02 July 2011

Summer is ready when you are

Summer is about saying yes. My schedule is at the whim of every invitation casually tossed my way, my taste buds ready for every bite of fruit and sip of nectar offered. Delightful to set out with friends for an impromptu popsicle at a gourmet popsicle pop-up shop this morning, for instance. (Well, not this morning – soon after I got up, rather, having played a show into the wee hours last night.)

A hazy, humid morning has matured into a shady 82-degree afternoon, bathed by nearly imperceptible breezes. I walked to the grocery store for veggie sausages for Monday's cookout and ingredients for a cucumber gimlet granita. It turned out to be one of those patches of time where the very texture of experience seems to become more dense, where pleasure in existence pools – the one peach in the bushel that has unaccountably ripened more fully than the others – sticking you to while also removing you from your surroundings: everything is supersaturated, and therefore not entirely real. You half suspect that you may have been snatched up by the hand of God and set down in an ideal heaven. And this is almost a source of worry, but not quite. It's something like a photorealistic painting that doesn't quite come off, the painter having zealously lavished as much attention on the feathers of the bird in the sky as on the picnickers in the foreground.

(This is how I was sure it would be, heaven, when I was a a religious child convinced of my own virtue and likely future sainthood, when I'd wander around the soccer field at recess basking in the promise that God had bestowed upon me. It would be this very state of grace and abundance, only forever, untainted by the thought of death – that little vial of poison with the crumbling cork, always perched in some precarious place and waiting to spill over.)

It's easiest to achieve this state in the woods, alone, with endless hours to roam, filling your heart with the afternoon light like a basket with blackberries – which, as it happens, drop from the bushes, too copious for even the birds to eat, while dragonflies hang in the air. I've walked through fields and down paths unable to stop, sometimes, from laughing aloud, even as my eyes filled with tears of diffuse gratitude.

But it's possible in the city, too. This neighborhood encourages such idylls; it blossoms with so much care. Gardens spill over the borders of nearly every yard; husbands trot assiduously with push mowers, back and forth. A man climbs a ladder with a shutter, perhaps thrown down in the recent storm, tucked beneath his arm; another man steadies the ladder, which seems a little unstable; and for a moment I watch this silent scene with bated breath until he reaches the top. I walk past St. Gertrude's Church; all the stained-glass windows are pushed open in the heat, and from inside, music: either a choir practicing, or just an extraordinarily tuneful congregation. It's good to live here. It's good to live.

(Title credit: The Breeders, "Saints")