Sign of Time

Sunset from the porch.

Summer isn’t giving up yet. Nope, not yet. The trees are still sporting a full green suit. Daytime temperatures are squarely in the 80°s. Charcoal and lighter fluid scent evening strolls on most nights.

There’s still no requirement for sweaters in the evening. I think we’ll have weeks until that morning when you look at the basil and it is a black-green from the cold.

That said, the earth is still circling on it’s crooked axis around the sun and moving our hemisphere out of summer. While a sweater is not required, it is not unwelcome by bare arms, either.

The peaches and sweet corn are long done and the tomatoes are less heavy. You can plant those fancy lettuces without them burning up or bolting. The pools are closed. The traffic is back to heavy.

But mostly, it’s the day itself. Long days are gone. They’re tucking in earlier and earlier. I wake up just as the sun is chasing out the last shadows, when a few weeks ago the sun shook me awake.

It’s the end of the day that I notice the most. Last week I stepped out of my office into the opening strains of the dusk overture. This week when I walk to the train, I am steeped in dusk. Dinner, that is served at the same time according to the clock, isn’t making it to the table until after nightfall. The candles that were for show are now for light.

I love the fall. I love all parts of it. It might be my favorite season. Except. Except the thieving of my day. Of the shrinking of time. Of the march to the darkness of winter.

But the autumn sunsets are the most beautiful. The oranges are the most orange and the streaks of pink are the brightest against the indigo sky that reaches to infinity. So as the days seem to collapse on themselves, the sky opens up. And soon, I’ll look up and see my old friend Orion who’ll guide me through these months of short days.

Falling Behind

This was a stunning September morning. The Beast led the way.

At the beginning of a conference call, one of the participants gave us the MidWest weather report. According to her, the weather was nice, and that was weird, but that will soon change. That is that both the nice and the weird will change, and the weather will be back to the regularly scheduled bad. It was apropos of nothing. An odd non sequitur. And not very interesting, bless her heart.

How many times have I written about the weather this year. Six times? Maybe ten? How many ways can I describe the change in weather? The heat? The cool? The sun filtering through the trees, making shadows on the sidewalk, sending up an artist’s palette of colors?

How many times have I posted my morning stroll? It is always about the air–crisp, heavy, frigid, humid. It’s about the light–dark, bright, layered, orange or purple. Storms–rain, snow or just wind–have provided fodder for my daily writing struggle.

Is it enough that I’m using the weather as a tool to write descriptively? Is it better that I sometimes use the weather as a metaphor? Is it of value that I use the weather to transmit a small tale?

Have I committed the worst sin of writing, by boring you, My Loyal Reader?

I took on the challenge to write every day. I know that the quality is uneven. I know that there has been more than a score, maybe even four score, of less than stellar results. But dull?

Maybe I’ll reconsider my framing. I’m not delivering a weather report. I am describing the environment–how it looks and how it smells and how it feels and how it sounds. I am practicing using words to share details so you can imagine what I am thinking, so you have some context, and to bring us closer together.

This morning the shadows were longer and the air was cooler. I stepped onto the porch but kept my hand on the door handle to push it back open. I needed a little something.

I went to the hall closet and found my black Hope and Change hoodie. It’s eight years old now. It’s stretched out at the cuffs, the zipper catches on loose threads at the bottom and there are little holes in the left pocket, the one that holds the treats. I blame the Beast.

I pulled on the worn fleece, but didn’t zip it.

The leaves on the trees were still green, but some had given up. The sidewalk was spotted with dry leaves. They skittered along the concrete until they crunched under paw or sneaker. Definitely a sign.

We’re on the cusp of the next season. But we’re not there, yet. Summer still has some breath left. She will be elbowing back and forth with Fall for the next few weeks. Until Fall wins the match. I never did pack my sweaters away. Now it’s definitely too late.

As always, Loyal Reader, thank you for your time and for imbibing with me and my thinkings through another season. Almost time to pack away the summer.

Scrreeeecch!

RIding a bike down Pennsylvania Ave with the Capitol ahead.

So I dumped my bike to avoid a big accident. For those of you with a more mortorized view of dumping a bike, it wasn’t that.

We had a glorious Sunday ride down to do an explore of the new museum. Yes, that one. It was a great late summer day with a breeze, sunshine and better than bearable temperatures. The bike path was full of cyclists and walkers. The route is an easy five miles to the museums with minuscule change in elevation. It’s not a work out, it’s like being a little kid locomoting yourself. And ringing your bicycle bell. I did that alot. The bell ringing. The Spouse got a little tired of it.

I felt like I was flying, like when the kids take off with E.T. Didn’t you always think you could do that? I pretended to race, mostly my shadow. I sang songs from last week’s concert. I went down a hill and said, “Wheeeee!” Outloud. I really did. The Spouse gave me a look for that, too. The Spouse is a much more serious cyclist than me. I slow down his vibe. He’s a good sport that way.

