This has been the perfect summer.
After last year’s drought, I had decided that the perfect summers of my childhood were over, forever lost to global warming. I still believe that mankind has done more damage to this Earth than it can handle. But this post isn’t about polar bears or melting icecaps.
As I said, this has been the perfect summer. There have been plenty of sunshiny days. I have longed to take one of my great-grandmother’s quilts outside and just lay in the sun watching the big fluffy clouds slowly make their way across the sky. The rain, which was plentiful during early May and June, has dissipated into temporary downpours. The temperatures have been manageable; it’s supposed to be hot in July, just not hell-on-Earth hot.
We’ve reached the endless days of summer where my teacher friends and family have stopped posting on Facebook about their glorious and well-deserved summer breaks and are now trying to spend every last sunshiny day off on adventures with their own children before they head back into their classrooms.
We’ve reached the endless days of summer where I’ve stopped using measuring cups. By now, I’ve learned that my hands can easily hold two cups of berries. Four big handfuls is the perfect amount for preserves. Or two big handfuls are enough for a cobbler. I used to be amazed that my grandmother never used a measuring cup. She instinctively knew how much there was by how it felt in her hands or looked in her mixing bowl. Pinch, dash, teaspoon, quarter-cup, half-cup, or cup, it didn’t matter. She didn’t measure any of it using the tools that Julia Child did. I often quizzed her about it. She couldn’t convince her youngest grandchild that measuring devices weren’t necessary, that when used meant that she had more things to wash. Or rather, I had more things to wash, as she didn’t have a dishwasher. After making preserves for two months now, I completely understand her. Don’t use what isn’t necessary.
We’ve reached the endless days of summer when children have slowed down. Kids who ride their bikes around our neighborhood are making their way lazily down the street, zig-zagging their way to a friend’s house or slowly creeping back home in the twilight. The eagerness they demonstrated in May has disappeared as if they know that soon they’ll be dragged into stores for new sneakers and new notebooks, that their sun-streaked blonde locks will soon be snipped into classic haircuts ready for back-to-school photos.
We’ve reached the endless days of summer where everyone, including me, has a tan. I’ve never been a sunworshipper. My fair skin and the sun have always battled one another. But this year, we’ve spent lots of time on our boat, swimming around Blood River. We bought the boat last summer, in the height of Tomatopalooza, my annual tomato-canning festival. Much to the disappointment of my Beloved, we didn’t get to spend much time on the boat. I couldn’t balance canning, blogging, gardening, cleaning, and mowing with boating. This year, I think I’ve done a better job balancing life, and we’ve all been rewarded for it. There are lots of things I ought to be doing, but the time we’ve spent out there has been been better for us than any canned vegetable or gardening achievement. So instead of laying on one of my great-grandmother’s quilts watching the fluffy clouds slowly float by, I’ve watched them from the water, swimming around in a ski jacket.
We’ve reached the endless days of summer where every meal is coming from somebody’s garden or the farmer’s market. Even the offspring, who declared war on “leaves” and vegetables earlier in the spring, had no complaints when breakfast was a BLT on a biscuit. Matter of fact, he ate four biscuits packed in “leaves” and tomatoes with the tiniest sliver of thick-cut bacon. I only cooked four pieces of bacon, but when it was cut into thirds, it appeared that it was a lot more than it actually was – and I wasn’t surprised when there were two tiny pieces of bacon leftover. I knew that we all had packed our biscuits full of lettuce and tomatoes.
We’ve reached the endless days of summer where I don’t care if my preserves are “fair-worthy.” The cabinets are full of potential blue-ribbon winners. The time has come when I’ll shift from making fruit preserves to Tomatopalooza or PickleMania. As I write this post, there is a half-bushel of cucumbers ready to be processed into dill pickles. My last batch of blackberry preserves is on the stove bubbling away. Yesterday, I took two of my dear friends out to the blackberry u-pick. We had a blast. Unlike other trips to the patch, where I slipped into my own thoughts as I picked fruit either on my own or with a crew, yesterday, amongst the bursts of laughter and the secrets shared between girlfriends, we managed to pick just enough berries for preserves and pies.
We’ve reached the point where the sun seems like it will shine forever. And the fluffy clouds will always drift across the sky. Until the wind shifts and the mercury in my thermostat refuses to rise, I’ll hold close these endless days of summer as long as I can.