[First g&t of the summer, June 2008.]

. That was nice. I was only out of the city for a few days, but man, it was needed, and wonderful.

This weekend I: went to the beach; read the New York Times Sunday section, for once; learned to like brussels sprouts; remembered I actually do like peas, especially when they’re not overcooked, and turn up bright green against a plate; drank a lot of tea; baked and ate chocolate cupcakes; had home-grown plums that were the best I’ve had in probably a year; talked about urban gardening (and also hunting for your year’s supply of meat, but that’s another story); entreated an Israeli cat to sit with me; will now consider baking banana-bran muffins; played with a dog until we were both ready to drop with exhaustion, except then another one came along and we played even more (black Labradors and goldens just own me, I swear); laughed a lot; slept deeply and quietly; toasted my toes by a fire in the early morning; forgot for just a little bit that I live in a city.

I do love San Francisco — I was born here, after all, even if I was whisked away to Sonoma County a few days later — but I’m a country girl at heart. I need the still, deep quiet of the woods as I fall asleep and the clamor of birds when I wake up in the morning. I don’t think I’d even mind getting up with the sun (or rather, light, as this is Northern California and we’re often socked in with fog until well near noon) because the air would smell so good (as my friend and I discussed Friday night, it’s all bay leaves and good earth and water with a faint layer of salt off the ocean drifting in) and I’d probably go to bed early enough. I have a dream some day of living in a place where I can access the coast easily, with lots of trees and grass all around me, with stacks of books for reading and stacks of paper for writing on, and a radio tuned to the classical music station for inspiration and calm.

[Hemlock, Olema Marsh, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, June 2008.]

Sunday night, after a dinner that was so good for its simplicity (except for the roast beef, which I didn’t eat, there were mostly vegetables: a dish of steamed brussels sprouts and peas; roasted carrots and parsnips with butter; roasted potatoes; little Yorkshire puddings; leftover cheese tortellini for me; glasses of Ravenswood Zin) we went down the road a ways to pick what my friend called ‘thimbleberries’ and which I like to describe as a cross between a blackberry and a strawberry. Sweet, red, and, yes, somewhat resembling a thimble, they were growing in the wild tangle of trees and brush that hadn’t been cut back yet for the season. I love being in the woods when dusk is coming down; the birds are singing and calling to each other sleepily, and the world turns pale and grey against the trees.

We took the dogs with us and I must confess I was more occupied with talking to and throwing sticks for them rather than picking berries (not to mention, avoiding the poison oak). But luckily enough were procured so that when we walked back up the steep climb to the house we were able to add them to about a cup of mixed berries that had been left out in the kitchen to defrost, and then we made a sort of ersatz crumble (just the berries, no extra sugar, with a bit of granola and butter spread over the top, and then baked for 20 minutes). Along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a spoonful of those warm berries and oats almost helped me forget I had to go in to work the next day.

So tonight, in the spirit of summer, and with thoughts of vacation in not-too-long, I am making the first corn on the cob of summer, along with a a big green salad, slabs of tofu baked in a peanutty-lemon sauce, and roasted new potatoes with just one carrot sliced in half, and then lengthwise, drizzled all over with olive oil and salt. I like to roast the carrot until its edges get a bit blackened and carmelized; that’s when I know it’s done, and should be eaten in long, dripping slices. This weekend there are plans for a barbecue (brownies; veggie burgers; beer — it is always defined for me by the food I will bring), perhaps a visit to the Legion of Honor for the Women Impressionists exhibit, working on a few things due early (so early!) next week, and also a yoga class, because it’s been too long.

It will be a very city weekend, which will be nice. But you can bet I’m planning on a few nights camped under the stars (or fog, as the case may be) at the end of July, out at my beloved Wildcat Camp. This time I’ll have to up the ante on what things I cook — some vegetable fajitas, perhaps, or a more elaborate breakfast. I’ll stretch out in my sleeping bag and take a deep breath of that sweet, smoky, sea-smelling air and hope the next day will be full of sun (once, it was so hot we were even able to swim, letting the waves tumble and bruise us back onto the beach). I’ll chase skunks and watch deer and read whatever book I’ve decided to lug the 6.5 miles out there, and there will be no place in the world I’d rather be.

I love summer.

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  1. I need the sky and rising sun, which is why the fog always depresses me. But once that fog burns away, the sea and the city just light up. Running up and down the beach with a dog sounds awesome. I am mighty jealous :)

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