I took in the sights along the bike trail. It’s one of the paths that got built next to railroad tracks. For us it’s tracks that run Amtrack, CSX and the subway. Sometimes you can even race a train. They usually win, though.

There are stunning murals along a section of a retaining wall. It looks like they gave five or six artists sections to paint. As you pedal by you can see a style and color palette that somehow flows into the next section, even though the next artist is very different. I wonder if riding your bike past makes it into a moving picture. I’m thinking Muybridge motion studies.

Also, did I tell you I got a new helmet? And I like it?

We locked our bikes up in a secret garden behind the American history museum. Ours were the only bikes. I felt like a Washington insider. Okay, maybe my standards for insider-status are low. No matter. We walked through the construction site of the new museum, but that’s all I can tell you. It’s a secret. Then we rode back home.

We stopped for libations at the pub at the top of the hill at the top of the trail. I’m not kidding, the chips for the nachos were so fresh. And not just because they were good with the hopped beverage. They were special. It was like everything was special on this adventure.

I walked my bike up to the crosswalk so I could cross to the other side of the street and then over the bridge and then the three remaining blocks home. Nobody was coming on the right. Nobody on the left so I stood on the right pedal and pumped my foot down to scoot across the street. As I did, I saw a car coming over the bridge.

The bridge has a decent arch. There’s a light on the other side, but cars come flying if they get a go-ahead green at the intersection. Drivers can’t see you until after they crest the arch. And then, almost immediately, there’s the crosswalk. I didn’t like the future I saw, so as I was accelerating with my right leg, I used both hands to pull hard on the brake levers. Pulling as if my life depended on it.

The mixed messages of stop and go caused my front tire to rear left, almost like a horse. Except I don’t ride horses, so this simile might be overdone. But my bike did throw me. Fortunately, it tossed me to the sidewalk. Out of range of the car coming over that bridge. The driver sped by without seeing me.

There were cries of concern from the restaurant’s patio. Two women came to the edge of the space to see if I was hurt. I was a little scraped up. One of them thought that I should take a breather. I told her I was fine. Because I was. Better to have a skinned elbow and knee than to be hit by a car, I always say.

I dusted myself off to witness a most obscene exhibition of road rage. A group of five or six students were walking in the cross walk–the one with the metal sign in the middle reminding drivers that they must stop. A driver jumped out of his car and began yelling and cursing at them. He left his car door open and delivered an over-the-top berating, jumped into the path of one guy and body blocked a young woman. I thought she would melt on the spot, or turn to stone. The people on the patio were no longer looking at me. They were wide-eyed at the new spectacle. Busy afternoon.

I was shocked out of my absorption with my own bike dumping experience. Looks like someone was going to get hit with a car. Overall, I’m glad it was the undergrads being pummeled by  angry words. I adjusted the front tire of my bike and gingerly made the three minute trek home to ice my elbow.

Room Temperatures

A very hot dog takes advantage of the box fan.

The house is unnaturally cool. Blankets get pulled up around chins. The hot coffee feels good going down. There is always a hoodie nearby for the overzealous chill. You could even imagine baking–if that was what you did. If it was a blueberry pie, that would be good.

Opening the door on a 97°F day isn’t a shock. Walking through the threshold, the wet heavy air forms a drape, a drape that is transparent to the eye but has the heft of thick velvet curtains. You need to almost push the air away, except it doesn’t resist.

The humidity is supra-tropical and the air is moving around. For skin cooled by the AC, it really isn’t as bad as expected. Stepping off of the shady porch and into the sunlight is a bigger contrast. The sun squinches eyes, even those behind sunglasses. It doesn’t caress the cool skin as much as press on it. But it doesn’t press hard.

The heat is forgotten for the first five blocks, until the the last of the chill, that last chill left on your forearms, gets dispersed into the air. The cool becomes hot, too.

The heat begins to press harder on skin. It closes up your nostrils, making it harder to breathe. It squeezes out beads of water along the hairline, at the waistband. Water begins to drip from under arms and beneath chins from throat to chest.

The heat seems to make gravity more grave. It pushes down on thighs as they work to bring the feet up to propel to the next block. It would be easy to slow down, but that would mean staying in the heat. No slowing down, but no speeding up, either. Additional exertion would be too punishing.

The last turn to the final block is a mental relief but a physical trial. Cheeks are flushed and radiate fire. The dull throbbing from your head that started two blocks earlier becomes all consuming.

The key turns in the lock. The door opens and the arctic blast starts your revival. The moisture on all skin surfaces begins to evaporate in the dark, cool house. The pounding in your head gets worse as you slump onto the couch. You stand up to switch the fan to “high” and flop back on the couch, facing the fan with your eyes closed, wiping your face with your shirt.

