Late Summer

I went to a barbecue this afternoon and stood right next to the grill as we were cooking the wood down, so now I smell strongly of smoke. I love this smell, and I've been carrying it with me the rest of the day. People in my class at the gym probably wondered who smelled like fireplace.

My parents' house is wood heated, so the smell is all caught up with warmth and family for me. Once, in high school, a friend of mine buried her nose in a scarf I'd knitted and said, "This smells just like your house--wood smoke!" So I guess others have noticed it, too.

If I had to distill the image of my childhood home down to two objects, they would be a wood stove and a mug of tea. I think the former represents my dad and the latter my mom. There's nothing really symbolic about these things, except the warmth of the images, I guess, and the idea of sustenance. They're just things that I encountered often growing up. In the fall and winter, my dad would get up early and stoke the stoves, and the first thing we'd do when we got home in the afternoon was start the fires up again. And my mom drinks a cup of tea, or sometimes two or three, every single day. Always Lipton. (The Brisk Tea.) Always with milk and sugar. I find the taste of this combination very comforting.

The barbecue today felt very goodbye-to-summer-esque. We made black bean burgers with cheddar, and grilled pineapple and peaches, then marshmallows. The burger buns were from Iggy's, my favorite bread company. (When I eat at a restaurant where they serve Iggy's, I always order extra and take some home in my purse.) There was pomegranate iced tea with agave nectar, and mango and coconut for dessert. I sat in a hammock and watched the sun sink, all orange and gold among the Catalpa leaves. I thought about how much I'd miss this day in a few months, when it's cold and dark in the afternoons. I'm not quite ready for summer to be over yet. I think I want another two weeks or so. But school is coming; classes start next week, and then we'll be on the roller coaster again. I had a dream last night that I was at work during a huge storm, and lightning was striking all around my office, and little brush fires were spontaneously erupting in the shrub border. That's kind of what the next month is starting to look like: utter chaos, and lots of little crises to put out. I'm going to try not to think of it like that, though. I'm trying to look forward to it.


Animal Farm

So many things. We visited Drumlin Farm last weekend. One of Stephen's brothers works there and drives the hay wagon, so we got to take two hayrides around the farm. There were chickens of many shapes and sizes (I liked the Bantams), sheep and goats, a huge sow due to give birth later that day, two mules, a 30-year-old pony named Midnight, many rehabilitated birds (a male pheasant, a turkey vulture, a pocket-sized screech owl), and some beautiful cows. They have an exhibit called Drumlin Underground that houses burrowing animals, with a subterranean level that lets you see into their lairs; that was one of my favorite parts, although we didn't see the foxes. It was a bright August afternoon--this past week has offered the best weather of the summer--and Stephen and I went out for ice cream (soft serve!) afterward at Dairy Joy.

This weekend, we hosted our own menagerie: Stephen and I pet-sat for a 15-year-old Siamese cat named after a Star Trek character, a color-changing Anole lizard who refused to eat his crickets, and a small brown tortoise named Turtle Boy. I hate the smell of cat food and Stephen can't stand the crickets, so we divided the work accordingly. Lucky for me, he also fed Turtle Boy. I don't mind crickets because they're compact and neat, but I really didn't want to have to reach into the worm jar.

I also fed a bunch of mosquitoes while canoing on the Sudbury River on Saturday. The water was kind of murky, and the mosquitoes feasted on my ankles. I found 14 bites on my legs afterward. The river was calm, though, and I saw lots of red-winged blackbirds near the shore.

Drifting downstream in a canoe reminded me of leading backcountry canoe trips in college. I led the same route a couple of summers in a row, and it was my favorite trip to lead by far. We'd spend a week passing through a circuit of lakes in the Adirondacks, sometimes loud with stories, sometimes silent. We'd swim and practice T-rescues, and my co-leaders and I dressed up as local historical figures. I miss that. I didn't like the bear-bagging or digging cat holes so much, but I did like hanging out by the campstove and talking or just listening or sitting quietly.

School's about to start again. I'm glad I work at a college, so my schedule continues to follow the academic cycle. It seems strange to see the campus fill up again, though; we've had it to ourselves for months. At lunch, everyone in my office heads outside to sit in the shade near the Quad, and it's usually deserted. Now there are gaggles of RA trainees, orientation groups, and sports teams criss-crossing the lawn. Most of the construction crews are packing up so the campus will look nice for matriculation ceremonies. It's an exciting time; it feels like change. I think late summer and early fall will always feel like change to me, which is why I sometimes feel so sad at this time of year. I have this feeling about time passing, that it's like having a glacier on either side of you. You can see a little ways forward and a little ways back, and you can move laterally in the moment, but the past and future are impenetrable walls pushing us along. Fall is definitely a time when you notice that the glaciers have shifted irrevocably.


Calm, Bright

Hello sun! I emerged yesterday from the long dark tunnel of end-of-semester schoolwork. 74 articles of research heavier and 54 pages of writing lighter, I'm feeling weightless. There are so many things I want to do now! Eat lots of ice cream. Read by the fountain in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Read for fun. Visit my parents. Go to the SomerMovie Fest. Make popsicles. I found some popsicle molds while I was on vacation with my parents in July, but I haven't had time to use them yet. I want to try some coffee-based ones. We don't have a coffee maker at the moment, but we're planning to get a Chemex, because they're pretty and we don't make coffee much so I'm not too worried about convenience.

I'm on Nantucket now with Stephen's family. There has been lots of ocean swimming, lots of Olympics watching, lots of eating, and lots of schoolworking (for me). I pulled an all-nighter yesterday, and I guess if you have to do that, it's best to do it in a beautiful setting. The sun coming up over foggy fields at 6am was breathtaking. Once I sent the paper off at 9, it was so still in the house. Everyone else was asleep, and I was completely spent but couldn't nap because of all the caffeine I'd had. I laid on the couch next to an open window and stared into space. A cool breeze was blowing. It was incredibly quiet. The dog came in and fell asleep next to me. For the first time in a month, I had no pressing obligations, and the whole day ahead of me. It was one of the most perfect moments of the summer. I thought of it again last night when I read this in My Antonia:

I sat down in the middle of the garden...The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out, and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.


Here and There

This is me on vacation last week. I look very relaxed, don't I? But the inside of my head was like, "Homework AAAUGH!!!!" This is the summer of The Assignments That Never End. I just turned in another paper, and I've got one last one to churn out in the next few days. Oh the agony.

At least I've had the opportunity to be work-burdened in some very picturesque locales lately. I took the train to Portland, ME two weeks ago, which was really fun--when is a train ride not fun? I wish I had more opportunities to go places on trains. I need to discover some long-lost friends and relatives along the Downeaster route, then I could head out of the city every weekend in the plushy comfort of its nice quiet cabins. I'd get a lot of reading done.

I spent last week in Acadia with my family, which was chilly and foggy and lovely. It was so nice to wake up near the ocean and be far aware from mundane concerns like going to meetings and cleaning the house and blah. We hiked a little and walked around Southwest Harbor and Jordan Pond and Thuya Gardens and went out to eat a lot. A lot. I started referring to myself as Bowling Ball Belly by the end of the week.

Tomorrow I'm taking the ferry to Nantucket to go on vacation with Stephen's family. As you can imagine, I also like ferries. I'm pretty big on any kind of old-fashionedy public transpo. Unfortunately, the computer will be accompanying me on this trip, as well. Oh, grad school. How you mock my plans for escape and respite! But I can't be too unhappy in a house by the sea. A view of the ocean always exposes the triviality of my woes. I admit, they are quite trivial.