Summer is here at last — sort of. It’s still chilly and cloudy in the mornings, but afternoons are warm and mild.
August is a time of celebration for us. Jerry’s birthday is the 3rd. He gets to be the same age as me on that day. Yeah! I made a cake. That is something I do only about once a decade. As I assembled the ingredients — I used a recipe from The Joy of Cooking for a one bowl cake — I thought about the times when I was a child that I “helped” my stepmother make cakes. It was a pleasant memory, and it occurred to me to wonder whether she made cakes to amuse me. My relationship with my stepmother was troubled; I didn’t like her, but I thought as I whisked the cake batter, why not give her the benefit of the doubt in this case. Perhaps she was trying to please her new husband’s 8 year old child. I always licked the bowl and the mixing spoons as a little girl, and I did so again as an old woman. I am still convinced that the uncooked cake batter tastes better than the finished product.
I couldn’t find any birthday candles, and anyhow I couldn’t have got 79 of them on the cake. The roses came from our garden.
Other reasons to celebrate in August: Our wedding anniversary is the 9th. And I have teeth at last! The final step of the implants happened on the 5th. For 5 months I looked witchy, with a wide gap in my smile. Back to normal with a mouthful of teeth.
As one should do to celebrate, I had a party. There were 15 guests, including my friends, Diane and Pat, who have been working like beavers on the Ferry Task Force to find solutions to the long term ferry problems of our island. They have finally presented their report to the County Council, so the party was celebrating that too. I bought live oysters at Barlene’s, because Diane loves them and her husband, Mike, doesn’t, so she hardly ever gets them. Mike likes steak, so I grilled steaks. I thought I had spoiled the steaks when I opened the grill to find them on fire, but they turned out charred on the outside and red and juicy on the inside. Perfect. Salads and side dishes complemented the menu. Bobby and the other Pat brought delicious desserts — almond tart and blueberry tart. It was a fine meal. After dinner, in the long summer twilight, some of the guests played croquet in the back yard,
some stayed in the kitchen and talked,
and some sat out on the deck. The poodles love parties where there is an abundance of laps to sit on.
The yellow leaves that have begun to litter the yard remind us that summer doesn’t last, winter will come soon enough. Jerry has been felling trees, splitting wood for the fire and I have been doing the easy part, stacking it. He built us a new woodshed at the beginning of the summer. It is almost full.
I have been harvesting vegetables — peas, zucchini, beets, cauliflower, and tonight the first ripe tomato!
Every few days we talk to Bert on the phone. He is waiting for his appointment with a specialist in infectious diseases, and will finally get to see one in the first week of September. I find this shocking — they say he isn’t sick enough to be seen immediately — and yet a few weeks ago they were predicting immanent death. He is elderly and increasingly frail. I tried to get him to go to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona where they do research on Valley Fever, but he is afraid the trip would be too much for him.
All through this Jerry and I have had our imaginations buried in the 19th century. We have been reading a biography of Queen Victoria until the time of Albert’s death. It describes the minutia of life in the palaces of England, the excesses of splendor, of superfluous decoration and elegance, the obsession with rank and precedence, (Parliament actually occupied itself with determining the order in which members of the aristocracy would walk in to dinner). With all of this you learn that they lived in castles where the chimneys smoked, the windows were dirty, the drains were clogged and there was rotting garbage in the kitchens. When guests came to visit the Queen they often could not find the rooms they were supposed to occupy and there were no servants to assist them. This was not because there was an insufficient number of servants, but because the people in charge — there were 3 of them, the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse — each controlled a different but often overlapping cadre of servants. To make matters worse, the 3 people in charge were themselves lords and were political appointees who had little interest in close supervision of their offices. So when the Queen asked why the dining room fires were not lit she was told, “You see, properly speaking, it is not our fault; for the Lord Steward lays the fire only, and the Lord Chamberlain lights it.”
For all of her long reign Victoria was stunningly unaware of the terrible suffering of her subjects during the worst of the excesses of the industrial revolution. There was sickness and starvation in the land and children of 5 were working 10 or more hours a day.
That’s our bedtime reading and conversation. I intend to buy a Kindle before we to to Alaska in September so I we can explore new or old subjects as we read. One of the many advantages of old age is that we can study a subject or a time in history that intrigues us for as long as our interest is engaged but whenever we like we can move on to another topic.
The pleasures of summer will last a while longer. The birds at the feeders are still the summer birds. The sun shines on the house finch.
Juncos will come anon.