Your head hurts, but as you watch the swelling of your feet subside and feel the ring twirl around freely where it had been stuck on your sausage finger a few minutes ago, you lay your still pulsing head on the pillow, and reach for that hoodie.

Big Juicy

Tomatoes on the vine. Damn, they look good.

I had my eye on that tomato. I wanted it, but I wanted both of us to be ready.

I don’t know that I saw its flower. There were a bunch of flowers that late spring. They were little yellow stars against the deep green of the vines. I didn’t hone in on one or the other as they twinkled in the morning sun. I was just happy to see them get off to a great start.

The flowers soon disappeared and were replaced by little grape sized globs (or maybe globes?). Tomatoes-in-waiting. Where I am doing the waiting. Waiting for tomatoes. I’m encouraging them, too.

It’s funny how the flowers all appear at, or at least near, the same time, but the indivitual spheres take off on their own pace. Like a race.

So from the undifferentiated yellow flowers springs a free-for-all of vegetables. Some grow fast, some grow in clumps and some hang out by themselves. Sunning themselves, supping on the morning dew, and growing.

The tomato I am watching is not only the biggest, but it’s the one that starts blushing. As it changes from the waxy green, it first looks like a bruised face. Like it was in a fight and the fleshy part of it’s chin took a punch. The discoloration evens out, and it is orange. There is a ring of yellow at the top, near the vine, but the rest of the tomato is more carrot than zucchini.

This is NOT the time to disturb it. The contrast, especially next to its still-green sibings, makes it look red. But it’s not. It’s orange. A rainstorm moves the progress along. Now, when you cup it in your hand, the tomato starts to feel less hollow and more heavy. It passes from orange-red to red-orange. But it’s not done yet.

I very gently and very slowly wiggle the tomato against the vine. It’s umbilical cord is holding fast. Not yet.

The next day was brilliantly sunny. The tomato is definitely red. Any hint of orange is gone as is the yellow-orange ring at the top. I brush away the nub left from the dried up flower at the bottom of the orb. The green vine looks even darker and lusher next to the deep pomodoro red. I test the vine. The vine releases the fruit into my hand.

I draw the tomato to my face and breathe in the core side. It smells a little pine-y with a hint of what might be a whiff of hops, like cascades hops. The top definitely smells green, grassy green. It’s warm from the sun.

The tomato is much heavier than it looks. As I compress my fingers around it, it gives in. You can feel the moisture just inside its waterballoon self. The red walls, though, breathe back. There are no indentations left from fingers.

I bring it into the house and give it a perfunctory run under the water from the faucet. I put two pieces of bread in the toaster. I take the serrated knife and cut off a thin bottom and then gently saw back and forth to make a bunch of slices that I place on the mayonnaised bread. A twist of the pepper mill, a sprinkle of coarse salt and the frills of the outside green flounce of romaine finish it.

I bite in and the wet of the tomato spills down from the corner of my mouth and soaks my chin and my hand.

Did I tell you it was still warm? From the sun?

Seeing The Light

The sun is casting long shadows on the deck.

It’s close to the longest day of the year. It is taking the maximum time for the sun to set. The day–or maybe the night–teases us with long shadows in the late daylight. You really don’t know who’s in charge.

Even if there wasn’t so much rain in May, this is the most green and most lush time of year. The greens are a selection from a big box of Crayola crayons. Green. Pine green. Yellow green and green yellow. Olive green. Spring green. Asparagus. Fern. Jungle green. Forest green.

Or the greens are mixed from a palette–there’s a squeeze of yellow, blue, red, black and white in tiny cups. Adding the yellow slowly to the blue and stirring, the swirls of bright disappear into a new color. Adding a little black makes a color that is the deepest green grass and vines. A tiny more black, and it’s the green at the base of those long shadows.

Just on the other side of the borderline of sunshine is the yellower green. Because of the contrast, the normally grass green glows more gold. From there the path to dark is not an evened ombré. There are freckles of sun that break through some of the boughs. There are stripes of yellow laid down by posts that make up a fence. There are flickers of light when the wind pushes the sunbrella to the left. And then to the right.

It’s not yet dusk, but it’s working on it.

At first it’s not clear that it’s there. Your head turns, but it might have been just an eye blinking. It seems like it happened again. Eyes are squeezed shut and reopened to clear your vision.

Then, you know. You begin to scour the patchwork of light and dark. You spy the passing gleam of a yellow dot. Gone. You brain foolishly trains your eyes on that spot. And then you see a glow a few feet away. It’s truly summer. The lightening bugs have arrived.

