may one day become, like a young child, it still requires much discipline and attention to keep healthy and in good form. So I give it my time, and in return, my garden teaches me about life. Lessons on beauty and a little something about what I can control and what I cannot.
Maybe, someday, I’ll write of lessons taken away from the garden. But these will keep, where recipes for this summer’s two favorite salads will not. Different than last year, I refuse to share another salad recipe during the dregs of winter. And much like the garden from which some of the ingredients hailed, these two salads dominated many, many of our summer’s meals. My husband might say “too many.”
Corn, Okra and Tomato Side Salad
Combine equal portions of roasted corn (cut fresh from the cob), fried okra (cut thin and fried without batter or breading) and fresh tomato in a bowl. Add a dash (or splash) of bsalmic vinegar. Combine and serve. To serve 2, combine 1/3 cup of each vegetable with one Tbsp of vinegar. Can be made an hour or so in advance, adding the vinegar right before serving.
Taco Salad and Catalina Dressing
Makes Two Generous-Sized Portions
Combine following in a bowl with a light toss.1/2 can of black beans, rinsed and well-drained. (Freeze other half) 1/2 cup of fried ground beef, crumbled 1/2 cup of roasted corn 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup of finely chopped romaine lettuce 1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper 1/4 cup of chopped green onion 1 cup of regular-sized Fritos 1/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese (or crumbled feta, as appears in the photo) !/4 cup (more or less) of homemade Catalina Dressing (recipe follows)
Add following ingredients (exdept oil) to a bowl and pulse with immersion blender until well-blended. Add oil and blend again until emulsified.1/4 cup of ketchup (i use Del Monte’s) 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/4 cup finely minced onion 1/2 tsp. paprika 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1/8 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. pepper 3/8 cup of Canola Oil
Annie McCauley said:
So happy to see a post from you was just thinking of you today. So wish we could chat can you send an email to this address below with a phone number. My summer has been one that was very hard. The salads look yummy only I haven’t had okra for a long time.
You should have an email in your box. I look forward to visiting and catching up. Over the telephone is okay… but face-to-face would be so much better. There’s been small talk of a class reunion, though no actions taken to make it reality. All the talk was precipitated by two deaths of classmates: Stephan Koustik a year ago… and Wendell Cavin about nine months before that. Passing along that news (no pun intended) reminds me a lot of conversations with my mother. We’d be catching up, and she’d tell me of someone who had died since we’d last visited. If it were family, of course, she’d call just to tell me…but if not, it could keep until the next phone call.
Both salads look delicious, the tomatoes you shared were wonderful, thanks again. Your gardens are beautiful, I want some of the hydrangeas you have, please remind me of the name of them.
I always enjoy reading your words, happy fall.
Those are Limelight Hydrangeas (6’x6′ spread) and Little Limelight Hydrangeas(3-4’x3-4′ spread.) I love them, too, which is why they make their home on three of four sides of my house.
Glad you enjoyed the tomatoes and thanks for your kind words about my writing. You are always so thoughtful and kind.
So nice to see your post blow in on our second north wind in two weeks. The ducks are here, too, and if we’re lucky, we’ll have geese this year. The rains have come, and they may find the water and food that wasn’t around during the drought.
We’re still in summer, though. The light is changing, and the days are getting shorter, but the temperatures still are saying summer. Now that we’ve cooled just a few degrees, a lot of gardens are doing well again. I buy at our farmers’ market from people who come down from about three hours north. Last weekend, they had cantaloupe, purple hull and lady cream peas, carrots, tomatoes, peaches (nearly the end!), zuchinni and yellow squash, spinach, sweet potatoes. What a delight.
Hope all is well with you and yours. I think of you from time to time, but figure you’ll pop up in your own good time.
All is well, my friend… and by the sounds of it, well with you, too, for which I am grateful — on both accounts.
Soon, in less than a month now, it will be more than a post of mine blowing down your way. My good friend’s oldest son, who is the same age as my youngest son, is tying the knot and we’ve been invited to bear witness. It is such an honor to bear witness to milestone events, whether it’s a graduation or wedding or some special someone’s birthday. I’m not sure my sentiment is widely shared anymore, based on an unscientific observations of attitudes and “no-shows” I’ve noticed over the years. Busyness is often blamed — which reminds me of thoughtful advice a friend recently passed on to me, that Dallas Willard once offered to John Ortberg: that if he wanted to have a spiritual life, he would have to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from his life.” Maybe it’s the reaching of a certain age… or maybe it’s the gardening I do whose results I cannot hurry along… or maybe that I no longer have young children to care for around the clock…. but I rarely have need to hurry anymore. It’s a blessed state to live in…
The mere mention of birthdays reminds me that we both will be having one soon, one day after another… and that this must mean it’s about time for you to take one of your road trips.
Thanks for sharing a beautiful summer post. Your place is serene and inspirational. Enjoy reading your rumination, indeed, being quiet and taking a slow pace in life is essential. But then again, it may not be possible or easily achieved. I just came back from a hectic 10 days ‘break’ in Toronto, attending TIFF and doing some sight-seeing, gallery visiting… etc. And that’s supposed to be a vacation, but I came back having to catch up on things and obligations… and, still trying to post some of my experiences. The irony is, the leisure activity of blogging and sharing in itself can be demanding. 😉
As much as I enjoy gardening and the fruits of summer, I look forward to fall and winter, with the time it affords to experiencing life through novel and film. So with much interest, I read your first post about TIFF and look forward to reading your latest installment. I know from experience, when I read how you’ve enjoyed some film or book… that chances are good that I will, too.
It’s interesting how differently we view the act of blog-keeping though, since I’ve never regarded it as a leisure activity. I do enjoy how the blog connects me with others… and appreciate how it helps me to know my deeper, truer self in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t… since to bring my feelings and thoughts about life to light, at least in the moment, only comes after stumbling about with them in the dark for a while. In other words, writing is hard work and always has been for me. It’s so much easier to garden. Or to cook. Or to read a book artfully and attend book club to discuss it. Or to do whatever. But still, I dabble with the written word. And the occasional post that comes from it serves as sort of mile-marker of my life…
Thanks, always, for dropping by and leaving a note. And for all that you do in making my life richer.