Oh, August. Already. And how?
Three years in on canning and jam, we have officially declared a tradition: Ann started a file. Now we will look back and remember, year over year. What we processed, what our yields were. Remember, too, the people and the stories that swirl around and through the steam in the canning kitchen. This year, Ann told us about a friend’s son, struck down by a motorist and fighting for his life. She had been to visit him the day before, been to sit with her friend, been to see the machines and doctors tethering the man to life, been part of the love surrounding him in the ICU. My heart ached for the boy, for his parents. When we took a break before lunch, I checked my phone to see how my own boys were doing. An email with a barely-remembered name as the subject line caught my eye. His parents were friends of your mother’s … he is in the ICU … struck down by a stolen car … I felt my skin tingling as I read. “Ann,” I said. “Is your friend’s son named Zach?”
Ann wrote to his mother about the love rippling out from her boy. I joined countless others in visualizing him with lungs full of light, healthy and strong.
As the sun set on our annual block party, the boys took glow-sticks from the potluck table and looped them into long chains. They decorated their bikes, their arms, the trucks they had pulled from our yard into the driveway. We talked with our neighbors as twilight settled over, laughing and eating and crowning our longest-rooted king and queen of our little street. The boys rode in ever-widening circles around the end of the street, their long loops and chains sparkling like magic under the cover of dark. When we finally put them to bed they strung their creations over bookshelves and alarm clocks, and fell asleep smiling in the slow fade of neon light.
The guys are obsessed with maps: they tape them on their walls, draw them on their notebooks, discuss them as we drive. Is 280 the freeway on the middle of the peninsula? If we are going on 92 west why does the car compass say east? It is high summer and we have been swimming in oceans and pools, grilling corn, picking tomatoes. They want to record the direction of it all, the distance, the geography. I can relate.
They find remnants of illegal fireworks at the beach, and Lucas wonders about them. I tell him it is probably from the fourth of July. “What is fourth of July?”
“Fourth of July is when we celebrate freedom. Because there used to be people called Pharaohs, and they had slaves. But some …. police came and fought and set the slaves free, into the ocean. So, that’s why we have to be thankful about our freedom.” I listen to this Passover/Civil Rights/Independence Day mashup and think about how many fights still rage for freedom, how different maps might look when my kids are grown.
There was a supermoon last night. Kyle and I each went outside to stare up at it. I could smell smoke from a neighbor’s fire, the singular fragrance of tomatoes ready to pick, the cool that had come to the air when the sun went down. I thought of lungs filled with light, a magical glow dancing through darkness, the distances we all must travel. This world continues to amaze me, the mysterious ways we are all connected, the webs vast and varied and mostly invisible. I looked at the moon, and felt the earth turning, and wanted to reach right into the sky, to grab hold.
A High Summer Salad of Figs, with Pomegranate-Balsamic Vinaigrette
This salad is deceptively simple, but the flavor combination is anything but: there is rich sweetness from the figs, peppery bite from the sprouts, cool crunch from the lettuce and a tangy-creamy-salty play from the goat’s milk feta – all tossed with just a hint of sweet-sour pucker from the dressing. We made it as a last minute throw-together salad when my dad and stepmom and brother were over and we were grilling dinner; but it took a surprising center stage when we tasted it. “Like a restaurant salad!” was what Jacob said, high praise from him indeed! We had it with caramel-sweet charred corn, bison burgers, and pickles made by our urban-farming friend Aaron. We ate dinner outside, the air just-cool as the tall trees’ shade stretched over our ancient outdoor table, and it felt like a perfect summer night.
Two heads of Little Gem lettuce (or similar sweet-crunchy, baby-romaine type lettuce – one of ours was a purple-leafed variety of similar texture), torn into bite size pieces
Pomegranate-Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Generous handful of peppery sprouts such as radish, arugula, etc.
~ 1/2 cup goat’s milk feta, cut into small chunks
~ 1 pint sweet-ripe summer figs, quartered
Optional: walnuts, plain or candied
Gently toss the torn lettuce with a couple tablespoons vinaigrette (you can serve more on the side for people who prefer a more heavily dressed salad). Lay the sprouts over top of the lettuce, then the figs and feta. Serve immediately, with plain or candied walnuts if you want some additional protein and crunch.
Make extra and keep it in the fridge for several days or a week. Delicious on all manner of salads and veg.
1 tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 – 3/4 cup good balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
Pinch of salt
Put the vinegar, honey, and molasses in a mason jar and mix well with a fork. Add the olive oil and shake all together in a mason jar until emulsified. Taste and adjust as needed; it should be sweet-tart. If it is too thick you can add a tablespoon of water to loosen it up.