It’s silly that you didn’t see them since now you see three, wait, four, no that’s more like eight, turning their lights on and off as they pass along the hedges just above the ground. The appearance and disappearance of the light swells and ebbs like shallow breathing. It’s a slow build and drop that happens very quickly. How can it be both?

Fireflies are sweet and clumsy as they approach. Simply put your hand in their path and they will alight on fingers. They show no stress as they crawl across your palm, maybe even lighting up. You almost expect to be able to feel heat, but if there is any reaction, it’s imperceptible. Then the bug reaches the end of your hand and takes off, providing a wink from it’s abdomen.

You follow the path you think it’s on and see one more wink. You lose it as it flies on it’s unknowable path, and joins the dozens of other bulbs randomly blinking on and off as the sun finally sets and it’s now, really dusk and then night.

They have phosphorescence. They create their light from within. Be a firefly.

 

Shoe In

A pair of worn out sandals. They were good while they lasted.

It’s summer today. Actually it became summer day before yesterday, but I was in the office that day. This is important because I don’t wear the same apparel during my off time.

I am not a fussy dresser. My working wardrobe palette consists of black, white, blue, red, green and a little khaki. These don’t represent a wide array of colors because there is a single shade of blue (sapphire), a single shade of green (emerald) and a single shade of red (ruby). Makes mixing and matching pretty much redundant. My working wardrobe style is classic. No frills. No lace. No prints. No stripes. I do have two items with polka dots, one black with white and one white with black.

I’m pretty simple on the shoe front, too. My shoes are black. My boots are black. I wear black shoes.

I’m no more fussy with my casual wardrobe, except I really don’t care much about what I wear. There may be a few more colors since there are t-shirts from shows and sweaters from the discount racks. I have a few pairs of jeans for fall and winter and some cropped pants and shorts for spring and summer. Cowboy boots for cold weather and sandals for warm.

This being my first day off of summer I rummaged around for hot weather wear. I had a coffee date at the farmer’s market and the temp was already in the red zone. I dug to the bottom of the other dresser to find a pair of shorts. I rifled through the back of the other drawer to find a tank. I was happy to skip the socks.

That’s when I realized that there were no longer any old summer shoes. You see, I wore them all out.

It’s a little odd that I have no well-worn shoes to start off the summer. I usually have an old pair of sandals and an older pair of sandals and some type of dilapidated slip on sneaker. Any given beginning of summer, I would have at least one of those at my feet.

Not this year, though. I remembered that the older pair of sandals got pitched last summer because I kept turning my ankle when I wore them. The Big Guy made a good case for my safety. This made the old pair of sandals the older pair. Turns out they were a wreck, too, as I discovered when I cleaned out the closet. I put them in the trash to extinguish any impulse to wear them this year. The sneakers had holes in the toes and no treads left. Also deep-sixed.

There were, however, a new pair of sandals. I bought them at the end of last year. I don’t really like them, to be honest. They aren’t very attractive, and they aren’t out of the box comfortable. I didn’t send them back in time so I was stuck with them. I put them in the back of the closet. There were also some new sneakers, purchased three weeks ago. They are attractive, and, I believe in my heart of hearts, they will be well worn and very comfy later this summer. Today, though, they are a bit stiff and rub on the joint of my big toe.

So, here I am, the beginning of summer with only shoes to break in. No old worn shoes to start my season. Poop.

I grabbed my big straw hat with the black ribbon that trails almost to my shoulder and started the work of transforming the new sandals into old sandals. They will be that way for two years before they become the older sandals. I’ll get a new pair to become the old sandals and then I’ll be back on schedule.

The Party’s Over

Yes, that party known as SUMMER VACATION is coming to an abrupt end. The 14-year-old will need to get up at the butt-crack of dawn. This may be the first time that he has seen a morning hour since June 3rd. Except for when we drove all night to make the early ferry to the beach. He mostly slept on the way.

The 12-year-old* has one more day, but, frankly, it’s over for him, too. He is furiously printing out his summer reading assignment. Turns out he needed 5X8 index cards for this assignment. At least that’s what he said. The summer reading info was misplaced sometime at the beginning of summer, so I have to go with his story.

The really good news is that we were able to find all the clean uniforms that were put away a 11 or 12 weeks ago. Well, some pieces were replaced, but others were found, still clean. Sometimes clean clothes that have been put away become less put away. And then they have to be rewashed. We are still, however, without the bucs for the 14-year-old. His size 13’s are backordered. He claims he can wear sneakers until they arrive. Again, I have to go with his story.

So the party’s over for this year. And a New Year starts.

* Don’t get confused. He was the 11-year-old two weeks back. See Naming Convention. I can’t help it if I worry about you, Loyal Reader! Also, I must admit that I originally typed “11-year-old.” He was looking over my shoulder and promptly corrected my big error.