Like a Dream

[Looking toward Limantour, March 2009.]

This weekend the weather turned into summer here in San Francisco, or at least the kind of summer I always wish for: sunny, nearly hot, a warm breeze brushing through the screen to ruffle the Sunday paper spread out across my kitchen table. It was a weekend for g&ts on the deck but in the absence of that I settled for iced cranberry juice and savored every drop. There was a salad of roasted beets and greens, stirfries involving whole wheat couscous and asparagus, strawberries sliced thin and fine, a tiny bit of ice cream.

I don’t know how long this weather will last, or where it came from, but it was like the city’s dream of summer, and I enjoyed every shining moment.

The only trouble, though, with such a brilliant few days, is that’s it’s nearly impossible to imagine the week ahead — anyhow it’s a short week for me (four days only!) and there is lots of fun awaiting me next weekend so I can’t complain too much. It’s just that this sort of weather makes me long for a vacation — anywhere, really, will do as long as there are plenty of potato chips and water is involved. All weekend I wished I could go to Santa Cruz and sit on the beach and then ride the roller coaster and then maybe have an ice cream cone to eat quickly before it melted away. Summer, summer, summer! — so close I’m already clamoring for it.

[Keyhoe, fog, November 2008. Photo by Randy.]

I’ve realized that whenever I plan a trip, even if it’s just up north an hour or two, I always have to make sure it involves swimming. Recently I’ve been going lap swimming with my dad at the outdoor pool in Sebastopol every so often and I’d nearly forgotten how much I love that chlorine-tinged blue, scattered with bits of leaves and the pine needles that have blown in from the adjacent park. I love running but to swim long and steady is a whole other animal: my muscles go loose and warm and my arms flash in and out of the water (if I’m lucky it’ll be raining, because swimming in a heated outdoor pool while cold mist drifts down and you know if you can just eek out that mile a cup of tea at the end will taste better than any cup of tea ever) is a private, particular pleasure.

But vacation swimming — now, that’s a whole other story. Vacation swimming means swimming for fun, not exercise (mostly), in a body of water untainted by chemicals. Vacation swimming was the kind of swimming I wanted this weekend: maybe in a river that with a slow current, brown water against the brown hills, coolness lingering under the sun-tipped surface. Or maybe in the Mediterranean, with goggles firmly afixed in order to dive deep under the waves in search of the fish you can’t see because the reflection of the blazing white heat of the sun dazzles so much you’re nearly blinded and they are too fast. Or maybe in the frigid waters of Lake Tenaya — all from snow melt so that you’re cold for hours afterward even bundled into sweaters.

[Beets, April 2009.]

Unfortunately after all there was no swimming for me, neither for exercise nor for lazy drifting afternoons, though I dreamed of it and woke wishing for water. Still, I did have a few hours in the hot sun and pretended it was the beach in August, though there was no sand to slip between my toes and no salt-water to dry sticky and sweet on my arms. I didn’t eat soft serve but I did make lemon-tahini sauce and roasted a pile of beets just because they sounded good to have on a late Sunday afternoon.

There’s something dreamy, after all, about roasting vegetables on the tail end of a weekend. I can’t explain it exactly, but I love to turn on the oven in the quiet hours when mostly everyone is either returning home from a few days in the sun or starting to think about the week ahead, even if reluctantly; drizzling a few potatoes or spears of asparagus or even a whole mess of farmers’ market finds with good olive oil for a barley-thickened soup somehow helps ease me past the Sunday night blues. (Well, maybe just the littlest bit.)

So yesterday afternoon I thought about Heart’s Desire and wished I could be dipping my toes in the water there. I remembered Tomales Bay and a still, hot September when my dad and I kayaked nearly all the way to Hog’s Island (next time. Maybe.) and saw a whale not a hundred feet from us, turning and blowing and thrilling and scaring me out of my mind all at once. I wondered if it was hot in Marin — how could it not be, it was so hot in the city — and started wishing very hard to be out on the bay with the sun in my eyes and a sand bar to run up upon with the kayak, tumbling out onto the softness and sweeping under the skin of the water to burst up with it weighting down my hair and running into my eyes.

I thought about summer and places to visit and how if I end up not going anywhere this summer besides California (frugality lately is trumping my need for adventure) that really wouldn’t be such a bad thing at all: perhaps we’ll go kayak again after promising to do it for so long, or I’ll finally take advantage of the generous neighbors and spend a whole day making plum preserves, tomato jelly, pack up lemons in salt or sugar and bake cakes and eat blackberries by the handful, as many as I can stuff into my mouth at once. All afternoon I thought about summer and Pt. Reyes and the way the bay trees stand straight and tall in windless August afternoons before the fog comes in and you think it will never cool off but then it does, the breeze a sigh to blow away all the heavy heat — and I’m ashamed to admit I found myself wishing the next few months away.

But then I smelled my beets roasting, filling my apartment with their buttery, earthy scent and suddenly didn’t mind April too much. Summer, my favorite season, will arrive soon enough and it’s best I appreciate these little unexpected weekends when they come. Spring is beautiful, too, its markets brimming with green and the last holdover apples from fall and the unexpected rainstorm to tide the fields over until they turn golden all too soon.

Often we wonder constantly about the next thing, the next meal, the unknown future that can both terrify and satisfy. Sometimes it’s important to take an hour to sit on the roof in the sun with the paper and a glass of cold water listening to the birds call and chatter to each other, simply being there in that very present moment and nothing else. And sometimes it’s important to save Sunday afternoons for slow roasting — beets, or dreams.

Join the Conversation

  1. Sundays and Slow-Roasting Beets seems to go hand in hand, at least in my house.

  2. Oh I can’t wait for summer… well at least those few weeks in June and July when the weather is perfect.

    We had a couple of cold days here, but today was lovely. Jim and I were driving through the country and wishing for our vacation that we took this week last year, in the Outer Banks. We didn’t do much swimming, but walked a lot on the beach.

    Maybe we’ll cheer ourselves up with roasted vegetables this non-vacation weekend. : )

  3. Okay, now I want summer even more than before.

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