Fun fact #1: I still cannot write the word “Friend” without singing this song to myself.
Fun fact #2: In the late 60s/early 70s, my father worked for the public television station WQED, where he was Production Manager and Lighting Director for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (among other shows). That porch swing? I sat on it. Those fish? I fed them. I rang the bell at Lady Elaine Fairchild’s museum, swung the pendulum on Daniel Stripèd Tiger’s grandmother clock. I snuck behind the tree where X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat lived. And, like most of the other kids watching the show, when Mister Rogers sang, “You are Special,” I truly believed he was singing it right to me.
Do I ever wonder? You don’t know.
You’ll never follow, and I’ll never show.
D’you see the water and watch it flow
And float an empty shell,
And you think that I’m hiding from the island.
You’ve a fault in your senses. Can you feel it now?
Time? What is that? I’ve no time to care.
I’ve lived for a long while nearly everywhere.
You will be taken, everyone, you ladies and you gentlemen.
Fall and listen with your ears upon the paving stone.
Is that what you hear? The coming of the sea?
Sea flows under your doors in London town.
And all your defenses are all broken down.
You laugh at me on sunny days, but mine’s the slight of hand.
Don’t you know I am a joker, a deceiver?
And I’m waiting for the land.
As you can tell, I’ve been trying to catch up on my posts for my 52-week photo project, so what are the odds that today’s post about summer would coincide with the first snow of the season?
I’ll turn this to my advantage.
How about we create a little space of insulation to ward off the chills by thinking back to a specific summer day?
Okay, here’s mine:
July 21, 2012. We’d taken ourselves down to Boston to celebrate my sister’s birthday.
Mid-day, we walked in town, along the beautiful new Greenway where a mess of highways used to be, walked barefoot through the fountains, scorched our feet on the hot pavement, watched children giggle and run, or stand mesmerized by the sparkling sprays of water.
Later, we took the subway to another part of the city, carried folding chairs, blankets, and a picnic-packed cooler, and walked to the band shell by the river’s edge.
Little by little, a little later, the sun set. It cast shadows through the leaves. It made ribbons of gold on the river.
Then, out came Burton Cummings, the reason the crowd was gathered there that evening.
As a member of The Guess Who, and then as a solo singer/songwriter, Burton had sung the songs of our Canadian childhood summers. His was the voice on the car radio as we sat on beach towels so we wouldn’t burn our legs on the hot vinyl seats, the voice crooning from the albums we saved out allowances to buy. As kids, Laurel and I knew all his songs by heart, every word, every beat, every high tenor note.
We still do.
And just as my remembering and writing this has taken me from this November day to that July day, the concert transformed that crowd of mostly gone-to-greys into teenagers again, whooping and dancing and singing in other summers. One memory leading to another, and then deeper back in time to another, like a series of nested matryokshka dolls, each similar, separate, related, connected.
There. I feel warmer already.
Okay. Now it’s your turn… tell me a summer memory.
Our engagement began near the ocean. We married in a coastal city, in a round room, by the harbor. 20 years on, where else to celebrate but the ocean?
So we took ourselves to Maine this summer, stayed in a deliciously tacky motel by the harbor’s edge, in the middle of what turned out to be the Windjammer weekend celebration. Schooners sailed into the harbor. A parade went down the street, practically next to our road-side room. Lobsters heard us coming and scuttled into deeper, colder water for safety.
But no such luck for them. We went to our favorite lobster spot (from whose dock you can see that view up at the top of this post). Repeatedly. And ate the giant, fresh-off-the-fishing boat shedders with our bare hands—no nut crackers required—our chins and elbows dripping with sea water.
We drove up and down the coast, talking, as we often do, about someday moving to the ocean. We kept saying, “the goats would love it here”, when we really meant, “we would love it here”.
But I know that’s just vacation-brain talking. Of course we love it there. What’s not to love? Beautiful landscapes, great food, the reliable repetition of the waves’ pulse on the shore. No work. No bills. No responsibilities.
I remember when we first moved from a city that never felt like home to Vermont. It felt like we had moved to permanent vacation. When I went out to the mailbox, the air smelled like camping. The pine needles on our trail to the river felt soft and smelled of mornings waking in a remote camp site. The wood smoke from our first wood stove was intoxicatingly relaxing. The country drive to work revealed mountains, trees, farms, distant hovering clouds. I thought, I’ll never stop noticing all of this.
But, unfortunately, I do. At least for a bit, when I’m in a rush for the week, running errands, meeting deadlines, making appointments, worrying about people.
Then I remind myself to slow down. Look around. Observe.
Look where I am? And look who I’m with?
No matter where we live, if we’re together, it’s home.
Symphony in Yellow
An omnibus across the bridge
Crawls like a yellow butterfly,
And, here and there, a passer-by
Shows like a little restless midge.
Big barges full of yellow hay
Are moored against the shadowy wharf,
And, like a yellow silken scarf,
The thick fog hangs along the quay.
The yellow leaves begin to fade
And flutter from the Temple elms,
And at my feet the pale green Thames
Lies like a rod of rippled jade.