Rain-damp hair on the pillow. Warm knees that have traversed the sidewalks to and from the elementary school twice today. The cicadas are churning the air with dazzle, a mass seduction outside my window.
One hour after midday: this is when I rest my bones, my eyes, my overworld persona, and sink into oblivion — even just for a swirl. Soon it will be time to go back to the school, buy the bread, pick up the car, prepare another dinner, play a board game — but now I let myself pool.
The cat meows at the door. “You want to be with me?” I think as I open the door, as if there is no one else, and here — here is the single soul.
The cat kneads, purring and pressing my muscles with his paws. Does he think I’m his mother, his mate … both?
The silver shimmer of cicada song rises and falls like waves. It spills as soon as I try to collect it.
When I wake past 2:00, my dreams evaporate as I try to fix them on a page. Before I brew the afternoon coffee, I bury my nose in the cat’s jowl and drink deep of his fur.
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for not caring whether I win or lose. Thank you for keeping an eye on me, even when you are sleeping.
In early June, small fruits and the first greens of the garden are overflowing at the farm stand, in the produce aisles, and around our garden — blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb. Snap peas, lettuce, and kale. Arugula so mature it fades right after it’s cut. Soon it will be time to pick the peaches and blackberries that are blushing in the sun.
With long leather gloves, I wrap climbing roses around the arbor. Plastic water guns are slung on the driveway, while the kids climb ladders to pick cherries. Tart and translucent with a shade of bitterness, perfect for folding inside a deep buttery crust.
The best way to pit a cherry is to wedge a spoon into where it was separated from the tree and scoop out the heart. My helper Luke wanders off and leaves me alone with my work.
I feel content when I’m making a pie. Pressing the cracked ball of pastry dough with a rolling pin, it expands into round puffs. A cloud of cosmic dust spreading on the counter.
Half a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and some cornstarch so the juice will globe around the fruit.
“The universe is expanding faster than a spaceship can go and it’s getting faster and faster,” Luke told me the other day as I dropped him off to one of his last days of 5th grade.
Over and under, I weave thick strips of salty dough into a framework that melts in the warmth of my hands.
When the pie is in the oven, it’s time to get lunch on the table. Looking at the bounty in the fridge, I love seeing what must be eaten, what can wait, what needs rescuing.
The tomatoes are on the edge, so I throw a few moldy ones in the compost bin, then toss the rest in oil and salt and roast them along with the pie. Mint green kohlrabi gets cleaned and cut into half moons for an appetizer.
The strawberries are turning wine-red, so I throw them in a pot with some rhubarb and sugar to make a sauce for ice cream when all the pie is gone.
Arugula is washed and tossed with matchstick carrots, lemon balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and piled on 6 plates. And the honeydew can be sliced and arranged on a platter, making room in the fridge.
As I set down paper-thin slices of coppa and a wedge of caciotta sent via DHL from Milan, the oven begins to sigh the curled perfume of fruit pectin and flour.
When the pie is done, we’ll go look for camping equipment. Maybe Luke will want to join Scouts again. My husband used to camp in the summers on the beaches of Greece. “I don’t know how to set up a tent,” Luke grumbles, and Mark predicts, “We’re going to get lost a thousand times.” Diana grimaces and says, “I have to go camping too?”
Maybe the plan won’t work, maybe the sleeping bags will gather guilty dust in our garage, but I can picture a new version of our family unfolding as our daughters leave the nest. With just a quarter turn of the kaleidoscope, I see the 5 of us disappearing into a wilderness. I wouldn’t mind getting lost.
The depth of my life takes place, not on billboards or headlines, concert halls or stadiums, but in the sorting of hand-me-downs and the soothing of a child. Moments that add up to a life neither extraordinary nor ordinary, but one that keeps circling deeper into something I do not know how to name.
When I’m tending roses or children, I’m not looking in the mirror, deciding that something is missing. When I’m tending, I’m not thinking, Is this important?
This is uncomplicated, this is true. This is a pie coming out of the oven, red syrup bubbling over the lattice crust, smelling of flowers and rain.