I'm not sure when. Three weeks ago, they were still around, twinkling up the grass like so many unstrung Christmas lights. And then, at some point, they weren't. Days ago, anyway. Maybe two weeks. I can't pinpoint it. This is the thing about change in the ordinary. So many givens exit stage left, without warning. They just fade away, without fanfare, without hoopla. Just, out the back door, with finger-shushed lips. on cat-padded feet.
The cicadas have started falling from the trees. Composition books and glue sticks are stacked high in Target. The calendar, although never blank, is freshly graffitied. Summer break's final hours are somehow behind us.
There are a dozen things I'd like to lay down here, but my mind's not on speaking terms with order. Order of the subject-predicate kind, anyway. I suspect I'm not the only one.
I am neck-deep in the late summer jumble, winding down one routine, gearing up for another. I could wait a week for the dust to settle, but where's the fun in that?
A wise soul once told me, some fifteen years back, that good information today is better than perfect information tomorrow. As a person entirely uninclined to such thinking, I've always considered this a radical statement. A radical statement with much to recommend it. So let's get on with the good today, shall we?
I have been evaluating my good days all wrong.
Nightly, I write a simple daily recap in my journal. It is a going-on-a -life-long- tradition, a way to spotlight the small and to write down the good. “Fish tacos for dinner. sooo yummy! Neighborhood walk, grocery run, yoga, work. Reading She Got Up Off The Couch.”
I sometimes look back at previous years to see patterns, routines, habits I no longer keep – some I miss; others I’m happy to have left behind.
For a season, I would draw a heart next to the great-great-great days, the over-the-top days where the sun beams and birds sing and there isn’t a tantrum in sight, for any of us.
A string of starred days marked last summer/spring – farmers market trips, local food festivals, parades, trip to San Francisco, fall beach getaways, al fresco dinners with chardonnay and lightning bugs. I remember these days well.
But this summer, I had a hard time finding the stars. The deadlines piled up and I have let myself become overworked, overwrought. It never rains anymore, and we have been playing hot-potato with the hose – You’ve got it tomorrow morning, right? OK, I’ll take the afternoon – and last week when I stole a rare lunch date, I slid into the booth of a tiny cafe and thought, Where have I been? I haven’t stopped in forever!
I am inclined to call these bad days, but I am wrong.
Bad vs. good is not the same as hard vs. easy. I have starred my easy days, cloaking them in my memory as simple, fun, happy, productive, efficient. Good.
But the good days, too, are the ones where we grow, where we struggle, where we learn, where we fight. Where we fall into bed in a heap of tears and cry ourselves to sleep and restoration. The good days are the ones where we get up in the morning to face another day, fry another egg, clean another toilet. They are ripe with persistence and endurance and patience and grace and forgiveness and love, even when it’s the kind through clenched teeth.
Especially when it’s the kind through clenched teeth.
They’re all good days.
They’re all new days.
I will look at these pages next year. I will scan the pages and smile, remembering habits and routines I no longer keep, a snake shedding old skin. I will have grown. I will have endured.
It will have been very, very good.
Turns out tomatoes are my new favorite way to eat pesto in summer. Thinned with olive oil and vinegar, drizzled over thick salted slices of spanking-fresh red flesh, pesto's sublime. It's similar to my old tomato-basil standby (I am so not going to say easy caprese, cross my heart), but somehow both simpler and more sophisticated. It's bright and intense and fresh and decadent and far more flavorful than any five-minute dinner really has any right to be. I still like pesto best in soup. In winter. But when tomatoes hang like Christmas ornaments right outside my door, I might just love it most like this. After all, change can be very, very good.
Pesto keeps nicely for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. Drizzle oil on top to prevent oxidization.***
2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, washed and well dried
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2-2/3 cup parmesan, freshly grated)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 300°. Toast pine nuts 6-10 minutes, shaking and checking to prevent burning.
2. Place basil, half of olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan and chopped garlic in workbowl of food processor. Blitz for 1-2 minutes, pouring remainder of olive oil through feed tube to keep everything moving, until everything is in small bits.